Leila Ben Gacem

Ashoka Fellow
Tunis, Tunisia, Middle East North Africa
Fellow Since 2016

Leila is creating and growing a grassroots movement led by students and heritage activists’ and cultural entrepreneurs to restore the vibrancy of the Medinas’ throughout Tunisia. She is doing this through creating an economic dynamic that speaks true to its heritage and increasing the cultural confidence of the people in their own country.

Related TopicsDevelopment & Prosperity

Citation

This profile was prepared when Leila Ben Gacem was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2016.
The New Idea
For Leila, a city’s Medina is where people can come together, connect to their heritage and build a new, vibrant and connected community that is based on 21st century reality & needs. Leila aims at providing urban restoration to historical places and at the same time integrating these renovated historical places in the economy, in turn succeeding in returning people’s confidence in their own country, its economy and increases the people’s sense of patriotism. That’s why Leila decided to establish her project Blue Fish.

Through Blue Fish, Leila is creating a new economic dynamic, where marginalized people are given the opportunities to make a change in their communities. This of course helps Leila increase the people’s confidence in their country through her project. Leila’s model for Blue Fish is based on the renovation of the old historical sites as well as transforming Tunisian informal artisan produce into sustainable business.

Leila encourages people to co-create the renewal of their own Medinas through the use of a variety of online tools. The first of these is the survey tool; which allows for mapping of the buildings as well as the areas demographics. The second tool is the Medinapedia; which allows people, especially students, to share what they are learning about Medina through text, pictures and videos on Wikipedia. The third tool is community journalism through a printed journal and an online publication for Medina inhabitants’ renewal enthusiasts through “Journal de la Medina”.

Citizen groups from different cities like Sfax and Sousse have contacted Leila to discuss potential collaborations and revive their Medinas. Leila is bringing together culture and heritage enthusiasts and is creating a touristic competitive edge. This is done through renovating these historical buildings and turning them into buildings that attract tourists whilst preserving their heritage in the form of hotels and boutiques. Leila has launched the first Light Festival in the Maghreb region at the Tunis Medina in September this year, which was executed in collaboration with local and international light artists, with important contribution from Medina’s private sector, public sector and about 120 student volunteers. The festival took place at over 30 locations around the Medina of Tunis and it will enable more national festivals to come and empower Medina’s socio-cultural dynamics and help increase the cultural confidence of the Tunisians.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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