Social Enterprise for Peace in Iraqi Kurdistan
On April 6, the Social Enterprise for Peace Affinity Group at the Alliance for Peacebuilding hosted a discussion with Rebeen Pasha, the Founder and CEO of My Entrepreneurial Dream (MyeDream). MyeDream is Iraqi Kurdistan’s first and only start-up incubator and entrepreneurship ecosystem organization and an official member and representative of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN). MyeDream works with young entrepreneurs in Kurdistan who are creating social ventures that foster co-existence, stability, and peace.
Twenty years after becoming a refugee in the US as a teenager, Rebeen formed MyeDream. The organization launched around the time that ISIS invaded Mosul, but Rebeen highlighted the great potential that young entrepreneurs have in Iraqi Kurdistan and in the Middle East more broadly, despite the conflict. As his website notes, “young people in the Middle East have dreams—entrepreneurial dreams—that have gotten lost in a mainstream narrative of despair.” Rebeen hopes to reclaim that narrative, and for young people to realize their potential as the future leaders, specifically through building social and market enterprises and startups that solve immediate problems, provide livelihood and dignity, and rebuild the fabric of a war-torn society.
It appears to be working. When MyeDream opened its call for applications to the MyeDream Erbil Bootcamp in August of 2016, over 160 submissions came pouring in from aspiring entrepreneurs in just a few days. MyeDream seeks to incubate ventures that focus on IDEAs™ (institution building, democracy strengthening, economic enterprise, and alliances for peace). One of the key pillars of the incubator is Dialogue (along with Development and Dreams), which Rebeen notes is critical to fostering the growth of enterprises in a conflict-affected area. He wants MyeDream to be a place where people can engage in dialogue with each other, and to infuse their business model with an element of community building.
MyeDream has support from the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), but creating an ecosystem for social enterprises working on peace and development presents unique challenges. The Alliance for Peacebuilding is working on a solution to one of those challenges, by connecting social entrepreneurs working on peace to one another—building a platform for people like Rebeen to exchange ideas and solutions with other people doing similar work elsewhere in the world. This platform would also allow peacebuilders to interact with these entrepreneurs, connecting two groups that have a shared mission and would benefit from more collaboration.