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4City Fund to Support Cities through Micro-finance Platform

A city development fund that gives individual access to micro-credit based on comprehensive development plan at the city level.

Photo of Ahmed El Ibrahim

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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Northern Syria is teeming with displaced people fleeing the bombardments and the fighting in various parts of Syria. Many of them have fled more than once, leaving behind their homes, properties and livelihoods, and lost all their savings during displacements. Upon arrival to a new area, IDPs seek new livelihoods from which they and their families live. This may create competition between IDPs and the host community due to limited resources and limited employment opportunities in northern Syria, which in turn directly affects the social cohesion. IDPs may also rely on relief assistance from humanitarian organizations, which, over time, turns to full dependency on aid, which in turn leads to constant anxiety, loss of hope and weakening resilience to the crisis. Most of IDPsMost of IDPs are experienced professionals, but it becomes difficult for them to work in their specialties due to the need for tools, equipment, raw materials, etc. Therefore, having access to financial support helps them establish new livelihoods that preserve their dignity, restore hope and strengthen their resilience to the crisis. 4City Fund provides a microfinance platform to support small business projects through crowdfunding. The idea is to open a cooperative fund for each targeted city, preceded by a study of the needs of the local market through workshops gathering residents in the city (IDPs and hosts) to come up with a Participatory Development Plan (PDP). PDP shows the trends to be supported through microfinance. 4City relies on the local committees to manage the workshops and provide the trainings necessary to develop and submit proposals on the platform. They also recommend potential beneficiaries and follow up on the repayment process from borrowers. The beneficiary of a loan will return it in installments of his/her revenue to the same fund to benefit a new entrepreneur (revolving fund). So, the borrowers become donors, this helps to change their images in their new community.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Azaz city in northern Syria, which hosts large numbers of displaced people from different parts of Syria. According to the local council of Azaz, the population of the city reached about 150 thousand people, half of them displaced. The city represents a good starting point for 4CITY due the availability of potential beneficiaries and the local community committees. As a result of testing the idea, Gaziantep in Turkey will be targeted as well, as it is crowded city with refugees.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

The platform is building better understanding among IDPs and Hosting community since they are going to work together on PDP. This helps them to communicate with each other to come up with development profitable projects that can benefit them both. The platform will not only be a bridge of understanding between the two communities, it enhances social solidarity as a displaced borrower will payback his/her loan to number of projects within the community through the platform.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Since the beginning of the displacement waves in Syria, the way to respond was through providing relief assistance and the establishment of camps. But as the Syrian crisis continues for nearly nine years, the emergency response is no longer sufficient. Dependence on relief assistance for a long period of time negatively affects beneficiaries, develops their dependency, and increases tension and anxiety about the sudden stoppage of such assistance. Therefore, in the idea of 4CITY Fund, we are working on investing the expertise of people and local resources by providing an environment for those who seek to establish livelihoods that preserve the dignity of beneficiaries and increase their resilience to the crisis. Moreover, 4CITY idea connects IDPs with the host community in workshops to develop a PDP of the city. This in turn promotes positive communication between the IDPs and the local residents, and promotes a spirit of partnership and shared responsibility towards the community.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

The image of the people in need from the both IDPs and local residents will change. People will have more productivity and dignity as they participate in the development of a city through their own ideas and projects and make their own livings. They (IDPs and hosts) will work together in different stages of the project and share the social responsibility toward the community and gradually create a sense of belonging that will lead to less tension and more social cohesion. 4City platform allow loan borrowers to be donors for other ideas on the platform. That will enhance solidarity and strengthen the social ties within the community. Beneficiaries, whether IDPs or residents, will see themselves as integral and active part of the community. The population of the city will have another benefit which is having the goods and services they need from the local market of the city.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

In 2015, one of our team supervise and manage a research about the source of income for Syrian families and the influence of the aid on them in north Syria. One of the inspiring finding of the research, which included 1,535 individuals, was the percentage of people who are depending on aid. 3% of the population was totally dependent on aid. While 55% are people who are getting aid and have another source of income (work or family support). 42%, which was the most inspiring, were self-sustainable as they startup their own business or working for NGOs. Those figures next to the experience of Door in Social Entrepreneurship during the conflict inspired the team to think how they can expand the percent of people who are self-sustainable.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

The general population of Azaz is Arabs and a few Kurds and Turkmen. However, the diversity had increased as a results of displacement movements to the city. This diversity created a community with a combination of cultures and traditions. Half of population now are IDPs. The security situation in the city had encouraged displaced people to move there. A large part of the population is engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry. In addition, as a results of good security situation and availability of basic services like electricity and water, the city starts to witness industrial and economic recovery. The local authorities are active and focus on recovering the public services. Many local initiatives and organization are available and conducting activities.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

The PDP will help the community to define the gaps and the available opportunities in their cities by using Participatory Value Chain Assessment (PVCA) and Participatory Rapid Assessment (PRA), which will rationalize the use of the scarce resources and maximize the potentiality of projects success. The platform will give indications of the successful projects in each area, which will provide next to the PDP and quick market research in different areas. The PDP will help entrepreneurs to integrate and complete each other by building on their relations and mobilizing their resources.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

We are going to work with both IDPs and Host community as main partners and beneficiaries at the same time. They will work on the PDP and they will benefit from the platform support. Another partner is Watad organization who has good experience in training and community development, in addition to their good reputation and relation with the people in Azaz.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

Door Beyond War Organization [Baris Kapasi]

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Door team includes people with experience in community development and economic empowerment, they are Syrians who are either part of the host community, IDPs or Refugees. We have implemented many projects to lead change in Syria by building the capacity of youth leaders, and empower them to mobilize their resources to start up self-sustainable projects. We have good experience in community organizing, community engagement, community mobilizing, micro-finance, and active citizenship. Door team is supervising a network of 250 community organizers in Syria who are well-trained and organized in 23 local development committees.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State


In preparation for expert feedback: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in these categories? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea. (600 characters)

Q1: The platform depends on crowdfunding to fund the micro-projects, any recommendation about increasing the visibility of the platform? any suggestions about other ways to fund the micro-projects on the platform? Q2: Is there any recommendation for income-generating model that ensure sustainability and does not affect the mandate of the idea of serving the people in need? Q3: Do you advise to develop/use any financial system – e.g. “Fin-tech” mobile application- that makes the financial transactions more transparent for donors and the platform more accountable for any donation?

Did you use the resources offered during the Improve Phase (mentorship, expert feedback, community research)? (2000 characters)

All the resources made available during the improve stage were used; they all have contributed to the enrichment and the improvement of the idea. Our testing and prototyping questions were designed using the Community-Research Guide, Prototyping Toolkit, and other human-centered design resources.
During this stage, we met and carefully listened to many experiences, feedback, remarks and recommendations. During the improve phase, we listened to the mentor, the expert, peers on the OpenIDEO, similar experiences, and users; entrepreneurs, IDPs, Refugees, and host communities.
Mentor and the expert feedback showed us the strengths of our approach and the challenges we may face.
The feedback of the peers on OpenIDEO was very encouraging with very important questions regarding our approach.
The feedback of similar experiences was on their best practices, lessons learned, and recommendations to face potential challenges.The feedback of the users was important, as we were able to see the first impressions of many user on the idea. They had recommendations on improving the service delivery and on the mechanism of work to suit them better.
The overall results of the testing; that idea has been widely accepted and admired among all the individuals and groups we met. Reactions to it varied;

- Some looked at the idea as a unique and flexible solution for the early recovery of countries with crises;

- Others admired the social aspect of involving IDPs/refugees and the host community in the development of their communities in a participatory manner;

- Other people were impressed that the idea uses tech-based solution to alleviate the suffering of those in need (IDPs/Refugees and host community) ;

- The rest were admired the fact of providing long-term solutions “development” not emergency ones “relief”, this in turn saves their dignity and gives them hope.

In what ways would potential BridgeBuilder funds allow you to pursue your idea that other funding opportunities have not? (1000 characters)

4City and BridgeBuilder- People on The Move share the goals of going beyond addressing basic needs, and building bridges between IDPs/Refugees and host communities. This is very important as it allows 4City to benefit from fund, and other resources and connections offered, without compromising or influencing its objectives.

BridgeBuilder not just focus on the results, they pays great attention to the design and the research. Therefore, it appreciates design and research more than other funding opportunities and thus it values the efforts, time and money spent during this stage.

BridgeBuilder is independent, focuses only on human and encourages meeting his/her needs in the best way regardless of race or religion.

BridgeBuilder looks at the idea as an innovative idea rather than a traditional project. This give us more freedom and space to be creative and to develop more innovative solutions.

What aspects or proportion of the overall idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (1000 characters)

The fund provided will primarily support;

- Completion of the testing and prototyping process, which includes interviews and testing – consultations. (3-5%).

- Recruitment of administrative and field staff (25%).

- The launch of a pilot on the ground in two cities; Azaz in Syria & Gaziantep in Turkey. This includes depositing 10,000 USD in each city fund pool to support 5 -10 projects in each city (10%).

- Launching the scale-up project in the two previous cities in addition to two new cities. At this stage, each city fund pool will financed by 20,000 USD to support 10 - 20 projects in each city (40%).

- Building the capacity of staff and LDCs (3~5%).

- Equipment, e.g. printer, laptop, camera, projector, etc (3~5%).

- Marketing of the platform (3~5%).

- Operational cost for one year (10%).

What are the key steps or activities for your idea for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (1000 characters)

The first coming steps are:

1) develop the online platform based on the learning process that we had in the improvement phase. 

2) launch pilot phase including giving loans in 4 cities, and conduct the FGDs with more users during this phase. 

3) improve our marketing strategy to include next to diaspora some other donors such as UNHCR, IOM, UNDP, ILO and others.

What will community-level impact look like over the timeframe of your idea? How will you determine whether or not you have achieved that impact? And what outstanding questions do you still have? (1000 characters)


By 2025, 20 fund pools were established in 20 cities in Syria and neighboring countries, and over 2,000 projects (IDPs, refugees and hosts) have benefited from microfinance support in a way that contributes to sustainable development and fosters social cohesion in the targeted areas.


- # of livelihoods established/restored,

- # amount of many revolving as microfinance in each city,

- # of barrowers become donors for other projects,

- # of people (IDPs/Refugees and hosts) participated to develop PDP in each city,

- % of repayment rate in each city.


What are the procedures and requirement for the idea to go global and become accessible to more communities and individuals? And how to ensure the quality and the sustainability of the idea in the scaled-up model?

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (1000 characters)

Ahmad El Ibrahim (Project Manager). He holds master degree in engineering and have been working in livelihoods and community projects for 4 years.

Karam Hilly (Project Expert). He has MBA, started his career in Microfinance and Economic Development since 2009 with UNDP, and he was part of many projects with different UN agencies. In 2014, Karam decided to work on community level, for that reason, he found Door, and managed to establish a network of 20 LDCs in Syria and Turkey who are working on Self-Sustainable Projects.

Rajy Aljoundy (Training Coordinator), who has MBA, started his career in Community Development with AKDN since 2003 in Syria.

Ftama Al haji (Platform Manager), an engineer who has been working with grassroots initiatives on community development in Syria.

Taha Alkhatib (Programmer), he is web developer outsourced to develop 4City platform.

In addition, Door has well-trained training team and project team inside Syria and Turkey.

Lastly, how did you apply new learnings to your idea? (1000 characters)

Based on the advice of the expert and people with similar experiences, we are adapting our perspective of the idea sustainability. We will count more on solutions that does not affect the quality and mandate of the idea, like; reaching out private and public donors and fundraising campaigns.

The feedback of the mentor approved that the approach is suitable for the People on The Move. She advised to do further testing with our end users, and that what we did.

We had different discussions and interviews with our end-users, in addition, to a prototyping session with them. As a result of the findings, we adjusted; the support to be mixed (in-kind and money), providing the support for a group of beneficiaries besides to individuals, supporting ongoing projects not only new ones, an other aspects that we still considering. As a result of prototyping, we will made many changes, add more explanations and features as the people recommended.

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One of the greatest strengths of this initiative is that it comes from inside of the Syrian community which can strengthen internal trust and social cohesion at the same time as economic development. It also can do a lot to counter negative social narratives around refugees and IDPs/refugees/beneficiaries.

Syrian diaspora networks are very strong and engaged, people are always looking for a new way to contribute. In this way the community is one of the strongest resources that exists for this kind of project. There is great potential here. Good luck!

Photo of Ahmed El Ibrahim

Many Thanks Ashley for your feedback and interest!
It is good to know that the essence of the idea is clear to you that much.
Thanks for the encouragement, regards.

Photo of Ahmed El Ibrahim

Many Thanks Ashley for your feedback and interest!
It is good to know that the essence of the idea is clear to you that much.
Thanks for the encouragement, regards.

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