Syrian Changemakers

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Syrian Changemakers : Social Entrepreneurs rebuild and reconstruct

Utrecht, NetherlandsRaqqa, Aleppo, Kobani, Damascus, Idlib, Deir Es Zoor, Syria
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

We want to achieve a simple yet important goal: change the perception people have of Syrian refugees. Our message is straightforward: refugees are changemakers and innovators. Not victims and a problem. Our goal: develop a transmedia project consisting of: film, an educational tookit, blogs, stories

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the war in Syria came to and end, and the hidden talents of Syrian youth came to the surface to reconstruct and rebuild civil society?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The magnitude of the tragedy in Syria has no precedence – at least 9 mlllion people displaced. The dominant narrative is typically to define refugees in terms of economic costs to society, instead of the potential. Refugees are usually stigmatized: always seen as helpless and unproductive – but rarely they are depicted as creative and entrepreneurial. The number of people seeking refuge is only growing. Society needs to change its attitude.

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

Our aim is to make a web-documentary portraying Syrian changemakers, an educational toolkit, video dairies, blogs, portraits by Syrian artists, drawings, case histories, etc. Our aim: 1: Promote better understanding: Through the stories of refugees we come to understand how they have coped; their stories can inspire us; trigger us to think differently about ourselves. 2: For the refugees sharing their stories and hearing others do the same, this can act as a catalyst for individual change and personal growth. 3. They can act as role models and teachers for other refugees; share their experiences and disseminate information about the steps a refugee faces as he/she enters a new country. A cascading effect can thus be realized.
Impact: How does it Work

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

Abdel Qader is one of the changemaker we portray. He was one of the students I taught during a series of courses for a group of 100 Syrian activists. I learnt that Abdel Qader lived in Aleppo where he worked for a local council. With a group of volunteers thet tried to alleviate the life of orphans and families who had lost everything. He also set up a school - attended by 2000 children. He had to leave because he was nearly killed. But is determined to continue his work from Gaziantep where he now lives. He travels back and forth between Gaziantep and Aleppo on behalf of an NGO. His story contain lessons in leadership, creativity, entrepreneurship, team-building and innovation. He can be a role model to other Syrians and be a teacher.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We use this documentation to help those currently in the refugee process. - By sharing the stories and telling how they coped, refugees can become role models for other refugees. - By making toolkits: how to write a CV, how to apply for a job with NGO. Info about: what to expect if you leave the country and apply for asylum. - By using this documentation to educate professionals/NGOs/community organizations working with refugees - By eliciting the common patterns that underlie the stories and issues they address. This creates a better understanding so efforts are geared at supporting refugees in an adequate way. - By raising awareness in the general public and invite them to consider refugees as more than a “burden to society”. *Online web-doc version of the film *Connect to (inter)national refugee platforms *Highlight issues brought up by in the stories in the media

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Our approach is to co-create with our protagonists. They are not characters, they are participants in our documentation. Many are providing us with video diaries, photos, written pieces, and footage they shot in Syria. They are choosing what they feel is important to include and what stories they want us to tell. We are not making a film about them, we are making a film with them. Target is to finish the web-documentary by end 2015. We also want to teach and film a group of 15-20 Syrians in Turkey,active in the reconstruction of civil society. That forms the basis for our educational toolkit.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

This project is in its pilot phase. We have already made a short film of 4,5 min. to show what we envisage. Making the film and filming the lectures is what is the most costly. Once we have created the whole transmedia project, it can be used by governments, NGO's, universities. In this pilot phase we want to work further on the business model, reason why we are asking support of the Ashoka Foundation. Till now we have worked on a voluntary basis

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

Many films have been made about the Syrian tragedy. But none have the message we want to convey. We are telling 2 stories. The story of the refugee journey - how a refugee leaves home to create a new home. The story of entrepreneurialism and creativity in building and reconstructing amidst the destruction of war. By working with the CSRO we are working with people who are in Syria which show us how they do that. Issa Touma who wants to capture the texture of the city of Aleppo and with a group of people tries to retain that so it doesn't get lost. These stories are lessons in life & leadership

Founding Story

Beginning of this year I went to Gaziantep in the south of Turkey, 40 km from the border with Syria, to teach a group of Syrian activists who had been taken out from Syria for a 2 week training. Sad, beaten up by the horrors of war. After 2 weeks we all saw them regain their youth. They said to us: you have given us hope. Leaving them behind was shattering. I approached Manuela and said to her: we have to create something which shows the strength of Syrians and a tool with which they can help themselves. Since then we have spent all our spare time in getting this off the ground. We travelled to Istanbul and started filming. We are doing this WITH them and seeing the impact it has on them to see themselves:we are convinced we MUST do this.


Manuela Maiguashca is a British filmmaker who produces and directs documentary, drama and hard-hitting advocacy films that deal with human rights. She has worked in Africa, Romania, UK, Germany and Holland with international NGOs. Khaled Al Haj Saleh is the founder of the CSRO living in Holland for 15 years. He was imprisoned for 5 years and left Syria in 1999. Since then he has been an important advocator and spokesman for peace in Syria.