Published on Arab Voices

Let’s keep an eye out for social entrepreneurs and innovators

Social entrepreneurship is the work of social entrepreneurs. A social entrepreneur recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles   to organize, create and manage a venture to achieve social change   (a social venture ). While a business entrepreneur   typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur focuses on creating social capital. Thus, the main aim of social entrepreneurship is to further social and environmental goals.” (Wikipedia)

ImageWhile most of us working on development issues in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, will probably know at least a couple of examples of renowned social enterprises or ventures in the region, I am not sure we have all truly come to know the real magnitude and potential impact of this sector in general.  Looking through the pretty widespread literature and case studies on social entrepreneurship, MENA is sadly under-represented. Why, one wonders. It could be that, one, there are not enough examples in MENA, or  two, that there are examples which fail to become successful enough to be heard of, or three, there are successful examples but we don’t know much about them for one reason or the other. But given the region’s youthful societies, its educated groups that have lived (or still live) abroad and the fact that most citizens face everyday experiences related to the societal problems challenging their countries, I find it hard to believe that there is not enough demand for social innovation.  

As realities change in the MENA region, forcing (or better, encouraging) everyone who engages in MENA to change too, it is probably worth keeping an eye out for social entrepreneurs and innovators in the region. At the World Bank many of us go out to the region quite often and some of us are based there. Yet, it is only occasionally that we stumble upon social entrepreneurs or hear stories of successful ventures. And when we do, we probably nod our heads in approval and admiration of their noble missions or achievements and then continue our business meetings with World Bank counterparts. While keeping an eye out now would be a good start, maybe we can do even more. We could be ambitious and set an agenda that includes items like financial support for social enterprises in MENA, pushing for reforms to create that oft-quoted ‘enabling environment’ for social ventures to grow, and many more exciting things. That would be great, if possible within the frame of our work.  But if this method of working doesn't always fit the World Bank mandate, we could still be catalysts to entrepreneurial energies, going beyond nodding in approval to spreading the word and encouraging recognition of social entrepreneurs and worthy ventures. Simply bringing attention and awareness to them and the role they can play, could go a long way. If each time we travel to the region to meet with our Government counterparts we could dedicate a few hours to learn about one social enterprise in our client country, whether a highly successful one or even a struggling one, we might come to understand how best to contribute.


May Wazzan

Junior Professional Associate

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