“Mubaderoon”, the open webinar to unlock the potential of social enterprises in Jordan

15 December 2020

On the 15th of December Euricse organized an open webinar, “Unlocking the potential of social enterprises in Jordan” in the framework of the project “Mubaderoon for social changes”, aimed at promoting social enterprises as a high potential driver of socioeconomic inclusion of disadvantaged groups such as young people and women. Euricse is a partner of the Mubaderoon project lead by Plan International with the partnerships of Ruwwad (Jordan) and Alfanar (UK).

We interviewed Ruaa Mohammed Al-Khudairi, youth economic empowerment specialist for the Mubaderoon project, for an update on the most recent developments for social enterprises in Jordan.

Which are the aims pursued by the Mubaderoon project?

The Mubaderooon project has two distinct but interdependent specific objectives. The action is designed with a strong focus on strengthening existing social enterprises (SEs) and social entrepreneurial initiatives (SEIs) as well as social entrepreneurship support structures. The project objective, supporting the growth and acceleration of existing SEs and high potential SEIs, is a precondition to contribute to tangible socio-economic improvements for the most marginalised groups. This objective is pursued most notably through both job creation and the supply of welfare services by social enterprises. The building of an enabling ecosystem is nevertheless essential to fully harness the potential of social enterprises.

How and to what extent do social enterprises contribute to local development in Jordan?

Jordan’s emerging social enterprise sector has the potential to create sustainable economic opportunities for vulnerable young people and address social, environmental, and economic challenges. The holistic and integrated approach works on multiple levels and across sectors to strengthen the emerging social enterprise ecosystem in Jordan. Social enterprise impact facilitates the economic development of local communities through job creation, as small and medium enterprises employ two-thirds of Jordan’s private-sector workforce and their success can drive inclusive growth.

What levers can be activated to unlock the potential of social enterprises in Jordan?

If I have to make a list, I would say:

  • Engage relevant stakeholders at national and international level with a view to contributing to the development of the key pillars that are expected to build a favourable social enterprise ecosystem in Jordan. 
  • Design a suitable legal framework for social enterprises in Jordan, and implement appropriate legal frameworks that can support and stimulate the development of social enterprise
  • In order to support innovation and growth in Jordan, we need to face the challenging regulatory environment, high production costs, and limited access to capital and services.
  • Equip women, men and youth with business skills development and access to finance
  • Support to businesses and jobs needs to target the most vulnerable groups in order to mitigate the economic and social consequences of the crisis.

Given the vulnerability of small enterprises and workers, the government should explore all options, including:

  • Cash injections (grants/loans) to ensure business continuity and job retention, particularly for female employees;
  • Provide incentives like tax exemptions, reduction of interest-free loans;
  • Support banks and other financial institutions so that they can provide flexibility with debt repayment, etc.

What are the main legal pitfalls and problems jeopardizing the development of social enterprises in Jordan?

First of all, there is no clear definition of what a social enterprise is and what are its boundaries and how to characterize it. Secondly, social enterprises lack a legal framework that defines them in the marketplace. Moreover, Jordanian society is not aware of the social enterprises’ terminology, although it can be felt and seen through some cultural practices under “good cultural norms and ethics”. In addition, there is a challenge in working ethically as a social enterprise, in certain cases, whereby people exploit vulnerable communities under the pretense of social impact.

How has the Covid crisis impacted upon the Mubaderoon project?

As a consortium, we wanted to ensure that all candidates felt supported during the pandemic with core needs addressed and supported with when applicable. A short survey was shared with all candidates to better understand the impact of COVID19 on their operations. The majority of social enterprises were fully closed due to COVID-19 and were significantly impacted as they continued to pay staff salaries. Others were partially impacted as they pivoted their model to be online or with a limited service offer. As social entrepreneurial initiatives are concerned, they could not complete their registration documents.

How can Euricse contribute to the Mubaderoon project?

Euricse is playing an essential role in sharing its experiences and guidelines while advocating for legal framework of social enterprises and how to make the ultimate use of it in the Jordanian context. Euricse can also support stakeholders and the advisory panel to build a favorable social enterprise ecosystem in Jordan, and to advocate for the design of a suitable legal framework for social enterprises in Jordan.