Earlier in September, we held a BUILDx event in cooperation with The European Institute for Cooperation and Development “IECD” and as part of the ‘We are Jerusalem Builders’ forum to talk about social enterprises, as part of the forum’s Awareness week. We got to (virtually) meet two superstar social enterprises in Palestine –  Wazza Inc. in Jerusalem and Mahatat Center in Baka El Gharbeye as success stories to social businesses in Palestine. 

Here are the session’s main takeaways…

What is social business? And who is a social entrepreneur? 

Social entrepreneurs are two types: biological entrepreneur, and serial social entrepreneurs. Biological entrepreneurs are individuals who face a social problem or challenge at one point in their lives, and who  spend their journey  trying to solve this problem. On the other hand, we have serial entrepreneurs, who attempt  to solve several problems and challenges through projects and cooperating with other entities. 

 A social business or enterprise are organizations that have a social mission which focuses on problems or challenges in any given society. These could be related to education, health, the environment, culture, etc. A portion of  the income to those companies comes from selling goods and services, but they are also able to accept grants from other organizations. Social businesses are independent and can control their work and the projects they work on. 

WAZZA Inc. – Improving Communication in Educational Institutes

Behind every project is a “genesis story.” WAZZA’s story began when its founder Amani Abu Tair, sent her son to kindergarten and experienced difficulties in communication  with her son’s teachers. Like any other parent, Amani wanted to be aware of the activities her son had to do without having to contact his teacher’s personal phone number or by sending multiple emails a day. Amani identified this personal need, and was aware that other parents were facing the same struggle, and wanted to provide a solution that would serve everyone. This is where WAZZA was born. The mobile application was developed to allow parents and teachers to easily communicate , as well as to stay informed on their childrens’ progress at school. The application’s interface shows parents progress reports, attendance updates, among other vital information.  Ultimately, Amani hoped to help improve the overall quality of communication and education at schools.  

This project was growing at a steady rate when the Coronavirus pandemic hit earlier in march, affecting start-ups and small businesses in a dire way. WAZZA’s team, which is strongly dependent on schools and students, had to think of ways to adapt to our new normal. As a result, the team worked relentlessly to adjust their working model. WAZZA took its efforts to social media, where they used Facebook as a tool to offer resources to students and teachers to benefit from during their time at home. Their Facebook followers went from 2000 to 40,000 in a matter of months!  

During the session, Amani noted an interesting fact; when she founded WAZZA, she wasn’t consciously wearing the “Social Entrepreneur” hat. When she did note the impact her business was making on society however, she began to see herself as one and focused on further benefiting her community.

“WAZZA is the bespoke communication platform for parents and teachers. Amani Abu Tair is the Founder and CEO of WAZZA Inc. A natural-born entrepreneur since the early age of six, Amani is a serial entrepreneur, inventor engineer, and educator from Jerusalem with 10 years of experience in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.”

 Mahatat Center – “With Love we Live”

Like WAZZA, Mahatat was born out of a need. Rabab Korabi founded the center when she noticed a lack in resources (especially in Arabic), and professional guidance in the field of family life.

Rabab describes herself as a biological entrepreneur. She noted that once we stated it in our presentation, the circle was complete for her. “I’ve always wondered where my spark and passion come from, I guess I’m a biological entrepreneur!” says Rabab. She described how in her early years, she was always eager to be part of volunteer groups and initiatives to solve social challenges. Her early years passion is today manifested in Mahatat, the center she founded to provide professional counseling and direction services to families and groups in her community. 

Since 2015, Mahatat has been offering workshops, counseling sessions, and trainings in a variety of themes pertaining to family life in society. At Mahatat Center, Rabab works with both parents who needed guidance and help with raising their children, as well as professionals who studied fields that are related to children. One of the goals of Mahatat is to help families achieve healthy relationships. Rabab runs the show, and is usually supported by freelance professionals in the field. Since the mid-March lockdowns were imposed, Rabab shifted most of her work to the virtual space, continuing to offer consultations and services via platforms like Zoom. She also began publishing video and voice resources online. 

Rabab calls the center Mahatat (stages in English) because it talks about all the different stages in our life that we go through and it was born to entrench in people’s mind that family is a very crucial  part in our journey in life that allows us to grow up with our ideas and own beliefs and be the best version of ourselves. 

When we asked Rabab about the impact of the work they do, she eloquently quoted Mahmoud Darwish’s “The butterfly effect isn’t visible, butterfly impact doesn’t fade away.” 

“It takes patience and persistence to see impact. It’s a long way to go, but I am on the way.” said Rabab. 

“Founded in 2015, Mahatat is a center for counseling and directing families and groups. Rabab Korabi is the Founder and Manager of Mahatat Center. Rabab is based in Baka al Gharbiya.”

“The love that we transmit in our work and lives comes back to us.”

The above are only two success stories of social businesses in Palestine. More recently, we’ve seen a rise of social enterprises in Palestine, and of individuals who identify as social entrepreneurs and innovators. Social enterprises and initiatives are some of the best ways to develop and build our society. Those above projects started with an idea, a thought to change something, and are as a result leaving a positive impact and mark on our community as a whole.

Co-written by Nisreen Zahran – a volunteer and intern at BuildPalestine. Before joining BuildPalestine, she was involved with various Palestinian institutions such the Popular Arts Centre, the Ramallah Municipality, and Al-Kamandjati. Nisreen currently holds an IB Diploma from EMIS, and is working on her applications to universities abroad.