Green Social Entrepreneurs Incubator Hub and Accelerator
EcoPalestine/ EcoPeace Middle East – Ramallah Office
Graduates from faculties of Environmental Science and Environmental Engineering are often faced by disappointment following their graduation having to work in areas that are irrelevant to their areas of specialty; if absorbed into labor market within their specialty, they are often found directed into the theoretical research route or routine jobs. With escalating rates on unemployment among Palestinian Youth (60% in Gaza, 39% in the West Bank), the natural tendency is to look at these numbers as a complex problem. EcoPeace Middle East, rather prefers to look at it as an opportunity by creating the conditions for youth to contribute to the jobs market improvement.
Unfortunately, the academic institutions hardly expose students to analytical and critical thinking approaches that would lead to innovation, and does not put them into the experience of real-life competitiveness that would prepare the students to labor market or even more so to become leaders bringing changes to their communities particularly for those graduating in environmental fields.
The reality in Palestinian communities, in the West Bank and more so in Gaza, necessitates innovative and practical solutions to day-to-day problems caused by lack of access to adequate amounts and quality of water, proper sanitation services and reliable and affordable power supply, let alone the public health hazards due to cumulating litter, industrial and construction waste. In rural and marginalized areas these problems exacerbate and the impact is more prevailing to the small communities that are more susceptible to these impacts. Young people and fresh graduates tend to leave their villages behind seeking jobs at larger city centers while there is a lot of opportunity for them to serve their community and contribute to their resilience facing land confiscations and settlement expansions, especially in villages located in Area C in the West Bank.
At a society that still looks at traditional professions as a key factor to success and prosperous future, greenies and environmentalists often find it difficult to put themselves on the chart of success amongst other professions like physicians, lawyers and engineers. However, if given the tools and skills required they can provide their communities with much more than stability, but rather sustainable economic development, based on innovative technologies that can be modular to communities with similar needs.
While various prominent incubators exist in Palestine, none of them particularly address or focus on green businesses in the sense of social entrepreneurship. After years of experience working with youth and university students through the 17-years-long Good Water Neighbors programme, EcoPeace Middle East has redesigned its alumni programme to start a coherent programme that would fill the gap for graduate students and young professionals who have interest and creative ideas in resolving environmental issues and seeking opportunities to get started or advance in their careers.
The target group is the environmental technology students, water and environmental engineers or scientists, young entrepreneurs, young water professionals (21- 29-year-olds) with the aim of mainstreaming women participation. Students would be targeted right before they formulate and create their own graduation projects.
The main objective is to expose participants to the possibilities and benefits of social entrepreneurship and encourage the development of innovative solutions to environmental challenges
The program would be designed as follows:
Map target groups, including gender analysis
Seek cooperation with environmental technology/ water and environmental engineering programs in universities and with organizations working with young entrepreneurs. Contact and interest has been initiated with the Research and Development Department at the Palestinian Water Authority
Develop training and capacity building program (students, graduates, youth will be trained on business development and management skills, introduced to feasibility analysis of a business, introduction to financial management and marketing.
Series of small open events and focus groups to test content and create visibility
Marketing and selection process of participants, at least 50% women
Conduct workshops nationally and regionally
Focus on women success stories and guest lectures (social environmental entrepreneurs)
Seek international business, investment, and network opportunities for program participants and keep in touch with (and track of) alumni.
Part of the above activities is currently partially funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) through Good Water Neighbors Program Phase IV which will be implemented by EcoPeace Middle East throughout its three offices in Ramallah, Amman and Tel Aviv for the upcoming four (4) years as a pilot testing phase. Whereas the organization primarily aspires to expand the idea of creating a hub for environmental businesses, a technological environmental hub, where young entrepreneurs and young professionals can meet and develop technologies together, as well as an accelerator where a competitive selection process is created to identify the most promising initiatives, mentoring to implementation, as well as connecting to a network of potential investors.
EcoPeace Middle East through its national and regional activities and programs provides an extensive network of stakeholders and potential areas for innovation particularly through its focus on the economic development of the Jordan Valley and its vision for a regional Water-Energy Nexus. EcoPeace is also a winner of the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, which opens the prospects for a worldwide network of the various Skoll awardees from across the globe to learn from their experience and benefit from a wide range of knowhow resources to provide guidance and motivation to the program participants.
For EcoPeace, advancing innovative green enterprises that generate significant social and economic value, can foster a cohort of young Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian entrepreneurs who cooperate to build shared prosperity and sustainable development in the region.