SUPPORTING A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE RESPONSE TO A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER
One of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions in human history leveled the Port of Beirut, Lebanon on the evening of 4 August 2020. It instantly killed over 200 people, injured 6,000, and rendered over 300,000 homeless. For Myrna Atalla, Executive Director of Alfanar, the explosion represented a critical inflection point for the organization she led. Alfanar had been founded in Egypt as the first Arab venture philanthropy organization in 2004. Myrna had helmed Alfanar since 2010, and as Lebanese national herself, she had helped introduce Alfanar to Lebanon in 2012. After the disaster, Myrna realized that the organization was at a crossroads. She wondered how Alfanar could continue to have a positive impact at such a time. Dedicated to social development through enterprise, Alfanar was not designed as a humanitarian response organization.
In 2000, Tarek Ben Halim quit his job and, in 2004, launched Alfanar using his personal finances and drawing on the expertise of a wide array of talented individuals, many of whom he recruited on to the Board.
By 2009, Alfanar supported eight grassroots social development organizations in Egypt to touch the lives of more than 4,000 beneficiaries. Its approach was structured around the premise that funding was necessary, but not sufficient, for growth.
Alfanar’s active portfolio of social enterprises now spanned Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan, including refugee communities. By 2019, they had provided their venture philanthropy package to 35 social enterprises, impacting the lives of over 68,000 women, children, youth, and refugees in the Arab region.
The organization launched its venture philanthropy model first in Egypt in 2005. Egypt was the most populous country in the Arab region, yet faced significant development challenges including high illiteracy rates (roughly 33% in 2005) and unemployment among youth and vulnerable women (25% among the female labor force generally)
Myrna Atalla was hired as Executive Director. Alfanar expanded its geographic scope to Libya, Lebanon.
One of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions in human history levels the Port of Beirut, Lebanon on the evening of 4 August 2020. It instantly killed over 200 people, injured 6,000, and rendered over 300,000 homeless. On the same afternoon, Alfanar’s donor database had been hacked.