Introduction

Kamel’s idea is to promote volunteerism in a structured and professional way in the Levant region, encouraging youth to volunteer and create change in their communities. Through the use of a website, networking initiatives, training citizen sector organizations (CSOs) on volunteer management, and an online assessment system, Kamel is strengthening the culture of volunteerism in the region.

Through personal experiences and observation, Kamel realized that volunteerism in the Arab World is underestimated and its potential has not been fully realized.  Therefore, in 2009, Kamel created Nakhweh to change the perception of volunteerism and the way it takes place in the region. Through Nakhweh, Kamel is making volunteering accessible to youth (age 18-36), so that they can be exposed to, learn about and engage with the diverse volunteer opportunities available while prompting the volunteers to think and engage strategically as citizens. Kamel is also empowering CSOs to be more efficient and professional in handling volunteers and volunteer opportunities.

The success of Kamel’sidealies in the development and implementation of both an online platform andan offline model that build social capital, create networks of like-minded individuals and organizations, contribute to the work, growth and success of citizen sector organizations, and most importantly, provide youth with appropriate information and easy access to the causes they want to engage with and support.

Kamel’s idea is unique in that itcombinesan online and offline model. Furthermore, Kamel’s innovation lies in an integral approach that addresses the entire cycle of volunteering. First, it does it by setting up Nakhweh as a platform to identifyvolunteering opportunities, listingand classifying them on the website and creating a market place toconnect youth volunteers with the organizations. And secondly, by managing the entire processthrough engaging and training CSOs and holding them accountable by encouraging volunteers to evaluate their experience and publish it on the website.With this model, Kamel is professionalizing voluntarism, holding CSOs accountable, and making all involved parties take voluntarism seriously.

The culture of volunteerism is almost non-existent in the Arab region and has not been professionalized in a way that citizens’ value its benefits.This is due to a general lack of information on volunteerism and respective opportunities for youth, and the inadequacy of CSOs to promotethe concept, engage and manage volunteers.

The absence of credible and useful information concerning volunteerism is wide spread in the region.

Research shows that 50% of youth interested in volunteering do not know where to find a suitable opportunity, 25% of youth interested in volunteering get the information from family and friends, and over 50% of youth who could be able to volunteer, are not aware of the volunteer opportunities.

Additionally, CSOs are usually understaffed andcould benefit from the volunteers work. However, due to lack of information and training, the majority of CSOs do not know how to recruit, manage and guide volunteers, which reflects the general mismanagement of volunteerism. This troublesome cycle means that there is no incentive to find volunteers or to learn how to properly manage and train them.  This situation discourages youth from participating and engaging, given that organizations do not use their skills appropriately and leverage their potential. Therefore, volunteers’value is not recognized and they feel that they are wasting their time in uncomfortable experiences.

All this is aggravated by the fact that volunteersdo not question how to invest their time for greater social impact and CSOs do not have the capacity to provide guidance about the opportunities and to appropriately match volunteers with their openings. As a result, CSOs prefer not to engage volunteers and only few volunteers end up engaging for a limited time, driving CSOs to greater inefficiencies and constantly training new short-term volunteers.

Finally, in the Arab region as much as in the West, two trends have taken place. The first trend is the expansion of the citizen sector and the other is the exponential growth of internet and social media. The growth of the internet has led to an explosion of information and youth who are the majority of its users have trouble figuring out where to start, find and identify the best volunteer opportunities.

Kamelhas developed a professional model for encouraging, engaging and managing volunteers. Kamel encouragesvolunteers  by providing opportunities online and sharing general information on CSOs with volunteer’s evaluations. Also, Kamel engages youth by allowing them to do one day events and volunteering activities, and hosting youth competitions. In regard to management, Kamel offers online and offline tools including trainings for CSOs, in-person meetings with volunteers to link them to the CSOs, and publishing volunteer evaluations in the website to ensure accountability.

Through his website -Nakhweh, Kamel spreads information on and promotes volunteerism for all.He is also screening and posting information on CSOs that is useful so that volunteers have one place to go to.  Nakhweh acts as a portal that allows organizations to post their work, campaigns, and volunteer opportunities online. CSOs can easily search for qualified volunteers, and youth can apply to suitable opportunities. Ashoka Fellow Raghda Boutros, for example, relies heavily on the website to recruit volunteers.In addition, the Nakhweh blog provides information about volunteerism, social entrepreneurship, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the Arab world by sharing news, stories, and articles.Kamel’s platform features more than 150 volunteering opportunities, more than 100 organizations, and a database of more than 8,000 volunteers.

Kamel engages youth directly, both online and offline,to teach them about volunteerism and encourage them to realize their own potential to create change.Kamel thought that for youth who knew the concept and were interested in volunteering, a website could provide an extensive database of potential volunteer opportunities. And, for youth completely unaware of the concept and less likely to look for opportunities online, in-person, interactive, and participatory events could help connect young people with the concept of volunteerism and CSOs.

Kamel organizes social media workshops for youth in both major cities and remote areas to educate them about the uses and benefits of social media channels. Workshops in remote villages connect youth to nearby internet centres, thus exposing them to others working on social issues within their community and across the region. Through the use of social media channels, Kamel launched various campaigns to encourage youth to come up with new ideas and to share inspiring success stories of volunteerism.

Kamel works directly with CSOs to provide social media and volunteering training and assessment tools so that they are better equipped to deal with volunteers. Kamel provides CSOs with advice on how to utilize social media to increase their reach to different target groups. He assists organizations in managing their volunteers in a mutually beneficial way to enhance the experience of the volunteer. This makes it worthwhile to the volunteer in terms of specialized skills building, technical or qualitative. Through this assessment, the organization is better able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a volunteer. Kamel bolsters his specialized volunteer matching program by conducting a needs-based assessment services to thoroughly understand the specific needs and priorities of each organization.

An innovative part of Kamel’s CSO management strategy is an online assessment tool that allows volunteers to provide feedback and commentary on their experiences. These commentaries are available to the public. This encourages CSOs to work harder to properly manage and train their volunteers, so as to enhance a volunteer’s experience. This system of checks and balances has never before been used in Arab CSOs, and will undoubtedly push organizations to constantly improve, lest their reputation be negatively affected.

To maintain the sustainability of his initiative, Kamel offers additional services at a fee to private sector companies. He offers all basic services to CSOs for free. Since the private sectorare not his main target group, but are rather partners, he offers them advanced services at a cost so he can support CSOs for free. Charging some fees for advanced services, such as additional CV search optionsand social media training, is solely to cover the costs of running Nakhweh. All profit will be re-invested into Kamel’s venture.

In the next five years,Kamelwill continue his support and outreach to young people and community based organizations, while solidifying his partnerships with private sector companies. Kamel’s ultimate goal is to evolve his platform into a hub that connects all Arab world actors under a common goal of creating meaningful social change through the empowerment of youth.

Kamel was born in Kuwait and raised in Jordan since the age of 7.Believing that education extends beyond the classroom, he took his informal education into his own hands andbecomeinvolved in various extra-curricular activities, freelance projects and volunteer opportunities.Kamel’s first volunteering experience working with special needs children was particularly inspiring and pushed him to want others to make a difference and have similar experiences.  Ultimately,this led him to create his first Facebook group called “Volunteer Jordan” to connect and bridge the gap between social actors and problems with all members of society.

After graduating from the faculty of Computer Science,Kamel worked for akhtaboot.com, an online career network. As a passionate entrepreneur he decided to use the technology he created and his expertise to start his own company, which proved to be the first seed of his media tool Nakhweh. After gaining some experience and exposure to social entrepreneurship, Kamel decided to dedicate himself full-time to his idea and registered Nakhwehas a CSO in early 2011, despite resistance from his family who were worried about him leaving a stable job.

His successes led him to become a fellow of the King Abdullah Award in October, a 2006 finalist at the Queen Rania National Entrepreneurship Competitionand a “Global Shaper” for the World Economic Forum during the latest meeting at the Dead Sea on employment and job creation in the Arab world (October 2011).

Kamel is not afraid to venture into unknownterritory, he seeks Ashoka’s networking and expertise in the sector to assist himin achievingthe regional goals of his idea, ultimately changing the social sector in the Arab world through the use of social media. He would benefit from the in-depth experience and presence of Ashoka in the region.

Kamel chose his organization’s name inspired by an Arabic song called “El Dameer El Araby” (The Arab Conscious). This song expresses the “Nakhweh” of people in the Arab world, meaning their chivalry and bravery, qualities long engrained in the culture but somewhat lost over the years. Capitalizing on this sentiment of “nakhweh” and the positive energy in the region and hunger for change, Kamel’s idea “connects hearts to change the world.”