Over the years, entrepreneurship has touched nearly every facet of Middle Eastern society, ranging from the pet industry to e-commerce. It comes as no surprise that the region has also seen a rise in social entrepreneurship. Innovators in this field have established all manner of startups that are allowing them to take charge and tackle some of the most pressing social issues in the region. From organizations that connect individuals with charities to those that support eco-friendly development initiatives, here are seven of the top social entrepreneurship startups in the Middle East today.
In order to serve the giving economy in Egypt, the startup Insanyah is creating more avenues through which individuals can support charitable initiatives. Just as Facebook and LinkedIn connect us to others, Insanyah is making it easier than ever for locals to find new ways to donate and opportunities to volunteer in different areas of interest.
A type of social media platform, Insanyah aims to help Egypt’s non-governmental organizations (NGOs) market their work to the community at large. Through this online portal, individuals can use a search feature to connect with new charitable organizations and provide support to their favorites. Approximately 1,000 nonprofits and NGOs have registered at Insanyah, which allows people to engage with causes ranging from clean drinking water to the arts.
In late 2016, Middle Eastern social project supporter Zoomaal sought to further bolster the local fundraising sector by establishing GivingLoop. The startup specifically focuses on fundraising for nonprofit organizations and other social initiatives. Unlike other platforms of its kind, GivingLoop does not concentrate on one-time donations. Instead, supporters can become subscribers to their favorite charitable initiatives and provide monetary support on a monthly basis. As such, this provides organizations with reliable, ongoing funding that they can use to sustain their work.
At the same time, GivingLoop allows organizations to develop strong relationships with their supporters through its reporting system. Each month, nonprofits must send updates about their progress and overall impact. GivingLoop will revoke the subscriptions of supporters if the nonprofits fail to deliver these monthly statements, which make the donation process more transparent for contributors.
Headquartered in Egypt, RecycloBekia is helping to solve the issues of excess electronic waste (e-waste) in communities across the Middle East. Nearly two dozen college students convened to establish the startup in 2011. Since then, the RecycloBekia team has created a “Recycling Army” that works with clients to safely and sustainably dispose of their e-waste. Individuals and corporations alike can arrange for the startup to collect any scrap parts or other devices. The RecycloBekia team then sorts these materials and determines which items can go up for resale and which they must send off for eco-friendly recycling.
Based in Jordan, Nakhwah supports social development across the entire Middle Eastern region. With a name that means “chivalry” in Arabic, the startup encourages kindness by connecting young volunteers with local NGOs that need an extra helping hand. Individuals can easily search for any organization, project, or initiative through Nakhwah’s online directory. In addition, the startup employs social media tactics to invite locals to participate in civic activities.
By encouraging more individuals to volunteer, Nakhwah also enables social entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations to enhance their visibility in the region and gain access to monetary support. In addition, the startup is opening new doors for local youth to make a more positive impact on their communities.
A nonprofit startup, Aliim is serving the growing population of children who have been displaced due to war and are thus unable to access a quality education. The startup focuses primarily on delivering learning tools to the nearly 3 million Syrian children who have not attended school for up to three years. Aliim is addressing these issues in Jordan and Lebanon, where millions of refugee children do not attend school due to a lack of available resources.
In order to best serve the needs of these individuals, the startup has developed a smartphone-based educational program that saves money while providing access to useful learning tools. One of Aliim’s most innovative academic solutions is Candy Theme Park, a game that entertains children while helping them to become proficient in the Arabic language. By offering educational tools such as these, the startup is helping Syrian children to become more productive members of their community.
The winner of the Rise Egypt Fellowship, Helm is working toward a more inclusive community by fostering new opportunities for individuals with disabilities. To support this progress, the nonprofit startup works hand in hand with public and private organizations to help them better serve the needs of individuals with disabilities. Helm is enabling these individuals to find employment opportunities and become contributing members of society. Those who need additional assistance with job placement can take advantage of the startup’s career advisory services.
Siblings Tarek and Sherif Hosny established the social initiative Schaduf in order to overcome the challenges of food insecurity among households across Cairo, Egypt. The startup is accomplishing this by providing sustainable farming solutions to homes in areas that are underserved. By working with residents of the Maadi district, Schaduf is installing small-scale hydroponic farms that enable locals to grow produce on their rooftops. Homeowners must simply pay back a loan that covers the cost of establishing the system. In addition, Schaduf requires them to sell what they grow locally so that they can provide food for others and encourage their communities to live more sustainably.