Sparking Social Innovation in Egypt: An Intro

Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Contributors, Entrepreneurship, Green, Middle East

I’m super excited to have just joined SocialEarth‘s blogging team! I’ll be writing about Egypt, Social Change, Post-Revolution, Social Enterprise in Egypt, the various grassroots efforts I come across & what it’s like to be a regular citizen trying to bring change in post-revolution third-world-to-first Egypt!

Being in Egypt nowadays means very different things depending on who you are and what you do in life. For someone like me (and there’s quite a few of us), it is times like these that our purpose for living can actually align with what we spend the majority of our time doing. Not that a revolution was the only way we could live with a purpose, but, in a’s just better now : D

I’ll write you about Egypt because I arrived here on Jan 21st, 4 days before the spark of the revolution. I attended the first mass protests, and spent the better part of 18 days in Tahrir square. And you know what was a popular activity at night when the protestors circled around bonfires to drink tea or keep warm? Poetry. Poets came and told poetry, story tellers told stories, singers sang songs of bravery & good. Anyone with artistic talent, whether it was poetic, musical, or comical, came to be alive in Tahrir. There were 900 martyrs during the protests, and that is a heavy price to pay, but millions lived for the first time in Tahrir square, and right where they were born again was a place that brimmed with creativity and resolve for justice.

Being involved with SPEAKout Poetry in Toronto, Canada was, as I expected from the start, a pivotal experience for my personal development. I always knew that I was being prepared for something greater. To be honest, I still do, but the two years I spent with SPEAKout, as I have continued to say from the beginning, have taught me much I can not be thankful enough for. You will gain as much from any experience as you put into it, and I urge you to look at what golden learning opportunities in your life you may be unaware of that you can benefit from today. Checkout SPEAKout’s Manifesto here.

Speak your heart out @SPEAKout Poetry

As for the title of this post, I’d like to share with you what the social/community work field looks like in Cairo nowadays. But I’m not going to give you long descriptions. I’ll start by telling you what I’m doing, and over the next few posts explain how this piece in the puzzle fits in the bigger picture. You’ll have some questions after reading this, and I encourage you to please comment and ask. I’m sharing with you what is going on in Egypt because I believe in the interconnectivity of all things, and I’m starting with what I’m doing not only because I can best tell you about it; but also because my project’s purpose is to connect and network all other projects and initiatives. Who knows, maybe one day there will be regular, connected projects between Egypt & the whole world. (Which wouldn’t be unusual since Egypt is nicknamed as ‘Mother of the world’ in Arabic).

In this light, I’m in a unique position to tell you about what else is going on.
But that’s the intro post- look for “Sparking Social Innovation in Egypt” to keep track!

**This post is part of a series I started blogging at SPEAKout Poetry, a organization I co-founded two years ago. I am no longer Director at SPEAKout, but look for this motivated grassroots movement to keep breaking barriers and bringing people together with awesome poems like this one. They’re running a super-cool event in Toronto this July 8th, Check’em out!

Ahmed Nazmi

On Jan 21st Ahmed arrived to Cairo, 7 months after graduating and 4 days before the revolution that would change his life & (everyone else's) forever. Although he travels the Middle East frequently, Ahmed currently resides in Cairo, Egypt, where he co-founded with his then newly-found revolution-friends ‘El Raseef’. ‘El Raseef’ (Arabic for ‘The Sidewalk’) is a Social Enterprise that works to foster, support & connect innovative grassroots approaches to everyday problems (under registration). We make it our mission to remove the obstacles that stand before creativity, grassroots efforts, and civic solutions to civil problems. El Raseef advocates for mass localism and believes we are experiencing a fundamental paradigm shift in the way we approach our lives- a shift where government role has to be much more minimal and citizens have a much more active role in their daily lives.  Essentially, El Raseef is an invitation to all those who enter Egypt- an invitation to live today, the Egypt we all dream of tomorrow. El Raseef’s website is currently under construction. ---- Born & raised in Egypt, Ahmed spent his first 10 years growing up in his first love, Cairo, Egypt. He moved to Toronto with his family to spend the next thirteen years of his life in Toronto where he studied International Relations & Middle Eastern Studies at UofT, dreaming of one day returning to Egypt & being part of the change he wanted to see there. He caught the Social Enterprise bug in Toronto as a first year International Relations undergrad- and that has made all the difference.

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