You can be an innovator! This was the slogan of ‘innovate education’, the first purely education-themed competition that took place on April 6-8 in Beirut. Almost thirty university students, among them seven originally from Syria, took part in the social entrepreneurship competition, organised by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Lebanon.
Hosted by Beirut Digital District, ‘innovate education’ was also the first competition in Lebanon focusing on Syrian teenagers: the participants should develop innovate solutions on how technology can improve access to education for Syrian teenagers in Lebanon.
‘innovate education’ was supported by major players of the Lebanese entrepreneurship eco-system, among them start-up accelerator Speed@BDD, the incubator and Business Development Center Berytech, elevate impact accelerator, Lebanon’s first social impact accelerator formed through a partnership between UNICEF Lebanon and Altcity, as well as smart ESA, the new accelerator of the École supérieure des affaires.
Most participants were newcomers to the start-up and social entrepreneurship scene and received support in form of talks by experienced social entrepreneurs, for example Layal Jibran, CEO and Co-founder of Moubarmij and Samer Sfeir, Founder of Mommy Made Lebanon, who shared their experience in building a social business. An absolute asset to the event was also Andre Abi Awad, Founder of Entreprenergy, who moderated and delivered high-level pitch trainings for the participants. Throughout the competition, the participants received the support of experienced coaches from a variety of backgrounds, such as software development, social entrepreneurship, graphic design, marketing, and education. The teams were evaluated by a high-level panel of judges including Ramy Boujawdeh, Deputy General Manager of Berytech, Sami Abu Saad, CEO of Speed@BDD, Emil J. Moawad representing smart ESA, David Munir Nabti, CEO and Co-Founder of AltCity, Michelle Mourcarde, Lebanon Country Director of Alfanar as well as Layal Jebran, CEO and Co-Founder of Moubarmij.
The 1st Prize – 3 months of coaching with Speed and co-working space provided by CoPro Space as well as an additional 2-month start-up training by smart ESA – went to the team ‘Artilla’, comprising the three Syrian students Yaman Sadeq, Rabee Karzoun, and Dania Ghanayem. They convinced the jury with their idea of making short educational videos that teach different creative and design skills such as drawing, stop-motion videos, animation, and visual arts. Revenue would come from paid membership for trainings and more advanced videos. The 2nd Prize – 1 months of coaching and co-working space provided by Berytech as well as access to the Berytech community – went to the team zibaLAB, including Samah Karaki (Lebanese), Maxim Hermez (Syrian), Nisrine Aljidi (Syrian), Youssef Hamieh (Lebanese), and Elias Kiwan (Lebanese). Their idea is to set up an educational camp where teenagers learn physical, chemical and biological processes through recycling and building products out of recycled waste. Revenue would come from selling compost and the produced arts & crafts as well as holding a science fair. The teenagers will also learn how to produce short educational videos that are then posted on the website to reach more children and teenagers. zibaLAB also aim to promote Syrian and Lebanese cohesion as Lebanese university students can come and teach the Syrian children.
Both winning teams are shortlisted for the elevate impact accelerator, giving them the chance to win US$20k in cash as well as exclusive training and coaching. In addition, AlloTaxi is sponsoring their first ride to their co-working spaces.
The winning teams were announced by Sofia Koller, who had been successfully designing the competition and bringing all partners together as Project Coordinator of innovate education at Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
Nisrine Aljidi was also the lucky winner of a ticket to the social entrepreneurship visiting program to Germany; “Connecting Worlds: Social Entrepreneurs hip for, from and with Refugees”, that the Friedrich Naumann Foundation is organising for social entrepreneurs from the MENA region in May 2017.
Other innovative ideas included an app that provides students with translation and additional information on science subjects when screening a textbook page as well as a bus, that brings design, technological and technical skills closer to Syrian refugees and underprivileged Lebanese living in remote areas. All participants will receive free access to a one month of free online coding training with ArabCode.org, an initiative by CoursePeer.
Community partners included Wamda (leading platform on entrepreneurship in the MENA region), ArabWIC (organization supporting Arab Women in Computing), Moubarmij, (e-learning platform that provides professional programming tutorials in Arabic), Start-Up Weekend Beirut, Limitless Lab (providing innovative digital communications) and Alfanar (Lebanon’s first venture philanthropy organisation).
The great atmosphere was supported by delicious food provided by the social catering Mommy Made Lebanon.
The Friedrich Naumann Foundation would like to thank all participants as well as all coaches, partners, and organisers that made this event a full success – stay tuned for more events to come on innovation and education!