Goal and proposed model
The Synergos Institute will enhance peace and prosperity by improving the livelihoods of Syrian refugees living in Egypt. An investment of $250,000 per year will result in a positive impact of the lives of over +12,000 Syrian refugees.
Synergos selected Egypt as the implementation country for this project, precisely because of its recent response to Syrian refugees. For decades, Egypt has been home to many expatriated Syrians. From 2011-2017, Syrian immigration to Egypt reached a high as tens of thousands of refugees fled their home during the Syrian War. Egypt’s response to this immigration crisis was one of the most accommodating in the Arab World. In Egypt, Syrians do not live in segregated camps; they reside within the major cities of Cairo and Alexandria. Additionally, Syrian refugees living in Egypt can operate independent businesses and face low barriers to employment by local businesses. Despite these favorable conditions, efforts to increase opportunities for prosperity through employment and peace through integration have remained critically low.
Our project will directly increase opportunities Syrians living in Egypt to prosper and lead more peaceful lives. We will take a two-pronged approach to ensure this outcome. First, through an extensive search process, we will identify established and emerging social entrepreneurs that serve the Syrian refugee community in Egypt. We will work directly with these entrepreneurs to increase the scope and scale of their enterprises, creating new opportunities for Syrians to prosper. Second, we will work directly with the Syrian refugee youth to improve their job seeking skills. We will ensure that they are personally and professionally connected with Egyptian peers and mentors who will support them in achieving a more peaceful, integrated life.
Our approach to ensure Syrians prosper is adapted from our “Pioneers Program,” – a social entrepreneurship project we have been refining in Egypt for the past five years. Our program model will identify emerging social entrepreneurs with strong innovation and business skills. Through a rigorous selection process, we will select individuals that are providing ways for Syrian refugee communities to prosper, with an emphasis on projects in education, employment and health sectors. Our proposed program will support social entrepreneurs at three different stages of career development:
- Established Social Entrepreneurs (“Pioneers”): Men and women whose initiatives have demonstrated results in improving the lives and prosperity of Syrian refugees. We will strategically select those organizations that have the highest potential to scale up and create sustainable, peacebuilding solutions for the Syrian communities they serve.
- Start-up Social Entrepreneurs: Men and women who possess strong business ideas and motivation, and can benefit from our program services to launch and expand their initiatives, which will benefit Syrian refugees and allow them to prosper.
- Recent Youth Graduates: Youth that are transitioning from education to employment and can benefit from volunteer opportunities, employment training, life skills, and mentorship opportunities with local Egyptians that will contribute to a prosperous future.
Our project will directly support 10 established social entrepreneurs or “Pioneers,” 30 start-ups entrepreneurs and 1,000 recent youth graduates living in Egypt. A high proportion of these participants will be refugees from Syria, and the remaining proportion will be Egyptians. By engaging participants from both populations, we will assist the Syrian youth in integrating effectively within Egyptian society, and building more peaceful lives. In terms impact, all the initiatives selected to become Pioneers and start-up social entrepreneurs will serve the needs of the Syrian refugee community living in Egypt. Collectively, the enterprises managed by Pioneers and start-ups will improve the peace and prosperity for more than 100,000 Syrian refugees.
Established entrepreneurs or “Pioneers” selection process
Synergos will identify and recruit potential established social entrepreneurs through several outreach channels including: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), local Egyptian partners, radio announcements, website listing and via social media. Eligible applicants will include leaders of nonprofit and for-profit entities with a social mission. Applications will be encouraged from any sector, with an emphasis on education, employment and health sectors.
The key selection criteria for established social entrepreneurs are: 1) “The Idea:” must possess a creative idea, solution or approach to an economic or social problem that will positively impact the alleviation of poverty and inequity; 2) “The Entrepreneur:” must be driven by a vision to promote social progress and break old patterns of action and perception. 3) “The Proven Impact:” must lead an initiative that has demonstrated significant social impact at a local level and has the potential to expand and serves the Syrian refugee community in Egypt. 4) “The Potential:” must demonstrate potential for scaling up the initiative by securing needed talent, capital, technology and other resources. 5) “The Values:” must have a high standard of personal and professional conduct and a genuine commitment to helping the Syrian refugee community in Egypt.
The selection process for established entrepreneurs will occur in three stages:
- Stage 1: Applications will be reviewed against a criteria scorecard. In the first phase, two internal evaluators will conduct an initial screening of the applications per the set of selection criteria listed above. Upon satisfaction of the above criteria, qualified applicants will advance to the second stage. In the second phase, the applications will be screened by external judges who have expertise within the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in Egypt.
- Stage 2: The judges on the selection team will then conduct a comprehensive assessment, including one-on-one interviews, and site visits to candidates' projects in the communities in which they operate. The strongest candidates reviewed in this process will advance to the third and final stage.
- Stage 3: The selection team will check applicants' references and perform due diligence by seeking inputs from a network of advisors and nominators. Members of the selection team will include: leaders in business, civil society and academia. Feedback on the qualifications of candidates will also be provided by the references. Each applicant will be required to list three professional and personal references (excluding relatives). References may include individuals who are prominent professionals in civil society, academia, banking, the private sector, and the arts in Egypt and internationally – illustrative examples include the American University in Cairo, UNESCO, IREX, the Better World Foundation. Synergos will also leverages our existing networks of +250 social entrepreneurs in Egypt to disseminate the announcement widely. Follow-up interviews will then be conducted to clarify any outstanding questions. The final Pioneers will then be selected. This will occur over a period of three months.
Project support to Established Entrepreneurs or “Pioneers”
Synergos will create opportunities for prosperity by providing the comprehensive set of services below to grow the enterprises of the established entrepreneurs. The goal of these services is to compliment the professional development plans, relationship management, peer learning, capacity building, and networking opportunities with leaders in civil society, business, and philanthropy in Egypt that Synergos will provide to the selected entrepreneurs
Needs assessment and relationship management: Following the orientation session, each Pioneer will be assigned to a Relationship Manager (RM) who will support the Pioneer's development over the life of the project and will meet regularly with him/her. The Pioneer will attend a needs assessment session to discuss goals with the RM. This needs assessment will guide the level and type of support provided to each entrepreneur.
Project Support Services for Pioneers:
- Technical assistance/capacity building: Each pioneer will receive ongoing customized services to advance their organizational development, enhance their leadership skills and address specific challenges or needs.
- Financial awards: Each Pioneer will receive a financial award of $15,000 in Year 1 and up to $7,500 in Year 2. These awards are intended to be unrestricted grants to enable Pioneers to focus on their innovation and its growth. Financial awards have proved instrumental in enabling Pioneers to hire new staff, expand program offerings, and increase outreach. All applicants selected for this program are screened through appropriate database searches, such as the US Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN).
- Annual convening of Pioneers: The annual convenings will provide the opportunity to build a peer learning network, share ideas, and deliver technical assistance and leadership training to Pioneers.
- Thematic workshops: We will organize sector-specific networking events on employment, health and education.
- Access to Collaboration Awards: Collaboration awards will be established to provide an incentive for Pioneers and start-up social entrepreneurs to collaborate on their initiatives. Five awards of $1,000 will be granted to the best collaboration ideas in Year 1 and five additional awards in Year 2.
- Networking and mentorship opportunities: Pioneers and start-up social entrepreneurs will receive networking opportunities with past Pioneers of Egypt, to expand their network. The project will also facilitate strategic connections with leaders in business, government and philanthropy.
Selection of start-up social entrepreneurs
Synergos will create opportunities for prosperity by providing the comprehensive set of services below to start-up social entrepreneurs. To be eligible for this project, start-ups entrepreneurs must have ideas in the “prototype” stage. Their prototype must have a positive social impact, in any sector. Additionally, the start-up must show the following characteristics:
- Social impact - The prototype must have the potential to solve a social issue in the Egypt, for the Syrian refugee community and must have a clear impact on the Syrian refugee community.
- Feasibility/potential success - The applicant must have a clear plan, demonstrating they have thought through their prototype. Synergos will be reviewing the extent to which the applicant is proactive and has a track record of executing their plans.
- Innovation - The prototype may be completely new, implemented in a new way, or implemented in a new location to maximize the benefit to the Syrian refugee community.
Support Services for Start-up Social Entrepreneurs
- Technical assistance will be provided through a 5-day training module “boot-camp” covering business planning, marketing, financial planning, legal assistance, volunteers' management training and HR. This training is provided in conjunction with networking opportunities.
- Networking opportunities will be provided with more advanced social entrepreneurs. Synergos will also host an “ideation day,” or a day dedicated to sharing information and ideas and building relationships with peers.
- Opportunity to apply for seed funding will be provided through small grants of $700 each to help launch their initiatives.
- Thematic workshops, will be provided, as well as Collaboration Awards and networking and mentorship opportunities.
- Opportunity to “graduate” to the Pioneer category in Year 2 of the project.
Recent Youth Graduates Selection
The selection process begins with an announcement that will be widely disseminated by the Synergos Institute and its partners through radio, websites, word of mouth, social media and other channels. Recent youth graduates will complete the Volunteer Application form, which will include information about their skills and areas of interest. Those who are considered a good match will be selected for our program. Based on experience, we expect many of the recent youth graduates to be between the ages of 20-30, with a smaller proportion between the ages of 16-20.
Support Services for Recent Youth Graduates
Synergos will create opportunities for prosperity by investing in recent youth graduates and providing them with the set of services below.
1) Volunteer training. All recent youth graduates will receive training from the program before they begin their volunteer or internship placements. Trainings will include: interviewing skills, professional behavioral skills, presentation skills and potential opportunities for freelancing and self-employment.
2) Volunteer management training. Pioneers and start-ups will receive training on how to manage volunteers to ensure effective placement and how to develop volunteer job descriptions.
3) Volunteer and internship placement. Students and unemployed youth will be placed with volunteer and internship opportunities that will help to ready them for full-time employment.