“I was observing the whole conflict between both communities and I was asking myself, why is this conflict going on? Why is this conflict making so much damage to the city and for those people in those communities?”
This was one of the many reasons Professional Fellows Program Alumni (Fall 2019), Omar Assaf created SHiFT.
Mr. Assaf is Co-founder and Executive Director of SHiFT, a social innovation hub based in Qobbeh, Tripoli, Lebanon. SHiFT was founded after political forces and wars left Tripoli in poverty, violent conflict between neighborhoods and economic turmoil from 2008 to 2014. In response to the Lebanese Army’s security plan to stop these conflicts, four activists from Tripoli, including Omar, founded SHiFT as a place for people to come together through recreational activities, social transformation, and shared spaces. They wanted to provide a place for inclusive community problem-solving and hopeful change while avoiding the need for residents to seek benefits from associates of the conflicts.
In addition to SHiFT’s many initiatives, recent demands to combat food shortages throughout the city inspired the creation of The Social Grocery, a non-profit founded by local Tripolians in partnership with SHiFT. The Social Grocery is the very first non-profit store in Lebanon providing necessary goods such as beans, rice, soap, and sanitary napkins, among other needed goods. Their goal is to give support to poor or low-income families who are unable to afford these same necessary products at commercial retail stores.
Recently, SHiFT received a spot in the GlobalGiving Accelerator program, an international crowdfunding campaign that helps organizations raise funding and recognition for their non-profits, to promote their work with the Social Grocery. SHiFT is working diligently to raise $5,000 dollars for The Social Grocery within a span of three weeks. The money raised during this time will go directly towards improving the Tripoli community. So far, Omar and his co-founders of SHiFT have raised over $2,800 and their deadline to reach $5,000 ends June 26th.
As an entrepreneur, Omar emphasizes the obligation to focus on the people, especially for those interested in supporting communities, because those people may not know where or how to seek new opportunities. He would like to remind social entrepreneurs that “every single impact, every single move, an action you make, can change the life of a person. Even if you are doing it for only one person. This is why we call ourselves a hub, we offer opportunities.”
Mr. Assaf participated in the Fall 2019 Professional Fellows Program in Economic Empowerment. As part of the program he was placed in a four week fellowship with WeWork Labs in Washington, DC.
The Professional Fellows Program is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by Legacy International.