OCI Labs : Online P2P Incubator for MENA's Youth

I am happy to share with you the good news from the MENA region.

This month, we are officially launching the P2P online incubation program.

Being part of the Edgeryders community, I strongly believe that collective intelligence has shown a great power to unlock, not only our creativity and our innovation capabilities, but it also unlocks the hidden potentials for collaboration and for alternative ways to mobilize resources.

That is why, collective intelligence will be the core philosophy of our next program, the P2P online incubator.

Through our experience in the MENA region, we have found that young people are full of energy, and some of them have brilliant ideas about how to address problems in their very local community.

Take for instance the amazing work done by @Yosser ; her high-quality space OurGhema and her aspirations to empower the youth of Medenine to reimagine and reshape their future and the one of their city. In addition to the young people with ideas, there are others who have a variety of skills. Plenty of these young people are looking for ways to use their skills for the social good, and why not to make a living out of it, when an appropriate and a sustainable mechanism, that could be a social enterprise, is put in place.

To make this even more interesting for all the current and the potential and future stakeholders, we will be encouraging and pushing for ideas that promote the use of new technologies, particularly artificial intelligence and blockchain, to accelerate social innovation in the region and scale it up later on, and also look for young people who might have some of this set of skills.

Now, our work will be building connections between these two groups, by fostering conversations and P2P mentoring through the community calls or on the platform, so they can come together to innovative, efficient and scalable solutions for the challenges in their community.

To achieve these goals, Sohayeb and I have codesigned the following process in order to attract young people to the calls in first place, and to stimulate collective intelligence by encouraging conversations through the MENA YP.


The target beneficiaries are mainly young people aged between 18 and 35 years old from Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.

We have two targets :

a. Aspiring young social entrepreneurs

  • They already have an idea of a social enterprise/venture
  • They are in the process of validating their ideas
  • They are looking for mentors, partners or any kind of support
  • They are willing to have shareholders, and commit to start social entreprises
  • They are aware of their communities’ problems, and thriving to solve them through entrepreneurship

b. Skilled young people

  • Who do not have a project idea, but they aspire to be part of a social and innovative venture.

The process will be as following:

  1. Call for applications with all the necessary communication campaigns
  2. Applications on the platform, where all applicant must briefly introduce themselves and describe their project idea or their areas of skills.
  3. Preselection and matching
  4. CI calls
  5. Follow up conversations on the platform
  6. Final Selection
  7. Festival & Pitching
  8. Grants disbursement upon milestones

To sum up:

We strongly believe that there is a huge opportunity out there for all parties, whether the young professionals and entrepreneurs from the MENA region, their peers in Africa and in Europe, and finally for donors who might be interested eventually in building the bridges between them in the future, for collaboration and for knowledge sharing.

2. Project Time line ( Draft)

So one of the key steps to make this work, and I am really counting on you in this matter, is mobilizing mentors to provide high-quality community calls.

Not only so we can attract more innovators from the MENA region but also to build the trust in this program and in the power of collective intelligence to achieve progress. We need you in two ways:

  • First to share with us the best practices for mobilizing and managing mentors, and if there were any successful prior experience within Edgeryders community.

  • Second, we want to start build our mentors’ network right here, so if you are willing to dedicate few hours per a month to support aspiring young entrepreneurs from the MENA region, please let us know and tell us about your areas of expertise.

Remember, it is only FEW HOURS per month, and you might be eventually happily surprised by the outcomes of these few hours :slight_smile:

Waiting for your comments and feedback!

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@matthias @alberto @nadia @hugi @Sohayeb @noemi @johncoate

Is indeed good news. I imagine that effective mentoring would need to be tailored pretty closely to the individuals who need the mentoring, unless you already have some areas of expertise in mind other than very broad such as technical, UX or business.

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Wow, @zmorda, @Sohayeb, I’m so happy for you, and us all! I am certainly available for a few hours per month.

About mobilizing mentors: mentoring is something I feel Edgeryders has historically not been very good at. Some individuals within Edgeryders are great mentors, but we have so far not succeeded in establishing a culture of mentorship in general. We do need to get better. We were having this discussion just today with @marina: I feel a bit guilty for not having really given her enough support in her early days in a delicate position.

That would be the ideal, but sometimes just listening with intention and deploying some generic experiences can make a huge difference to someone who has very little experience of her own. You, John, have this habit of telling stories from SFGate or The Well when we discuss things Edgeryders; they are almost never the same as we are experiencing, but they do help.

Zmorda, Sohayeb: will you be doing the matching?

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Right. And of course I am available for that.

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Excellent, congratulations!

Sign me up. In fact, I have provided this sort of support to WTSUP! in Beirut in earlier this year and will be returning to Beirut next year for another round. I would be happy to connect you to my friend Jukka-Pekka who runs that program if you want to get more people from his network involved in this program too.

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Thank you, @johncoate, @alberto and @hugi for your encouragement, certainly we will need it as we go along with this project :slight_smile:

I totally agree and we will get to that at some point of the project when we get a better sense of the specific needs of the participants. As @alberto, many young people do not necessarily need some specific area of expertise, especially considering the fact that we are targeting aspiring young entrepreneurs with early stage projects. However, the conversations, on the platform or during the community calls, will help us better understand the needs of this group and the challenges they are facing in order to refine our model and our mentoring and support offer. This is probably the first attempt to establish an online incubator or mentoring program in the region. We are proud, as Edgeryders Family, that we are leading this journey, with one step at a time. That is being said, I am pretty sure that young people will need your advices in Community management and Community Building which are very important topics for them :slight_smile:

Well this is an important question, though at first sure we will do that, I don’t expect to have hundreds of conversations when we begin because this is literally something very new here, and our major challenge is to build the “TRUST” for this to work and grow. But; if things are evolving as we hope, we may need at some level whether to get more people involved in the matching process or to automatize (through machine learning solutions may be). Any thoughts on this ?

That would be fantastic! Having you on board is also pretty great! Through this project, we hope to continue exploring the synergy that with @alberto have started to think about and develop after the Hackathon in Medenine :smiley: In the next days, we will share with you a small form, to better understand the areas of expertise of each one of our mentors, their availability and also their expectations from this experience. We want to make things interesting for them as well :wink:

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I think this is true. When I was in Beirut, I got quite good feedback exactly because I brought a different than the other instructors who were more firmly placed in the world of startups and investment. For example, I mentored a woman running an app for booking visits to beauty salons. I gave her the idea to start considering her client salons as a potential community that could support each other as a network, give each other advice and connect each other to customers who might be looking for something that one salon doesn’t offer. She was very inspired by this perspective, since the angle of collaboration instead of competition is pretty alien to the business environment of Beirut, but she thought there might be a market for it and a welcome change. A balanced team of instructors is usually very welcome.

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Thanks for sharing your experience, this is valuable and I totally agree, and we will keep that in mind :slight_smile:

Zmorda I formatted your post for easier legibility - hope you don’t mind.

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@clairedvn :slight_smile:

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Hey @zmorda and @Sohayeb :slight_smile:

So happy this is happening and we will muster whatever support we can using our various channels -

I would suggest maybe having a two-pronged approach that facilitates outreach and engagement work to draw in both mentees and mentors around topics of mutual interest.

  1. Topic/doman Calls: Here you have a big challenge that you call people around.

then when people are engaged…

  1. Skills Calls: Here you ask for support for specific challenges that require specific skills - e.g design mentorship.

On topic: We are already building a large campaign to reach people working at the intersections of climate change and technology. There is a proposal by some friends over at Extinction Rebellion to do a workshop around this topic - technology in the context of a deep green transition. This is taking place within the more general conversation we are having as part of the Internet of Humans discussion.

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Just reviving this top… I would be interested in any updates from @Sohayeb and @zmorda.

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Hey @alberto , we are starting putting the project in place, making some noise here around it and around Edgerdyers, as many people are getting curious about it and about the work Edgeryders is doing :slight_smile:
Currently, the OCI Lab website (Former Open Village website), and the Facebook page are live. Few things on the website will be corrected or modified.
We have also organized our first info session in OurGhema last Tuesday, to present the program, our value proposition and how to apply. This was also an opportunity to collect feedback as OurGhema’s community are quite familiar with the work we are doing at Edgeryders. Now we are finalizing the partnership package and the communication tools, and we will accelerate the progress of the project, with more intensive communication through social media and through different info sessions to be organized in different regions here in Tunisia, and later in other countries. Our priorities now is to:

  • Recruit “Projects Leaders” and “Contributors”, through different communication campaigns. We will start with Tunisia, in order to get better sens of the project and the proccess, and to identify any possible challenges before going the rest of the MENA countries.
  • Build a small network of mentors who can join our first community calls.
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