In the MENA region and throughout the world, the mode of development is called into question by its difficulty to create jobs, to share the fruits of growth, to ensure a "fair" distribution of economic progress, especially towards young people. This is why Social Entrepreneurship has been on the rise worldwide, with practices that combine innovation, dynamism and the ability to tackle important social and environmental challenges. Yet, « in south Mediterranean countries such enterprises have yet to reach their full potential » highlights Constantin Tsakas, General Manager of Institut de la Méditerranée and General Secretary of FEMISE.
It’s in that context that FEMISE, the Royal Scientific Society and CASE organised this workshop, in Amman (Jordan), to provide a space for debate among the different actors concerned: supporting institutions, international organisations, private sector, researchers and social entrepreneurs.
But how can we describe Social Entrepreneurs? For FEMISE, they are entrepreneurs who « tackle social issues with a business-like approach ». If FEMISE stresses that enterprises have not reached their full potential, the workshop was a golden opportunity to present their approach and discuss ways forward to exploit their untapped ressources.
Instigate the change for Social Entrepreneurship
Under the patronage and with the participation of Princess Samaya bent el Hassan, the workshop provided the occasion to discuss Social Entrepreneurship challenges and the opportunities that it can provide especially in helping integrate refugees in countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, where the refugees crisis has put added pressures on their economies.
“Innovation and Entrepreneurship stem from the need for self-reliance…more than job creating, how can we ensure it is also wealth-creating in our own parameters?” stated Princess Sumaya in her speech. It’s in this sense that FEMISE took the opportunity to present its forthcoming report which focuses on private sector development with « a special chapter focusing on Social Entrepreneurship » as stated by Constantin Tsakas.
« The regulatory framework and lack of access to finance are among the biggest obstacles ». The FEMISE chapter stresses how structures sometimes have access to foundations, government grants, international donors and charities, but the access remains limited due to a lack of an appropriate legal framework. The possibility of accessing sustainable finance tools could be a solution, but it remains relatively undeveloped in the South. FEMISE suggests among other things « to capitalize on regional cooperation». For the researchers of the network, this requires « raising policy-makers awareness, mapping structures that support Social Entrepreneurship and allowing a match-making with social entrepreneurs and finally creating an exchange scheme, such as an Erasmus of Social Entrepreneurship, to allow entrepreneurs from South and North to exchange their know-how».
This presentation was followed by a panel debate among representatives of civil society organisations and institutions that provide financial and technical support to social entrepreneurship in the MENA region, such as: Kafalat in Lebanon, the Agadir Technical Unit, Initiative France, Yomken from Egypt and the 17 Asset Management organisation.
More specifically, the workshop addressed the issue of how Social Entrepreneurship (SE) can present a solutions to the refugees crisis in the region, with a special focus on Jordan and Lebanon. A FEMISE funded research on this issue was presented by Katarzyna Sidło, in which she highlighted some success stories from across the region on how SE can better integrate refugees, particularity employing women. This was followed by a second Panel Discussion with social entrepreneurs that work with the refugees in both Jordan and Lebanon such as Fabric Aid (Lebanon), Raneem Meqbel (Jordan), Saddam Sayyeh (Learn, Jordan) and a project presented by Serene Duwairy, iPark, RSS, Jordan.
“Social Entrepreneurship is like any business but with a social impact” concluded Dr. Mohamed EL-Jafari (iPARK, the Royal Scientific Society) underscoring how such activities can be of value to local policymakers, as they provide innovative and inclusive solutions.