The news that reaches us in the U.S. about the Middle East is largely full of despair. Geopolitical conflicts erasing entire cultures and civilizations. Boys being recruited to fight before they even learn to read. Millions of refugees being displaced, and children who will never get to go to school. We don’t often hear stories of hope.
Alfanar, meaning ‘beacon of light’ in Arabic, is changing that. As the first venture philanthropy organization in the Arab region, Alfanar does more than support positive causes. We find grassroots organizations and social entrepreneurs serving the most marginalized populations in the Arab world. These are the fearless pioneers who have been working on the ground for years and getting results: creating jobs for youth and women, providing access to education for children. Challenging the status quo, and changing the equilibrium.
We work with these organizations to measure and scale their impact, strengthen their organizational management, and increase their financial sustainability so they can grow to serve more people over a longer period of time. And the good news is we are also working to disrupt the very concept of venture philanthropy!
Venture philanthropy started as a way for individuals with large sums of money to give back to society in a way that maximizes the social return. But today, it’s no longer an exclusive club for high net worth individuals. We want to open it up to anyone, anywhere in the world.
Social entrepreneurship doesn’t just mean starting something new. It means thinking entrepreneurially about how to mobilize resources – including people – to change the face of the social challenges we face today. There is a social entrepreneur living inside each one of us. It’s just a matter of mobilizing that person.
Are you interested in changing the news you hear every day? Join our campaign by signing up to support social entrepreneurs in the Arab countries and mobilizing others to join too. Share your story about how you engage with social entrepreneurship by posting an update, photo, or video with the hashtag #BeTheBeacon. Give what you can, and help spread the word. The challenges we face in society today don’t stand a chance if the social entrepreneur inside each one of us is activated as a beacon of change.
Teresa Chahine is the Innovation Advisor at Alfanar, which she launched in Lebanon in 2012. Check out her book “Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship,” based on her course at Harvard.