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Start-ups & Entrepreneurs

How is green and social entrepreneurship different or related to traditional profit-based businesses?

At SwitchMed we interviewed Mr. Ghaleb Hijazi, Senior Director of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and SME Support at the Business Development Center in Jordan and learnt a lot about the many successful business initiatives that are taking place there. For instance, “Know About Business? is a revolutionary program that promotes awareness among young people of the opportunities and challenges of entrepreneurship and self-employment, and of their role in shaping their future.

Tell us about the organization that you work for

Business Development Center- BDC is dedicated to the acceleration of economic growth in Jordan and the region through its projects and initiatives assisting SMEs, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Youth, and Women. BDC’s ongoing programs include Maharat Employment and Training Program, SANAD Program for Youth Employability and Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship Training Workshops, Local and Vocational Development for Women, Gender-Inclusivity in the Workplace, Innovation for Development and Tumooh. BDC has received international recognition from BDC programs being showcased as good practices with the European Training Foundation (ETF) the Union of the Mediterranean (UfM), the World Bank (WB) and for the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) for BDC as Best Partner of the Year and Best activity in Amman – SHARAKA Forum and Pitching Event.


Tell us a bit about yourself 

I am the Senior Director of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and MSME Support at the Business Development Center. I have working with BDC’s programs since 2009 and I also spent two years in Washington D.C. as Business Manager and Marketing Manager for Cato Institute covering the Middle East & North Africa region. I am actually an Entrepreneur myself and a business owner of three different businesses!


How is green and social entrepreneurship different or related to traditional profit-based businesses?

BDC has come across some really special products and services that have been developed into successful businesses using green components. Additionally there are some remarkable women that we have assisted in social entrepreneurship in Jordan, including Lina Arshaid who has recently been recognized for her work in social and green entrepreneurship and won the World Investment Forum's Award for Investing in Sustainable Development. Having said that, traditional profit-based businesses also play a crucial role in supporting Jordan’s economy, specifically family-run SMEs outside of Amman, specializing in agriculture, jewelry and retail, foodstuffs, furniture and many other sectors. From its conception and with Tatweer – a seven year programme providing technical and financial assistance to SMEs - BDC has been supporting associations and community-based business growth that rely on the continuation of traditional profit-based businesses.


How do you see the green and social entrepreneurship scene in the next 5 years’ time in Jordan?

Green and Social Entrepreneurship are still at the experimental stage in this region but BDC has already received a lot of interest about how the program will be developed. BDC certainly has some projections about which entities will be able to adapt most effectively for the benefit of Jordan’s society and environment. Jordan is reaching a point where activity specifically responsive to governorate needs is the answer to changing attitudes. BDC’s tools for innovating SMEs and startups are always ready to respond to standards and needs at the global level, but for BDC’s ethical and social principles, all BDC entrepreneurship has and will continue to embed environmental-friendly attitudes for the growth of Jordanian behavior and mindset.

Green Entrepreneurship is a national issue but in Jordan it is important to start at the grass roots level and with special focus on our next generation of creators and innovators. The first crucial steps have been taken - Jordan the first country in the region that is classifying regulatory and legislative issue in response to environmental needs to realize Jordan’s green economy.


 As a Business Development Center, how do you measure your impact (effectiveness) related to the green start-ups that you have trained?

BDC has just successfully provided the ¨training of the trainers¨ workshop week with the attendance of 23 practitioners including nominees from the Ministry of Environment. For Green Start Ups to really flourish in Jordan’s fast growing economy, it is crucial that we partner with key stakeholders across the governorates which is why we have already signed a collaboration agreement with the Ministry of Environment and are already making efforts in Zarqa to attract those start ups looking for sustainable, cost-saving support. Additionally BDC is planning a Sharaka Forum in 2016, a dialogue platform that will link private sector influencers with public sector policy-makers to ascertain what actions need to be taken to ensure profitability and productivity for enterprises adopting green and social values into their businesses.


I have read ¨the absence of entrepreneurship education and culture of self-employment in Jordan are among the main factors contributing to youth unemployment¨.  Is the project ¨Know About Business¨ that BDC is implementing in cooperation with the Ministry of Education trying to switch that trend? Is sustainability included into that entrepreneurship education?

Definitely, Know About Business is a revolutionary program for youth entrepreneurship that strives to utilize self-employment and mainstream entrepreneurship at the educational level. With the support of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, we have given entrepreneurial fundamentals to 120 teachers and instructors. For example, included in the sessions with students, has been talking about green issues to vocational school and community college students across Jordan’s governorates, starting with thought-provoking questions such as “what product or service could you deliver that utilizes Jordan’s few raw resources??. BDC’s activities have always enabled economic solutions that overcome Jordan’s limited resources and open more doors for employability solutions in the face of Jordan’s ongoing youth unemployment crisis.