Social Impact Entrepreneurship In The Arab World

people collaborating over social impact

As a company headquartered in the New York, we most often hear about innovative Tech for Good ventures that are oriented towards solving problems in the United States. However, FounderTherapy’s talented and dedicated engineering team is based in Ramallah, Palestine, and we are keenly interested in and aware of how technology can be used for positive social impact everywhere, and especially in the Arab world.

Our Head of Engineering in Ramallah, Ayman Awartani, has participated in the NYUAE Hackathon for Social Good for the last two years as a mentor. “Social problems could be universal, but solutions should start local and scale from there. Attending NYUAE Hackathon for Social Good gave me the opportunity to meet people from around the globe and especially from Arab World. We met young ambitious students who have been solving fictional problems for the past 4-5 years at universities, and during this event the challenge was how to help them identify social impact problems and form teams to solve the most important ones. I have always thought of technology as part of a model to create money but during this event it was the first time I thought seriously how it could be used to solve human and social problems such as helping refugees, improving education and a lot more.”

she2Like Ayman, I have always been fascinated by how entrepreneurs create jobs and drive the economy, and I have been fortunate to have the chance to do voluntary work for different causes in different countries. I am a QA Engineer in Ramallah for FounderTherapy, and I have also been participating in a social entrepreneurship training in Stockholm, Sweden called She Entrepreneur. Doing good does feel good, and to be part of a business that make the world a little bit better place to live is incredibly empowering. That was one of the reasons I joined FounderTherapy and what also motivated me to apply for She Entrepreneur program. I am learning from and inspired by 26 other outstanding female entrepreneurs from across Middle East and North Africa working on amazing projects in different fields from dancing schools to volunteer management to mobile applications for blood donation.

I came back from the first part of the She Entrepreneurship program in May to a startup scene in Palestine that is buzzing more than ever. Ramallah is rapidly becoming a tech and entrepreneurial hub, as it hosts meetups, startup weekends and hackathons with a growing number of accelerators and VC funds operating and investing locally. A favorite event by many in the community is Ramallah Open Coffee Club, a weekly huddle that happens every Tuesday morning for anyone interested to share a cup of coffee, thoughts, ideas and efforts in the entrepreneurial environment in Palestine. Efforts like these are quickly developing a robust Palestinian startup scene that is garnering international attention, and interestingly, with better gender diversity than in Silicon Valley!

There are so many people working on ways to use tech to drive positive social change that you can literally meet them almost anywhere, even sitting next to you in a bus! One day recently I was traveling from Ramallah to my hometown city in northern Palestine called Tulkarm, about 2 hours away. I was reading a book called Toolbox for Social Business when the woman next me introduced herself as Besan Abu-Joudeh, and she told me about her new business for social good called Build Palestine! Build Palestine is a donation-based crowdfunding platform that aims to empower grassroots problem solving through crowdfunding campaigns to secure resources (both financial and non-financial) needed to solve a problem. They aim to be the go-to source whenever anyone around the world asks, How can I help Palestine?

Another great example is Fadfid, a website that provides virtual, anonymous access to licensed therapists and psychologists across the Middle East. And this is the start of a growing list of ventures with a positive social impact that are being developed all over the region. Greater than 20% of the semi-finalists in the recent MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition were social impact.

Are you working a tech for good venture somewhere in the world? Reach out and tell us about what you’re working on!