Ashoka Fellow Edward Edilbi - Syria (elected 2014)
The name of Edward’s organization, Dubarah, means “I’ve got your back” in Arabic. Since 2013 it has been empowering those forced by conflicts in Iraq and, chiefly, his own Syria, to flee to unknown places, giving up all. After becoming a refugee himself, Edward leveraged his background in marketing and communications and built a web platform that mobilizes the Syrian diaspora—old and new—into active mutual support networks. Edward’s goal is to enable newly arrived refugees to avoid despondency and the selfishness born of desperation by quickly becoming successful contributors to, not burdens on, their new host communities. Such success brings respect, not sour resentment—which further accelerates the new arrival’s progress.
Edward, who was a self-supporting entrepreneur at 16 and then studied communications at the University of Damascus, designed Dubarah to build trusting communities both face-to-face and online. There are guides to 36 countries prepared by 1,800 contributors designed to help refugees master what they need to know—from culture to visa requirements.
Edward's “employ/partner with a Syrian refugee” campaign had 8,000 jobs listed and 4,000 filled in a few months—and 420 funding and 520 partnership opportunities realized. Dubarah also offers educational, housing/roommate, volunteer, and social opportunities. Several thousand in his Energy Relief Team are ready for crisis response.
And sharing success stories helps build confidence. In its first year, Dubarah impacted 250,000 Syrian refuges across the world. Edward is now introducing a mobile extension of the site and plans to introduce a directory of participants’ professional skills to make cross-connecting easier.
Edward was forced to leave his first place of refuge, an Arab country perhaps not eager to see refugees self-organizing. Ashoka’s mutual help security program and Ashoka Canada enabled Edward and his family to emigrate in 2016 to Canada, a huge talent gift to that country. He has already met with the Federal and Provincial Ministers of Immigration, advising them on the importance of government, citizen sector, and community groups collaborating and focusing well beyond refugees’ first year. As these meetings suggest, Edward knows that his model can and must apply to all refugee and similarly disadvantaged groups.
Dubarah sees refugees as change-makers, not as victims or as threats. This stands in contrast to the dominant approach across Europe, in which new arrivals are widely portrayed in the media and viewed by governments as nothing more than a giant problem. This has the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as refugees nd themselves shunned and isolated on the fringes of mainstream society, dependent on government support— rather than being constructive, entrepreneurial members of their new communities.”
—The Huffington Post