Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Palestinian start-up connecting grassroots projects with donors around the world


By The Palestine Monitor - November 30, 2016
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Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [economy]

Launched at the end of October, BuildPalestine is the first crowdfunding platform focusing on social impact projects in Palestine. The innovative start-up aims to connect community leaders in need of funding support for their ideas with individual donors looking to contribute to worthwhile projects in Palestine.  

Our vision is that we want any person, whether a 12-year-old student or an 80-year-old grandmother, to think - I can take action, and I am going to get support through crowdfunding,” Besan Abu Joudeh, one of the project’s creators, told Palestine Monitor.
 
The 26-year-old Palestinian-American moved to Ramallah about a year ago to use her studies and experience in business and economics to contribute building the Palestinian economy.
 
A striking feature of the Palestinian economy is that it is highly dependent on foreign aid. The international donor community poured more than $23bn into it since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, but critics say this dependency has distorted some aspects of the Palestinian economy. Meanwhile, Israeli restrictions continue to hinder Palestinian economic development, as the World Bank recently reported.
 
A lot of this funding is administered through international NGOs, requiring local organisations to fill out lengthy funding applications and reports in English, which also often bind the local projects to their institutional donors’ agenda.
 
Besan points out that NGO funding is structured around grant cycles, which puts the local partner under constant pressure and at the whims of priorities set by managers in New York, London, Brussels, or some other Western capital.
 
We’ve seen that in a lot of projects that are great, and those who run them are really passionate about them. But once the grant ends, they can’t continue. This is the main downfall of having a donor-dependent economy, especially when it comes in as foreign aid,” Besan said.
 
“When we think about the Palestinian economy, what we can mobilise with crowdfunding won’t replace aid because of fundamental dysfunctions within the economy, but it can run parallel. For example, the projects in our pilot phase can raise up to $5,000. A lot of NGOs would say, it’s not worth our time,” she added.
 
That way, she said, projects that think more strategically and innovatively sometimes slip through the net.
 
 
 
BuildPalestine’s launch campaign will close in a few days, but two of the four projects currently featured on the platform have already achieved their target. These include a project supporting higher education scholarships for young women from refugee camps; school tours and workshops at the Bethlehem museum that aim to bring young Palestinians closer to their heritage and history; art therapy for women; and community first-aid training in Gaza.
 
Currently, projects need to be registered organisations to be featured on the platform and are fully vetted.
 
The global crowdfunding market has grown exponentially in the past few years. In 2014, some $3.6bn was donated to social causes via crowdfunding. On the other hand, aid to Palestine dropped significantly as donors have shifted their priorities to Syria and elsewhere in the region.
In this context, Besan said BuildPalestine’s objective is to build a network of supporters around the platform who will donate to projects they know they can trust.

That’s our value proposition – to build this network and engage them,” she said.
 
 
 Photos courtesy of BuildPalestine
 

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