Ajmal Kamal

Ashoka Fellow
Pakistan,
Fellow Since 2002
City Press

Citation

This profile was prepared when Ajmal Kamal was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Ajmal has designed a set of interlocking activities, including a publishing house and book and film clubs, that make up a voluntary forum for learning and sharing experiences and opinions about development issues and social concerns. He sees that the rich discussions in which participants of widely different backgrounds contribute their perspectives openly and apply them to pressing issues happen only infrequently in present-day, conflict-torn Pakistan. The country needs spaces where people can participate in creative activities and generate debate on social issues.
A central element of Ajmal's work is a publishing house that prints local language and English materials, including a quarterly journal on social topics, as well as collections of essays, poems, and fiction about development issues. He is not only getting useful, highly relevant information to a large network through the publishing house, but also fostering a new generation of social thinkers and writers by encouraging professional mentorship and publishing new writers alongside acclaimed authors. Ajmal avoids the stigma associated with citizen organizations in Pakistan, by running his publishing efforts, book club, and film series as related for-profit ventures. And he provides financial incentives–primarily discounts and memberships–to encourage people to participate in all activities. All profits are reinvested in advancing Ajmal's vision of encouraging dialogue and informing development efforts. His model for improving civic participation through increased opportunities for citizen dialogue is widely replicable.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

More For You