Abdellah Aboulharjan

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2006


This profile was prepared when Abdellah Aboulharjan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Abdellah introduces training in entrepreneurship into suburban settings characterized by high levels of unemployment and often, immigrant youth whose poverty is exacerbated by low educational achievement and discrimination against applicants in their communities. His strategies coincide with national initiatives to build capacity in the same demographic groups, but he is building what he believes is necessary and lacking—hands-on mentorship sustained over time, by leaders his clients can identify with and trust. He and his staff guide members from the initial entrepreneurial idea to the creation and development of a company. Local entrepreneurs, raised in the same housing projects and cultural environment, are recruited as role models and mentors to demonstrate that success is attainable and with will power and stamina, dreams can become reality.

Abdellah’s organization, Young Entrepreneurs of France (JEF), was founded in Mantes-la-Jolie. It provides formal coaching and training, and encourages informal exchange and networking. Over time, he believes this process will drive communities away from isolation and despair and on the road to a measure of shared prosperity. He has witnessed the “viral” effect of entrepreneurship: a successful entrepreneur’s impact extends well beyond the individual—to benefit families, friends, and communities in a variety of ways. Entrepreneurs provide access to needed goods and services and contribute to solving unemployment and social integration. Through JEF, Abdellah gives youth across France the opportunity to become entrepreneurs, enhancing and enriching their communities. Even in the toughest of suburbs, there is talent and hope.

To launch new subsidiaries of JEF, Abdellah is tapping into business and immigrant networks, both of whom want his program to grow and succeed. One virtuous aspect of his “viral” spread strategy is that he now can count on the support of entrepreneurs he has helped to give back in the form of mentoring and training other youth participants. The next two of the four subsidiaries to be opened by the end of 2006 in Beauvais and Trappes will be driven by young men living formerly in Mantes- la-Jolie and working with JEF.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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