This is a special post in which I would like to invite anyone interested in helping financially or non-financially to pitch in. I would also appreciate sharing and circulating it as much as you can, so we can try to get some of the below projects off the ground.

In the past few weeks, I implemented for the UNESCO office in Beirut a program to help Lebanese and Syrian men and women design social ventures. Briefly, a social venture means a project that is able to instigate some social good (could be related to bottom of the pyramid income generation, the environment, healthcare, education, culture, etc..) while at the same time also generating enough revenue to support itself and achieve sustainability and potentially growth. This prevents these projects from dying when funding stops.

In the UNESCO program, we had the added challenge that these social ventures must be based on an artistic, creative, and/or cultural heritage product or service. We started the program with an ideation training designed to help participants generate relevant and feasible project ideas. Three weeks later, after participants were given a chance to come up with ideas and the teams they wanted to work with, we received 25 project proposals, out of which 10 fit the criteria. The 10 teams were invited to attend the second training, which focused on developing basic marketing and financial plans for the projects to assess their sustainability and to also determine the initial investments needed to get them started.

The UNESCO program, being a pilot, stipulated that only 2 out of the participating teams will receive funding to get them started, and then their progress will be monitored. A 5-member jury picked the 2 teams that would receive the funding, and which I will continue to work with and support for some time. But the other 8 projects are all good and all worthy of support, especially that they would provide much needed income generation for vulnerable groups.

I will list here these 8 remaining projects that need to get funded. Each project needs on average $8500 to get started. If you wish to support financially, you can specify which project you want your contribution to go to, or you can contribute to a general pool that we will use for the projects that have the biggest chance for social impact. You can also propose any non-financial support such as with access to markets, mentorship, design skills, and so on. Please contact me on with any questions or for your contributions. Thank you very much!

Here are the 8 projects in no particular order:

  • Using recycled and filtered oil, manufacturing of traditional artisanal soaps with natural scents, modeled on historical monuments  from Syria and Lebanon.
  • A high-end coffee-table book documenting recipes of sweets and desserts gathered from Syrian families, with stories of the women providing the recipes.
  • A mobile market setup designed to mimic a traditional old Syrian town and including live classical oriental music performances, to market and sell the work of local artisans from the various regions.
  • An online platform designed to promote the music and talent of underground artists. The platform incorporates an online voting system as well as a component to organize live events.
  • An existing small home-based traditional “mouneh” food products and soap expanding to employ other women and grow the business.
  • A network of home-based women with various traditional embroidery and needlework skills collaborating to create linens, tablecloths, baby clothes, and various gifts items.
  • A number of young talented musicians performing traditional music grouped and trained as an ensemble to perform in public places and private events.
  • A wooden workshop using scrap wood to create artistic and home wooden items, supplying orders coming to local factories that are too small for the factories to handle directly.
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