Usama Ghazali

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2015


This profile was prepared when Usama Ghazali was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2015.
The New Idea
Usama is building a movement that empowers local communities across different parts of Egypt to develop the resources of their local cultural heritage as the basis for integration in the modern market, while building a sense of shared and common identity; moreover, Usama promotes social conscious consumption at the urban side of Egypt.
Usama creates an enabling environment for local communities’ traditional crafts in Egypt’s old, likely forgotten, towns and governorates to thrive through adopting a heritage strength-based approach where each community is empowered to take ownership of its development.
Usama is achieving his vision through a three-pronged approach. First, he creates a media movement that documents and promotes his expeditions to discover the very diverse local indigenous Egyptian communities and displays the communities’ cultural identities and economic strengths. Second, he empowers and builds the capacities of local communities through need-based assessments, product and brand development, equipping them with technology skills to allow connections with people in other cities particularly the capital without having to leave their community, migrate or lag behind in time. Through technology connections, Usama engages the crowds in the empowerment of local communities, focusing on two main stakeholders, namely the designers who can help communities revamp their products and the crowd in Egypt’s mega cities to offer advanced online crowdfunding for the local crafts production. Third, Usama created an online portal “”, Arabic meaning for “Handmade Treasures” which does not only serve as a promotion portal for selling the communities’ products but it also acts as a digital archive for the diverse Egyptian cultures and histories. Hence, he encourages socially conscious consumptions that appreciate locally made products and facilitates access to knowledge about cultural heritage.
In contrast to traditional interventions with local communities where Citizen Sector Organizations (CSOs), donors, corporations or middle men focus on the final product, its mass production and marketing which roots competition among communities and craftsmen, Usama is shifting the focus from the product and the competition to the communities shared identities while rooting collaboration rather than competition.
In his future plans, Usama envisions an expansion to all Egyptian local communities that are marginalized and outside capital cities to give them equal opportunities of development and empowerment. Usama plans expansion via establishing connections with local coordinators that serve as entry points in addition to connecting the local communities to each other. He aims to create a comprehensive online digital archive and offline museum documenting Egypt’s local communities’ indigenous cultural, natural and economic competencies. In the longer term, Usama aims to create linkages across communities with similar practices to root further collaboration.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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