SOCIAL ENTERPRISES COME TO JORDAN
We did it! Three months in the making, one month delayed because of Ramadan and busy schedules, but it happened. On September 5th, at Green Day Café, Village Capital and the Start-up Series Amman co-hosted the first, and for sure not the last, coffee hour focused on social enterprises and impact investment. With over fifty participants, we filled the room—coffee in hand and cupcakes to match—and set up to discuss what it means to be a social entrepreneur. The topic in Amman, as in the rest of the world, is still too abstract but one thing was very clear, Jordan could sure benefit from developing a strong and nurturing environment for its social and traditional entrepreneurs.
While our original intent was to adapt the social enterprise or SocEnt definition—‘doing good while simultaneously creating profit’—to the Jordanian context, the evening evolved into a more comprehensive and interactive learning activity. Participants took the opportunity to talk about their businesses, share their experiences on being an entrepreneur and to talk about the challenges faced when attempting to take their enterprises to the next level. Yet, to me, one of the most fascinating things to watch was the internalization of the SocEnt concept as the entrepreneurs debated whether their enterprises fit the definition. Having this open and honest discussion was the reason for the event and clearly it was much needed.
One of the re-occurring themes of the evening was the sense of readiness from the entrepreneurs to become proactive and to abandon the passive stance of years past. The option of waiting for direction and solutions to solve social problems was no longer an option; rather they declared, it was time to work with what they have and take ownership of their actions and become drivers of change. Given the scale of the social transformation taking place in the region, this is exactly the kind of attitude needed to move forward and it is even more exciting to seen it happening at the grass root level!
The social challenges affecting Jordan are no different than any other emerging nation: outdated educational system, pollution, depleting natural resources, energy deficiency and unemployment. All of which can be partially addressed by social enterprises. At the event, entrepreneurs proudly showcased their contributions in tackling these challenges—whether by providing low-cost IT services to SMEs, connecting volunteers to projects, promoting local talent and crafts and by improving livelihoods through housing improvement projects—are just some of the examples by which Jordanian entrepreneurs are doing their part to make a difference.
So what is next? The conversation has been started, but there is a lot more to do. Despite the bureaucratic setbacks and the infancy of the social entrepreneurial scene in Jordan, there is no lack of human capital and herein lies one of Jordan’s greatest resources—its people. Jordanian entrepreneurs would benefit from creating a cohesive and empowering environment that promotes the development of their enterprises, and ideally, simultaneously the social enterprise scene that demands the much deserved attention of investors and supporters; only then, will they be able to stipulate the terms of the social and economic reforms to expand their scope and potential.
For more information on the social enterprise scene in Jordan check out our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SocialEntrepreneurshipJordan