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Developing social entrepreneurs in Egypt

Reos Partners
April, 2013

Discover how Reos Partners collaborated with a startup to make and sell a Reality-TV show that supports and develops social entrepreneurs in Egypt.


Reos Partners worked with Bamyan Media, a small media company based in Cairo, Egypt on the following challenge:

How does a startup with no track record in Egypt, make and sell a Reality-TV show that supports and develops social entrepreneurs in Egypt on a massive scale?

Following the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and the broader Arab Spring, Egypt is in the midst of an enormous social change and faces fundamental questions about its future. The iconic Tahrir Square continues to buzz with protest and political activity. It's a time of instability, uncertainty and opportunity for change.

In this context, Reos Partners was approached by Bamyan media who had previously produced a successful TV show in Afghanistan about social entrepreneurship.

Their show in Afghanistan was called “Dream and Achieve” and was an Amercian-Idol-meets-Apprentice style contest that highlighted the efforts of local social entrepreneurs to build sustainable business in a war-torn country. For example there was a woman who started a jam-and-pickle company that employs widows and refugees, who then had to move out of her hometown when the Taliban found out what she was doing. The show was a great success, airing a 13-part series with 20 contestants from all over Afghanistan. The finale had 7 million viewers making it the number one show of the season.

The challenge

Anna Elliot, the founder of Bamyan Media, came to Egypt with the aim of replicating their innovative model in a country which they assessed as urgently needing more social entrepreneurs. Reos Partner, Zaid Hassan, began a strategy development process with them by exploring with them a number of clarifying questions:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What are your priorities?
  • What is replicable about the model in Afghanistan?
  • What is different about the Egyptian context?
  • How will you know when you’ve been successful?

For Bamyan Media to pilot and produce a popular “prime time” series in Egypt, they realised that despite their success in Afghanistan they would have to invest considerable energy in raising the profile of their project, making it attractive to local Egyptians and recruiting allies, funders, staff and contestants. All this would need to happen before the first pilot was produced. They contracted Reos Partners to support them through this process.

The outcomes

We helped the Bamyan team develop their communication plan and enable their accounting systems to become compliant with USAID regulations. We also ran workshops and outreach efforts to build new partnerships using some of Reos' methodologies such as mini Change Labs and learning journeys. As part of the Change Lab we took teams of mixed stakeholders on learning journeys to connect with the realities of poverty, inequality, and social entrepreneurship in Egypt.

These processes brought together a diverse set of stakeholders, including farmers, representatives from the media, government, the private sector, and members of the Bamyan Media team. We also connected Bamyan with representatives from Al Jazeera in London and one lead staff member of Al Jazeera has now joined Bamyan Media as the Executive Producer of the new show in Egypt.

Reos Partners supported Bamyan to facilitate this group to prototype ways of making social entrepreneurship ideas more easily available to wide array of Egyptians. We began working on ways to build teamwork, trust and raising the profile of the project. Much of the work focused seeing the situation with new eyes, to learn from each other and to build a shared sense of "the problem". A critical question was how the show would address this problem. The contestants and the judges for the reality show came from the workshop participants.

In Egypt tensions around many social issues run high and there were some conflicts on set. Part of Reos' role was to mediate these conflicts. Reos also worked to build capacity within the facilitators and directors to better mediate conflict .

The show involved contestants competing in some ‘upcycling’ tasks in a short amount of time. We brought in materials/waste and found objects from Cairo that contestants used to conceptualise new products. It was a challenge with a social objective. People were competing with one another to create a new product from what would otherwise be “waste”.

The pilot was a success in terms of adapting the model for the local context, building credibility with partners, and securing interest from TV producers. The show will be broadcast on Egyptian television during 2013. The show is called El Mashrou3 ("The Project") and it is expected to have about 80 Million viewers.

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