KAMEL AL ASMAR

Jordan,

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

This profile below was prepared when Kamel Al Asmar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.

INTRODUCTION

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




THE NEW IDEA

Kamel’s idea is to professionalize volunteerism in the Levant through a methodical approach that makes volunteering accessible to youth (aged 18 to 36), so that they can become equipped with the tools to create meaningful change in their own communities. Through personal experiences and observation, Kamel realized that volunteerism in the Arab World could be stronger. In 2009, he created Nakhweh, an online and offline social venture solely dedicated to encouraging volunteerism and innovation by fixing the current climate surrounding volunteerism.

His three-pronged approach tackles the two largest actors in volunteerism: COs and potential volunteers, namely youth. COs in the region do not promote volunteerism in youth, nor do they have an effective system of managing volunteers. Kamel’s training and assessment initiative provides COs with the tools to effectively attract and manage volunteers. Youth are unaware that volunteer opportunities exist, and oftentimes have had little to no exposure about volunteering. Kamel’s website advertises volunteerism in a professional manner, and his exciting on the ground initiatives and events engage youth at a personal level.

The expressive name is inspired by an Arabic song, El Dameer El Araby (The Arab Conscious), which expresses the Nakhweh of people in the Arab World, meaning their chivalry and bravery, a quality that is 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.”




THE PROBLEM

Volunteerism has not been professionalized in a way that engrains it in modern culture. There are several reasons for this that focuses on a general lack of information on volunteerism for youth, and the inadequacy of COs to promote and manage volunteerism.

The first problem that Kamel has been addressing is the absence of credible and useful information concerning volunteerism in the region, both on the web and on the ground. Youth in particular are generally unaware about volunteer opportunities in their communities. Before Kamel started his initiative, he conducted a study of 161 university students and found that almost half of the sample were interested in volunteering but did not find a suitable opportunity. Through his website, Kamel promotes the concept of volunteerism, and provides an extensive database of potential volunteer opportunities.

Kamel’s survey clearly indicated that for every student who was aware of volunteerism, another student was unfamiliar with the concept. This again returns to a scarcity of professionalized and legitimate information on volunteerism. Youth who are oblivious to volunteerism will not search for opportunities to volunteer online; in response, Kamel began engaging in on the ground events and initiatives that directly connect young people with the concept of volunteerism.

The second problem that Kamel has been focusing on is the general mismanagement of volunteerism within COs. Again, because of a lack of information about volunteers and volunteerism in the region, the majority of COs do not encourage youth to become volunteers for their initiatives. As such, there is no culture of managing volunteers. This troublesome cycle means that there is no incentive to either find volunteers, or to learn how to properly manage and train them. Kamel solves this problem through his monitoring and assessment tools that equip COs with the knowledge and training needed to adequately manage volunteers.




THE STRATEGY

Kamel’s implementation strategy adequately addresses the dearth of volunteerism in the Levant. His three-pronged strategy succinctly professionalizes the concept of volunteerism and advertises it in the region. Kamel diffuses information about volunteerism, improves the way that COs manage volunteers, and engages with youth directly so they understand the potential they have to create change in their communities. Through untraditional methods, Kamel is creating a new culture of volunteerism in the region.

Kamel spreads information on and promotes volunteerism for all through his website. Nakhweh.org acts as a portal that allows organizations to post their work, campaigns, and volunteer opportunities online. COs 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 works directly with COs to provide social media and volunteering training and assessment tools so that they are better equipped to deal with volunteers. Kamel provides COs 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 extremely innovative part of Kamel’s CO 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 COs 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 COs, and will undoubtedly push organizations to constantly improve, lest their reputation be negatively affected.

Kamel engages youth directly, both on and offline, to teach them about volunteerism and encourage them to realize their own potential to create change. 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.

To maintain the sustainability of his initiative, Kamel offers additional services at a fee to COs and companies. All revenues are re-invested into Kamel’s venture; no profit is used for personal gain. Furthermore, he offers all basic services to COs for free. Since the private sector are not his main target group, but are rather partners, he offers them advanced services at a cost so he can support COs for free. The main purpose of charging some fees for advanced services, such as additional CV search options and social media training, is solely to cover the costs of running Nakhweh and minimize dependency on external funding. Kamel helps companies adopt and design Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs that benefit both the community and the company. CSR plans of private companies increase the involvement of the private sector in supporting and funding new ideas by youth and becoming a more equal partner in the development process.

In the next five years, Kamel will continue his support and outreach to young people and community based organizations, while solidifying his partnerships with private sector companies. He has the expertise to provide these companies with CSR programs, implementing the idea of charitable online gifts, franchising social media campaigns, volunteer management training, and offering social media workshops with the ultimate goal of creating a trustful connection with the local community they operate in. 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. 




THE PERSON

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 and become involved in various extracurricular activities, freelance projects and volunteer. 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 Nakhweh as a CO 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 Competition and 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).




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