OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Tamasuk (Cohesion) Cafe

Building social cohesion and community acceptance through shared interests and experiences

Photo of Mais Alkhayyat
2 2

Written by

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

In Jordan, 1 in 15 people are Syrians refugees; 84% of which live outside of refugee camps. Although many of these refugees have been living in Jordanian host communities for 5+ years, the lack of safe spaces that foster acceptance and allow for constructive dialogue between Jordanians and Syrians have kept them apart. When combined with competition over already overburdened resources and services, it creates an environment ripe for disputes and violence. To reduce these tensions and build the foundation for acceptance, we propose a unique community space that provides structured opportunities for Syrians and Jordanians to share, learn and connect, discovering shared experiences and common interests. Named Tamasuk (Cohesion) Café, this space will host a relaxed area to drink coffee or tea, a small library as well as a hall for structured activities. Topics for structured activities will be determined by the community members themselves based on a needs assessment conducted at the beginning of the program. Initial conversations have suggested ideas such as monthly book discussions, film screenings, and lectures. The Café and library will be open for the entire community with select hours throughout the week reserved for women-only; however, structured activities will often target certain age groups and genders to ensure everyone feels comfortable and safe. There will be a minimal charge for drinks, book rentals and structured activities with the goal of making enough revenue to sustain the running costs of the café beyond an initial start-up grant. The Tamasuk Café will be managed by the Network for Social Cohesion and Negotiation Skills (referred to as the Network), a Jordanian organization led by well-respected community leaders. In line with their mission, cafe employees and facilitators will be trained on basic interest-based negotiation skills equipping them with skills to both facilitate positive interaction and de-escalate any conflict that may arise.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

The Tamasuk Cafe model will be implemented in 3 governorates in the north of Jordan: Mafraq, Irbid and Zarqa. Near the Syrian border, these governorates host nearly 60% (400,000) of the Syrian refugees. We will establish the cafes in areas of town where Syrian and Jordanian communities begin to intersect and that also lack cafes or safe spaces. We will pilot, test and iterate the model, customizing it as needed based on each community, with a plan to expand to other communities in the future.

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)

Although Syrians and Jordanians share a language and have similarities in culture and tradition, the venues to engage on these topics are few. The Tamasuk Café will provide the physical space with trained facilitators (both Syrian and Jordanian) to support the process of discovering shared interests and experiences. Opportunities to engage intellectually, emotionally and more informally over a cup of coffee or a football match will create a foundation for understanding and acceptance.

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

With security concerns in Syria preventing mass returns, many Syrians are starting to think longer term about their lives in Jordan. Although Syrian refugees and Jordanians have been co-existing in Jordan since the start of the crisis in 2011, simply co-existing will not be sufficient to build a stable future where refugees feel accepted and everyone has dignity and a voice. Community acceptance takes time and often begins with small positive interactions, growing over time. Each community, and even individuals, will be at a different point along this journey. We will acknowledge where each community is at, listen to them along the way, and make adjustments to ensure that the café is relevant, meeting needs and most importantly not creating additional divisions. We will hire both Syrians and Jordanians as café employees and facilitators, providing an example of what acceptance can look like in practice and signally to the community that this is truly a place for everyone.

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

Syrians have typically settled in neighborhoods with other Syrians, often only engaging with Jordanians when they have to, around an issue or need. Conditions under which these interactions take place are often tense and heated without room to connect on a positive note. Through the Tamasuk Cafe, we are creating a platform for Syrians and Jordanians to learn and grow together. Some may be initially drawn in through things like the library or a specific lecture of interest, but with trained staff facilitating discussions and interactions, Syrians and Jordanians will begin to engage by choice discovering that they have common interests and shared experiences. Additionally, because facilitators will be trained in basic interest-based negotiation skills, the café will provide a safe space to practice constructive dialogue, building skills to resolve disputes in daily life.

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

In the target communities, people often spend free time on the street, in their own social circles, and without many options for productive ways to pass the time. This lack of engagement with each other and with activities that stretch their minds fuels an environment of frustration and lack of understanding, often leading to arguments or disputes. Community leaders have identified the need for a space that encourages meaningful interaction and provides an alternative, more productive use of free time. The inspiration for a cafe, specifically, builds on an already established café culture. Jordanians and Syrians have similar social traditions around drinking coffee and tea, making it an easy entry point for further interaction. Culturally, offering coffee and tea to guests is a symbol of hospitality, furthering our goal of creating a welcoming and accepting environment. Additionally, a café model has the potential to create revenue and a pathway for sustainability.

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

Unsurprisingly, Syrians have mostly settled in the north of Jordan, near the Syrian border. Mafraq, Irbid and Zarqa host 60% (25%, 21% and 14% respectively) of the Syrians currently in Jordan. The three governorates combined host nearly 400,000 Syrians. In terms of Jordanians, each governorate is slightly different in terms of lifestyle, culture, and livelihood opportunities. For example, Mafraq has a large percentage of Bedouins (nomadic people who live off the land), Irbid is mostly farmland and Zarqa is more urban. Dynamics between Jordanian and Syrians within each area will vary slightly, however this will be taken into consideration as each cafe is being designed. Having a diverse group of local community leaders lead the process will be key to getting this right.

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

The Network for Social Cohesion and Negotiation Skills works closely with over 650 community leaders across the country. Representing diverse backgrounds (Syrian and Jordanian, men and women, youth and elders), community leaders are well-respected and well-connected within their communities. For the past 5 years, these community leaders have been implementing community cohesion activities and community-led infrastructure projects under a fund managed by Mercy Corps, a well-respected international NGO. Additionally, community leaders are trained negotiators and actively assist in resolving disputes in their communities. Their technical skills and influence within the community makes them well placed to lead initiatives such as the Tamasuk Café, building on the foundation that has already been laid. Additionally, as previously mentioned, the similarities in culture between Jordanians and Syrians present a starting point for deeper engagement and acceptance.

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

Mercy Corps, an international NGO who has been active in Jordan since 2003, will continue to provide technical support to the Network during the implementation of this grant. Mercy Corps first established an informal version of the Network back in 2012 and has supported its transition to an independent national NGO in late 2018. Additionally, we will utilize our strong relationships with the Hashemite Fund for Human Development, local municipalities and other community-based organizations to build support for our mission and promote participation in the activities.

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

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Blueprint: We are exploring the idea and gathering the inspiration and information we need to test it with real users.

Group or Organization Name

Network for Social Cohesion and Negotiation Skills

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

The Network for Social Cohesion and Negotiation Skill (referred to as the Network) existed informally since 2012 under Mercy Corps-managed programming to mitigate tensions arising between Jordanian host communities and Syrian refugees. However, in late 2018, they registered as an independent, Jordanian NGO with the Jordanian Ministry of Social Development with an aim to build peaceful communities who are capable of resolving conflict. With specialized training in interest-based negotiation (IBN) and conflict management, leaders ages 18-70 lead community activities aimed at reducing tension, building social cohesion and representing local interests in municipal, governorate and national political process. With nearly seven years of operation experience and 1,645 disputes resolved to date, the Network is well placed to design and implement community spaces, like the proposed Tamasuk Cafe, that foster connection and community acceptance.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State



Join the conversation:

Photo of Uchenna Okafor

Hi Mais Alkhayyat! Indeed an innovative way to avert possible conflict between refugees and host communities. Setting up a location of common interest in different activities and issues can go a long way to build a bridge of friendship and cohesion among them. Among programs for different classes of people in this design, is there any provision for disabled persons? Yes; the blind, deaf, dumb, lame, etc are worst hit in all human journey of survival.

View all comments