Mandara - Your Window to Upper Egypt

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Mandara - Your Window to Upper Egypt

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Groundbreaking and institutionalizing independent free local media in Egypt, on of the cores of democratic countries.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Upper Egypt has always been under-represented in mainstream Egyptian media that is mostly centered around Cairo. As Egypt moves closer to historical elections, local media should be fostered and empowered enough to contribute to this transformation."Al-Mandara" will represent a direct shout from deep inside Upper Egypt. This neglected region has more problems than poverty that relate to cultural, social and religious norms where some dominating false concepts shape life in Upper Egypt. Among these beliefs is undermining women's role and early marriages, vengeance and tribalism that determine families relationships and political backing and last but not least religious extremism and sectarian violence. Although numbers of online users are small (1.38 million) compared to Upper Egypt's population (more than third of Egyptians), yet if we succeed in reaching most of them, they will act like agents attracting more people to get involved in our projects and seminars in cooperation with the civil society.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Al-Mandara is the first step to solve Upper Egypt's problems providing objective and collective coverage of one third of Egypt's governorates. The local portal will apply latest technology in reaching out to Upper Egyptians, empowering them through citizen journalism and blogging, interacting with them to provide high-quality journalism also through Upper Egyptian journalists and raise awareness needed in pursuit of development. The portal will also seek stronger collaboration with some local media and NGOs working in the targeted area as well. The portal will build partnerships with mainstream Egyptian media in different mediums starting with print press and online media and reaching TV & Radio on the long run. It will be more like an outsourcing news model similar to the Bay Citizen and Chicago News Cooperative in the United States. Citizen Journalism tools will empower Upper Egyptians to cover villages and poor neighbourhoods, reflect through words, photos and videos minute by minute developments making them real agents for change. This will be a major addition to freedom of expression and free media values as other governorates do not enjoy the same amount of focus as Cairo does where media resources largely lack.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Upper Egypt will have a real independent platform that represents its problems and people's aspirations. Mandara will make use of information technology and media to be the window of Egypt to this big region (Upper Egypt) utilizing all available tools and empowering Upper Egyptian youth. There is currently no independent media outlet for Upper Egypt. Either state run television or very poor newspapers that lack enough resources let alone being independent in their coverage. At the moment, residents in Upper Egypt share their stories and interact with each other through public forums, personal blogs and a few news websites that are very poorly designed and ill-equipped.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are very few successful models of online local media (like Assiut Online), yet, it is very poor and more close to a forum than to professional or citizen journalism. There's also no dedicated website to the whole Upper Egypt region (11 governorates) except "Al-Sa'aida" which is two years old, yet, it didn't make a strong presence which appears from their website design, social media and interactivity with the audience. Only last October, the largest and oldest Egyptian newspaper, el-Ahram, launched its 4 pages weekly special edition dedicated to Upper Egypt news which usually make headlines in accidents and similar incidents only and rarely portrayed positively. However, the project didn't continue and soon came to an end for cost-wise reasons after the revolution.
About You
About You
About Your Organization
Organization Name


Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

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Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Idea (you're poised to launch)

How long have you been in operation?

Still in idea phase, but looking to launch soon

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

The idea came as the main founder of the project, Hanan Solayman, observed models of successful independent local media on internet. These were The Bay Citizen in San Francisco (Bay area) and Chicago News CoOp in Chicago in the United States. Some professional journalists who have decades of experience in prestigious newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post left their old jobs and moved to found aspiring local media models.
The "Aha!" moment came after estimating the impact of such local models on Egypt's future fostering freedom of expression and free media values. Even after the revolution, the project gains more momentum especially as the country is in a vital political transition.
As Egypt moves closer to historical elections, media is entitled to play a huge role in the big transformation Egypt is enduring during its path to democracy. Accordingly, local media should be fostered and empowered enough to contribute to this transformation.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

We have conducted an opinion poll in 5 of the 11 governorates (500 people asked) to know what they need from such portal. Other data was collected from studies conducted by research centers, Media & Communication faculties or interviews with working journalists in Upper Egypt or activists in NGOs based in Upper Egypt. This will help in establishing our website knowing our audience needs.

Results of the poll shows:
• 80% of the surveyed Upper Egyptians had between 0-10 internet users among their family and friends with 60% saying they had between 5-10.
• 73% preferred print newspapers as media outlets followed by 19% who preferred internet & 6% said they use both sources.
• Preferred print newspapers were al-Masry Al-Youm (57%) then Al-Ahram (35%) followed by other state-owned newspapers like el-Gomhoriya and el-Akhbar.
• Internet usage came as follows: 68% use Facebook and Twitter, 11% used social forums and 5% both.
• International affairs came in the first rank as preferred followed news with 45% followed by 42% for crime, 35% sport, 30% national news, 24% for local news.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

The impact in 5 years will be having a vibrant successful local media website in Upper Egypt that mainstream media, centered around Cairo, will turn to for news, updates and exclusive stories from that region. Upper Egyptians will have a media window that represents them which also provides them a platform to blog and develop their citizen journalism skills. Professional journalists will also find a working environment that encourages them to stay in their Upper Egyptian communities instead of moving to Cairo to find a good career in journalism.
Becoming a model for local independent journalism is an aim we aspire for hoping that our experience can be of good reference through manuals we intend to put in the future to expand the local media market.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Getting started and make a strong presence.

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Work on the website Design.

Task 2

Set up an Institution

Task 3

Launching the call for journalists and do interviews (also choose bloggers). Stories can be made and in stock till launching.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Build partnerships with mainstream media in Egypt as well as Arab and international media.

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

Trainings to professional journalists

Task 2

Trainings for citizen journalists

Task 3

Introduce multimedia section and selected English translations for the English website

How many people have been impacted by your project?

101 - 1,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured


What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

Getting started takes its time but once we're established, the wheel will start working. The main problem is getting our institution registered at the Ministry of Social Solidarity. Legal documents are a bit complicated and having a volunteer committed lawyer who would follow the process till the end was challenging. Luckily, we were recently selected for a small grant from an Egyptian NGO that would assist us in the registration process.

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

It's been old news to say that the world has become a small village. In Egypt, we saw during the yet-to-be revolution how citizen journalism and social media played a major role in connectivity and how it preceded traditional media. We see a very promising future for local news models in Egypt which will largely contribute to democracy, freedom and human rights principles. Our project intends to apply the leading American online portals from a homegrown perspective.
Hopefully, our model will be copied in other areas throughout Egypt.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

One option is to work on training local correspondents based in Upper Egypt with major Egyptian newspapers and TV to improve their coverage of Upper Egypt with regards to its problematic issues (tribalism, early marriages, sectarian tensions.. etc).
Another option will be to train the journalists working in local newspapers in Upper Egypt to improve the quality of journalism they produce. It will be a great addition for this marginalized region which will ensure more flow of information and give more space to freedom of expression.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

The project will depend on funding and donations from different national and international foundations as well as businessmen and ordinary people. The founders may also contribute from their own savings or expected salaries.

We can also depend on the following sources:
1- Organizing weekly journalism workshops for small fees.
2- Publishing online training manuals on successful local media & citizen journalism (other media related topics) for small fees.
3- Partnerships with print and online media and TV
5- Mobile subscriptions
6- Advertisements, sponsorship, donations and local and international grants

We highly depend on social media to market our website and our work. We already registered our domain as (

Tell us about your partnerships

we're starting to implement our project through an existing Egyptian NGO called (Egy Tefl) which is supporting us with a small grant ($2000) given to us initially through the US State Alumni Community (of which i'm a member of).
We also have agreements with Cairo University (Faculty of Mass Communication) which publishes a special magazine for Upper Egypt, Syndicate of Journalists and some private Media institutions to support us in trainings, contacts etc.
We also have the support of S3eedy Geeks (local partner in Upper Egypt.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

We will depend more on freelancers and interns in the beginning with very few staff while the founders team will be the main pushing engine behind the project. By time and as we get more resources, we will hire staff but we wil always have a wide set of phoographers, translators, freelancers, proofreaders and bloggers.

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Investment, Human resources or talent, Marketing or media, Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Pro-bono help (legal, financial, etc.), Innovation or ideas, Mentorship.

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Investment, Human resources or talent, Marketing or media, Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Innovation or ideas, Mentorship.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list

That's all. Thank You.

Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

Mandara Online is your window to Upper Egypt. A leading model of online ad independent local media in Egypt.