Searching for Connection

So here’s a fun fact – the very first email was sent by engineer Ray Tomlinson in 1971. He sent it to himself, typing something along the lines of ‘test 123’. He hadn’t quite latched on to the importance of his invention – the telephone already existed, after all. Thankfully, we have gotten a lot better at connecting online since those days. 

Tom Dinneweth |
Searching For Connection

Still, in search of connection, little is more efficient and inspiring than meeting face-to-face, exchanging ideas, involving new partners, and taking the next steps forward – together. That’s why convening in this way is a big part of our EU-funded market building project Impact Together!. 

In a bid to involve more stakeholders and help build the social entrepreneurial system in their countries, our national partners Alfanar (Lebanon) and Happy Smala (Morocco) both organized events over the last days.

Uniting around impact

Firstly, let’s make our way over to the bustling city of Beirut. On February 29th, the city hosted the Alfanar Lebanon Impact Connector Event. It’s a yearly happening that brings together different actors in the field of social economy and impact investing, each looking to connect for specific reasons. Let’s look around the room, shall we?

In front of different roll-ups and the presentation screen, occasionally blinded by the projector lights, we find ten different social enterprises from the Alfanar portfolio. They have come to inspire, and to share the innovative solutions they have come up with to help solve often difficult societal issues. Businesses like Kanyamakan Designs, a creative artisanal hub in Tripoli. It’s a beautiful project that offers an opportunity to local youth to create economic sustainability for themselves while also reestablishing their communities through craftsmanship. It brings together former foes from two conflict regions, breaking down the sectarian divides and replacing them with love, innovation, art, and creativity.

There are sparks of excitement on the faces of those listening in.

It's all about making connections during the Impact Connector Event.


The audience is a mixed group – some are impact veterans, others are peeking in for the first time. All of them share a desire for positive transformation and engage in different conversations and organized discussions during the event. With approximately 140 attendees from diverse backgrounds and industries, the event surpassed all expectations, says Haifa Najjar, Business Development Manager at Alfanar. They mark the beginning of a journey towards impactful collaborations and transformative initiatives. 

Co-Designing impact

Just one day later, the Moroccan city of Rabat was the décor for another face-to-face event. Happy Smala partnered up with the ESSEC Business School and Technopark to host a Co-Design Challenge. The décor here is a different kind of room, more reminiscent of university auditoria. It makes sense, considering the audience, consisting of 107 students and 10 start-ups. Some of these start-ups hail from the impact space, while others are (for now) more grounded in the classic corporate world. The Co-Design Challenge is a learning opportunity, both for the students and the start-ups. For two days, they united to around one central question: how to integrate social impact into start-ups? Specific attention went to the role innovative solutions can play in strengthening their mission and their contribution to society.

Moving beyond theory, the participating students were divided in groups and handed a challenge brought forward by one of the present start-ups. After being taught some of the basic concepts of impact finance, they got to work coming up with innovative solutions to the problems proposed. Day two was all about pitching – those of us who have experience with it, know that it is an art form in and of itself. A jury chose three different winners to round of the competition. To give you an idea:

🥇 The first prize went to a group who came up with an innovative AI-based approach to e-learning, driven by the Job2vente start-up team.

🥈 Second prize went to a proposal for a marketing strategy targeting students, brilliantly developed by the Pip Pip Yalah - RideShare team.

🥉 Third prize went to a passionate and expertly conceived expansion strategy for education start-up Mentor Dialek.  


codesign rabat
It's a packed room for the Co-Design Challenge.


Ultimately, the event aims to plant a seed, developing a sense of entrepreneurial thinking in the minds of the students. In doing so, it unites the worlds of for-profit business thinking with the more value-oriented world of social impact. By developing examples of how innovation can have an immediate impact on real-life issues, events like the Co-Design challenge form an important link in the construction of a social economy ecosystem. 

Staff members of Impact Europe were present during the event to provide pointers on what impact means. They also took the opportunity to further develop concrete plans with Happy Smala as the Impact Together! project moves forward. More to follow, soon!