My colleague Peako Jenkins and I recently visited Kilis, Turkey, where CIPE is supporting a civic education program for young Syrians displaced by the conflict in their country. The course, conducted by CIPE’s local partner organization the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF), provides an immersion in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills. We are on our way to reaching 600 students in this first phase of the project, with the potential to create broader institutional change in the way that young Syrians are educated in the future. The curriculum helps prepare students to actively engage in society and imparts skills they can use to better their communities today and contribute to Syria’s eventual reconstruction.
Check out this short video above about the course which includes some of our conversations with recent graduates and our colleagues at SEF. With the support and encouragement of the private sector, these inspiring young people have the ability to write a new chapter in Syria’s history, defined not by tragedy but by peace and prosperity. CIPE is proud to share their stories with you.
Throughout history, people have continually sought positive social and economic change, and found creative ways to make it happen. This change has been driven by a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo, for example in the case of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. and the anti-Apartheid efforts in South Africa. But the list is endless.
Our societies have evolved and will continue to do so because there are many sources of dissatisfaction in every corner of the world, including terrible acts of suppression, segregation, and discrimination that threaten human dignity. I believe that humans are by nature kind, loving, and fair – but a lack of honesty, transparency, and accountability can create negative dynamics that lead to unacceptable behaviors.
For me, there is nothing more satisfying that seeing a change-maker leading the change they want to see. Some of my own greatest heroes include the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
I see countless change-makers of this mold emerging through young leadership programs across the world. In particular, the program I am now part of, the CIPE-Atlas Corps fellowship. The overall objective of the program is to bring young leaders from across the world to research institutions in the US in order to build the skills and capacity they need to drive reform. This empowers them to create even greater change when they return to their home countries.
Making a difference in an environment like Syria is not an easy task. Decades of authoritarian rule have quashed civic life and discouraged young Syrians from aspiring to leadership in their society. On top of that repressive history are now four years of brutal war.
To win back a generation at risk of being lost to this war, CIPE is working with its partner the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) to create new educational paradigm for Syria. With private sector leadership and solutions, SEF is running a CIPE-supported course for recent Syrian high school graduates who have been displaced by the conflict in the border town of Kilis, Turkey (now home to more Syrians than Turks). The course provides an immersion in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills and is being considered for broader application by authorities in the moderate opposition.
CIPE and Atlas Corps welcomed the latest class of Think Tank LINKS Fellows at the end of January. This year’s class comes from a wide range of backgrounds – from South Asia, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa – to Washington, DC for six months to partake in a leadership development program. All of the fellows will serve at renowned think tanks in Washington, DC, and shadow researchers and experts to learn best practices of successful think tanks in the U.S.
The Nordic concept of Janteloven mirrors some cultural attitudes in Latin America — yet the Nordic countries have still managed to build strong entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Entrepreneurs continue to face strong cultural challenges in Latin America. Risk aversion is particularly common in the region, and thus many youth lack the confidence to start their own businesses for fear of failure and the associated consequences. Would-be women entrepreneurs often must deal with machismo, or male dominance, in economic matters.
Additionally, Latin American cultures tend to be very community-oriented, and it is a common belief throughout much of the region that entrepreneurs are in business to make money only for themselves and are thus “abandoning” their communities, which has cast a negative light upon the concept of entrepreneurship. Moreover, strong pressures to conform to social class expectations often discourage young people from trying to improve their lives through entrepreneurship.
Latin America is not the only region in which cultural factors have hampered the development of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs still face sizable cultural obstacles even in regions where entrepreneurship has been able to flourish. This is especially true in the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
As someone who has straddled the Latin American-Nordic cultural divide his whole life, I have witnessed firsthand that while Latin American and Nordic cultures are very different in a variety of ways (just try making small talk while waiting for a bus in Copenhagen or foregoing cheek kisses upon meeting people in San Juan), in both cultures there are norms that encourage social conformity while stifling individualism. While these rules are unwritten and thus are not immediately apparent to outsiders, the social consequences of going against these norms can be severe.
A recent World Bank report suggests that the country will not meet the Millennium Development Goals of universal primary education by 2015. The report ranks Pakistan 113th out of 120 countries in the “Education for All Index.” With seven million out-of-school kids, the challenge is snowballing with each passing year.
Turkey has been one of the most welcoming countries for Syrian refugees since the civil war began there in 2011. In the early days of the conflict, Turkey declared an “open border policy,” allowing Syrians to enter the country largely uninhibited. Now, in the second half of 2014, the refugee crisis shows no sign of being resolved – while the strife in Syria has only intensified. More than 1.5 million Syrian refugees now live in Turkey, according to the UNHCR, including more than 135,000 who arrived within the span of five days as ISIS stepped up its assaults in Syria.
This sudden influx will almost certainly add to the challenges that many Syrian refugees are facing, but civil society organizations, like CIPE’s partner the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF), are rising to the occasion. SEF is an economic think-tank with an office in Gaziantep, Turkey, that monitors and analyzes economic developments in Syria and informs the debates concerning Syria’s future from a democratic, free-market oriented, and pluralistic perspective.
The CIPE Development Blog provides coverage of the Center for International Private Enterprise and its partner network at work -- highlighting successes, drawing out lessons from failure, and exploring the broader issues of political and economic development. For more information visit CIPE.org.