The United Nations Development Programme announced on Wednesday the winners of the first phase of its initiative Heart of Amman that supports projects with a focus on developing Downtown Amman. Twenty-nine startups were chosen from hundreds of startups who applied to the initiative and went through its bootcamp.
The startups’ focus ranges from tourism, water recycling, artisan work and ecommerce to healthcare products and education with a number of them working on logistics and the internet of things. The selection committee chose startups with the most social impact and job creation potential.
The UNDP’s entrepreneurship programme supports the improvement of the socio-economic conditions in Downtown Amman through applying effective and innovation-driven solutions that add value to the local community, revive growth and create jobs. It supports the setting up and scaling of innovative business ideas through improving their business and revenue models as well as strategies growth. This support is not only limited to the provision of investment funds, but startups are also receiving networking opportunities with eco-system change-makers.
Winning startups were announced during an event attended by movers and shakers of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Jordan. Startups were granted investments of between $5,000 and $10,000 and celebrated good examples of social and innovative enterprises established by youth and women.
Deputising for Amman Mayor Yousef Al Shawarbeh, City Manager Ahmad Malkawi said, "His Majesty King Abdullah II pays great attention to supporting and empowering youth and providing the appropriate environment for entrepreneurship as a driving force towards economic growth. Based on Royal directives, the Greater Amman Municipality adopt and facilitate all means to support the entrepreneurial environment."
He added that the Heart of Amman improves livelihoods and provides job opportunities through employment initiatives, pointing out that this project is aimed at revitalising the city center through emerging social and innovative projects which will contribute to reviving economic growth and improving the social conditions in the Heart of the Capital.
UNDP Jordan Resident Representative Sara Ferrer Olivella emphasized the significant role of social enterprises as an efficient tool of inclusive economic growth.
“Social enterprises and businesses not only stimulate economic growth and employment creation but they help us address fundamental societal challenges. They inspire us: they have been and continue to be drivers of more inclusive development. They need our continued support and recognition,” she said.
“Going forward, we seek to engage local organizations and create a hub for the community which connects local entrepreneurs. The Heart of Amman is meant to connect people who might otherwise feel marginalized and excluded from accessing support in the current social entrepreneurship ecosystem,” she added.
The UNDP launched its initiative Heart of Amman in July 2019, with funding from the Government of Japan. UNDP and the Government of Japan maintained a strategic partnership to support the development process of Jordan in different areas of focus, including the improvement of livelihoods for the most vulnerable groups of both Jordanians and Syrian refugees in the host communities as well as strengthening social cohesion in the local communities to foster building blocks of sustainable development. With thanks to the Government of Japan, UNDP will continue providing support to the people of Jordan to address development challenges.
Japan’s Ambassador to Jordan Hidenao Yanagi said: “I would like to express my sincere appreciation to UNDP for its dedication and effort in implementing “Heart of Amman”, and appreciate Greater Amman Municipality to receive massive number of Syrian refugees since the onset of the Syrian crisis.”
“I want to congratulate 29 start-ups on your award-winning with investment fund. We are expecting your start-ups to scale up your innovative ideas, and wish you a successful development of your business by making use of this opportunity. Furthermore, we sincerely hope that you will contribute to create more economic opportunities for vulnerable people and make a difference in the future of downtown Amman,” he added.
The initiative follows an inclusive solution pathway to support the economic growth and the development of the local community in Downtown Amman. Implemented in collaboration with the Greater Amman Municipality and the National Microfinance Bank, Heart of Amman is built around three independent components, aiming at improving community engagement of people in heart of the Capital, sustainable self-reliance through social and innovative entrepreneurship support, and revitalizing a public building and turning it into a social enterprise incubator and tourist destination.
The startups went through a rigorous selection process based on pre-identified criteria, including the social impact and value for Downtown Amman. They received an intensive bootcamp of training and mentorship. They received advanced entrepreneurial skill development and support to improve their business and financial models, including the development of concepts of success, innovation, targeted segments, market identification, business and financial models, and proof of concept, amongst others. The startups will also continue to receive customized business support and mentorship and networking with enablers from the entrepreneurship ecosystem that include potential investors, technical experts, and successful entrepreneurs.
UNDP will also work on establishing an innovation and social enterprise incubator through identifying and training a local founding team to be leaders for change within the ecosystem. Such spaces are ideally initiated by a team of 3-5 locally based co-founders of entrepreneurs that ensure that the social enterprise incubator is locally rooted, particularly at the level of Downtown Amman.