Palestine, often known as a tumultuous crossroads of religion and politics, is now gaining recognition for its increasingly entrepreneurial economic environment. At the second annual Celebration of Innovation last month in Ramallah, Loyola University New Orleans professor Elliott Adams joined 12 American mentors, investors and business leaders seeking to harness the new culture of innovation in the West Bank.
Hosted by Partners for a New Beginning, an initiative of the U.S. State Department, Celebration of Innovation brought together 15 teams of young entrepreneurs to present their business plans to a panel of private-sector judges. Plans ranged from online shopping and technology applications to wind farms and furniture design. The five winning teams will receive additional training, mentorship and funding.
Adams, an assistant professor of music industry studies, mentored young Palestinian competitors and visited entrepreneurs and incubators in Bethlehem, Nablus, Jerusalem and Ramallah during his visit. Alongside other delegates, he participated in roundtables on education, met with small business owners, and was briefed on the economic situation by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
“Partners for a New Beginning is an incredible example of how the combined efforts of self-determined citizens of the Middle East and partners like the U.S. State Department’s initiatives under President Obama and Secretary Clinton can help move the region forward,” Adams said. “The Palestinian people are determined to move their economy away from international aid, and efforts like these sow the seeds of a self-sustaining economy. It’s a great thrill to stay in contact with startups in Ramallah and Nablus and see their success blossom.”
Although the mission of the competition was to celebrate young economic enterprise, emphasis was also placed on the essential needs vital to economic success within Palestine. Despite its strong entrepreneurial community, a general lack of understanding about the tools necessary to scale and develop businesses is prevalent throughout the country. Ultimately, partnerships with individuals who can relate expertise, such as Adams, are key to improving and advancing the Palestinian startup marketplace.
Partners for a New Beginning, administrated by the Aspen Institute, is a network working in 10 countries where local projects and priorities are identified by local chapters. The organization is supported by a global coalition of prominent business and civil society leaders who are committed to building effective partnerships that promote economic opportunity, science and technology, enhance educational opportunities and catalyze exchanges.
Since its inception in 2010, Partners for a New Beginning has launched, expanded or pledged support for more than 70 projects.