Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
The Tunisian and the Arab Maghreb sub-region have undergone much change and transformation, especially after the January 2011 revolution. The mass protests demanding freedom, dignity and employment that occurred during this time reflected the growing social problems in the region. Problems such as regional disparities, social and economic injustice among urban and rural areas, environmental degradation, inequality and unemployment were unveiled and became publicly discussed issues. The percentage of the population living below the poverty line in countries of the Arab Maghreb sub-region range from 9% in Morocco, 15.5% in Tunisia to 25% in Algeria. Unemployment rates soared to1million unemployed Tunisians by the end of 2011, reaching 20% of the population in big cities and up to 80% in rural areas. In Algeria, youth unemployment is 17%, while in Morocco 49% of young people face a high level of exclusion by being out of school and out of the workforce.
With the increasing social problems, blaming the state or expecting state-engineered solutions would clearly not meet the urgent demands for the creation of economic opportunities and solving social problems. The Arab Maghreb society was searching for alternatives that could lead to the resolution of economic and social problems. One such alternative is social entrepreneurship. Major systemic obstacles, however, stand in the way of social entrepreneurship taking root in the Maghreb sub–region.
The education system in the region fails to equip young graduating students with tools and skills necessary to embark on careers in social enterprises and innovation. Another obstacle is mentality developed during the long years of dictatorship, where citizens' minds have been locked and entrepreneurial opportunities were limited by high corruption rates, leading many young adults to develop a risk adverse attitude. Furthermore, the societal norm to solving social problems is through unsustainable charitable endeavors and is plagued by the belief that it is the role of the government to solve these problems, not the citizens. The existing legal frameworks in the Maghreb are not conducive to the development of social enterprises as the legal status of "social business" or “social enterprise” does not exist. The Tunisian legal framework for instance does not support the establishment of ventures which combine social impact and financial profits.
All actors working on creating an enabling environment for social enterprises in the Maghreb sub-region had been limited to the provision of incubation services. Incubation, however, is simply not sufficient to empower aspiring social entrepreneurs. Budding initiatives thus fade out due to the absence of a proper supporting ecosystem in place, such as legal frameworks, access to markets, financial capacities and tax incentives. As much as incubation and financial support is important, creating a future generation of potential social entrepreneurs is key to escalating the positive impact of social enterprises on the national economy.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Asma is creating a new culture and approach for solving social problems in the Arab Maghreb sub-region (Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Libya) by introducing to the community, the government and the private sector the concept of social enterprise. As an alternative to government dependency or immigration when facing social problems, Asma is offering communities a third option which empowers them to have an active, innovative role in changing their situations.
In a non-favorable environment for social innovations and with the absence of relevant legal frameworks, Asma has launched the first movement across the Arab Maghreb sub-region to create an enabling environment for social enterprises and develop its ecosystem in a uniquely holistic manner. Asma is doing so through promoting and spreading the concept of social enterprises and supporting a new cadre of social entrepreneurs. She is thereby sowing a culture of social enterprises within the community as well as mobilizing community members and youth to lead the change towards a socially entrepreneurial environment.
To promote social enterprises, Asma employs tactics of advocacy, awareness, education, and lobbying for a new legal framework directed to young people, government personnel, universities and the public. Additionally, for supporting a new generation of social entrepreneurs, Asma works with existing private and public incubators to provide technical assistance to social entrepreneurs, linking them to funding opportunities, as well as a market and commercialize their products and services.
Asma’s work has spread throughout Tunisia and has already been replicated in both Morocco and Algeria. As the architecture of an entirely new ecosystem, Asma is shifting perceptions, creating jobs, and increasing economic opportunities.