“Youth in Medenine are very active.” I heard this repeatedly during the recent days I spent in Tunisia’s Medenine (pronounced “mednin”), at the invitation of the lovely edgeryders there. Many attended our Social Innovation Camp, most in their early twenties and some much younger (@AnesB is 16!).
What does it mean to be active in Medenine? Most of those I met are volunteering with established organisations: peacebuilding corps, Junior Chamber International (JCI), European Voluntary Service (EVS) exchanges, and others which channel funds from the British embassy and from American donors. Someone explained it to us with wit: “we don’t have leisure opportunities in town, so we need to spend our time being active in other things” (@Elyes). It emerged in the group discussions I have been part of that aside from the active youth volunteers, there is a hunger for local entrepreneurship. Everyone agreed that Medenine needs more entrepreneurs to change the local landscape, but beyond info sessions, university lectures which people are involved in organising or participate in i.e. in Tunis, nothing really comes back to Medenine, by young entrepreneurs who would stay in town.
What I was expecting, but didn’t quite hear it, is that someone in the group is seriously turning their experience of contributing to society into a personal project, that volunteering is not a substitute for leisure or extracurriculars, but a long term personal mission, the object of sustainable work. Somehow I missed it, even though everyone agrees on a “need of opportunities”. Yosser’s determination with Our Ghema being the exception here.
This, for me, is the crux of this emerging community to provide value for its members. Can we, now all being edgeryders, create an opportunity to become the scenario for a rewarding working life? Not just another fun, learning activity, but more like a formal organisation connected to the network.
Many prerequisites for action are there already! It starts from everyone’s strong attachment to the town and the Tunisian South of which Medenine is part of. Many go outside Medenine to study but are keen on coming back (during the Camp most people were on the winter break). Aspirationally, we are checking the right box: people are keen on making a difference - changing mentality and inefficient communication loops. No wonder @anique.yael told us repeatedly: “the knowledge is in you”.
One thing missing, we found, is exposure to models, examples of how exactly others do it right - like Anis Saada, who was the more experienced in the group, a teacher and ecosystem pioneer himself who just opened the first co-working space in town. Bringing in more mentors seems like an affordable cost which Yosser’s group can take on as part of steady community building to continue the process just started. Which brings me to my last point: there is leadership. This young woman and her crowd are the most stubbornly passionate people I’ve seen in a while! I felt deeply inspired, yet with @matthias we felt having been part of this before, in Nepal, Romania, Armenia: fragile communities with potential.. if only we had more time together, if only we could keep joined efforts for longer. Collaboration needs time.
This means that with @Yosser and @Zmorda, and whoever wants to keep going, we get back in the drawing room and make concrete a few next steps. Edgeryders - through our vision of OpenVillage houses - can assist as a fully committed partner. Since no one has a project they already know they want to do, the question would be: what is a service that the community and the space (say, Our Ghema - the obvious outlet by now), can provide?
Is it a communication product of @Nidhal & co? Can @Salem seed more social businesses like the ones he helped create through his volunteering? Is it a community crypto-currency that @Sohayeb is looking into? A training service by @Elyes? Is it an add-on to co-working spaces, since everyone seems to see the need?
An encouraging example of connecting the dots: it took a few conversations with @Dorsaf about how she, a bioengineer, wishes to do creative work outside the closed realms of academic work, in a place where she can experiment with her passion for genes and teach (seed planted by Anique, well done!). Hopefully she can come and spend time at the Reef in Brussels to get inspiration and start a local biohacking movement. @WinniePoncelet and his team are starting to make a living out of biohacking, surely something to share.
On a personal level, I find the diversity we’ve seen in the camp reassuring - from gender balance to the background and capabilities of everyone: business students, caretakers, personal development trainers, engineers, electronic graduates. This crowd's mindset is so inspiring it makes anyone want to support from close and afar, and remain connected. I sure do.
Thanks so much for all the work you've put in Zmorda and Yosser <3
Happy new year! Bonne année à tous!