From the 1st to the 5th of November Lama Amr, Executive Director at BuildPalestine, took part at the Peer Exchange activity in the UK with Gary Fawdrey from NESTA challenges.
With an extensive experience in crowdfunding, Lama is specialized in designing programs to support social entrepreneurs in Palestine. “I have coached over 40 projects which raised over $450+. At BuildPalestine, we work with social enterprises to help them advance their skills, network and raise fund using crowdfunding. We also run a yearly Social Innovation Summit to inspire people to solve social and environmental challenges in Palestine.”
In the framework of the capacity building and networking activities organized by Euclid Network and in order to improve quality, innovativeness and outreach of the services offered by the Social Enterprises Supported Organizations (SESOs), Lama and Gary matched in February 2020, when firstly Gary came to visit Lama and BuildPalestine in Ramallah. Thanks to this first exchange, BuildPalestine, benefitted from Gary and NESTA experience, to develop their Social Innovation Bootcamp program. This November was the turn of Lama to learn more about SESOs in UK. “The exchange experience was vibrant. I have met various support organizations and social enterprises and observed how they provide support or conduct business.”
Matching volunteers with social enterprises or building support programs for social enterprises are just some of the similarity with the UK organizations that Lama met. “Listening to their work has helped me validate our approach and gave me some ideas that we can implement next year to enhance our programs. Meeting the social enterprises was fun! It was delightful to hear about the beautiful work they do. I met with Migrateful, WeMakeChange, DEV, and The Canvas.”
However, despite of the common approach, we have to keep in mind that the context of the two countries is different and the challenges faced by Palestinian social enterprises are not the same as the ones in the UK. Lama remind us that “In Palestine, there isn’t a law to support the formation of a social enterprise; typical business models usually don’t secure sustainability for social businesses due to the size of the market and the absence of payment gateways and easy shipment processes. Also, funding options for social entrepreneurs are minimal.” That’s why, with programs such as MedUp!, we are supporting Social Enterprises (SEs), working with SESOs, private, public and financial institution to shape the understanding of Social Entrepreneurship and develop a sustainable SE ecosystem in the Mediterranean region. We truly believe that social entrepreneurship can be the answer for the future of more sustainable economy and the work of organization such BuildPalestine have a great role to play in fulfilling the gap.
Adding value to the work of SESOs, and create network for future collaboration was the main objective of the EU-MENA Peer Exchange. And according to Lama’s word it seems we hit the nail on the head: “The exchange was a great opportunity to network. I am already having follow-up calls to a few meetings I have in the UK. I am working to connect Palestinian artisans to platforms in the UK that can help promote their products. I am also recommending some of the solutions I have seen to social enterprises in our network who might benefit from these services like recruiting volunteers through WeMakeChange platform. Moreover, I had a follow up meeting with Social Enterprise UK and learnt about how they run their membership program, which is similar to our Fellowship program where we work with ten social enterprises each year to help them upskill, network and fundraise. Their experience gave me ideas to how to run our program more efficiently, and how to scale it in the future. Finally, we will be inviting many of the individuals I met to mentor our members next year. We are currently planning for next year, and many of the learnings will certainly influence our plans.”
Having exchanges with realities who are doing similar work but in different context enhance your skills, your vision and enrich your ideas. Regarding Social Entrepreneurship ecosystem the EU has already established supporting mechanism, which MENA Peer can learn from, but always keeping in mind that readapt the lessons learnt to your context it’s crucial, “Learn, but not copy.” it’s Lama take-away to succeed!
This piece was elaborated with Nawras Ateeq from P.A.R.C. based on the interview done with the kind collaboration of Lama Amr.