Social Change Blossoms at AWSIF: The Next Step After Obama’s Entrepreneurship Summit

Twittering with excitement

The buzz on the Arab World Social Innovation (AWSIF) is hot, and our office is running to keep up with Cairo’s chattering classes.

Help us spread the word on AWSIF and Ashoka by following us on Twitter @AshokaArabWorld, and joining our Facebook Group, Ashoka Arab World.

At Ashoka Arab World (AAW), a big part of our mission is to strengthen the concept of social entrepreneurship in the region.  Following on the heels of President Obama’s Entrepreneurship Summit, AWSIF will further advance the agenda of social innovation in the Arab World.  AWSIF will both showcase the dynamism of Arab social entrepreneurs today, as well as articulate new paradigms for social and economic development in the region.

Globally acclaimed musician, Naseer Shamma, poses with his favorite instrument, the oud.

Social Change Blossoms

Print and mainstream media have picked up on the importance of AWSIF.  Among others, the Daily News Egypt will be a media sponsor at AWSIF.  The Daily News is Egypt’s only independent newspaper in English, and is distributed with the International Herald Tribune (New York Times’ global edition) within Egypt.

What are they so excited about?

Mostly, the people.  AWSIF will bring together a host of business, academic, and social leaders, who have impacted the Arab World.  Among them is Naseer Shamma, the featured AWSIF VIP of today’s blog.  (Blog about more VIPs to come)

Naseer Shamma is a globally acclaimed Iraqi musician.  On AWSIF’s first evening, 14 May at the Cairo Marriott Hotel, Naseer will launch his groundbreaking “One Million Flowers Initiative”. Through art and music, the Initiative will establish development projects to generate income for Iraqi widows.

At a later date, the project’s official celebration will be held at the Abu Dhabi Emirates Palace, under the patronage of the wife of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, in cooperation with the U.A.E. Red Crescent.  The event will bring together twenty acclaimed musicians from around the world, and will feature a display of over one million flowers, the largest arrangement of flowers in the world. The flowers will be sold to help Iraqi widows establish income generating projects to support their children and themselves.

– Listen to Nasseer Shamma’s song, Hilal Al Siba, on Youtube

Naseer Shamma has dedicated his life both to the music of the oud and to his humanitarian work.  Born in 1963, at al-Kut, in southern Iraq, Naseer studied at Baghdad’s Institute of Music, where he specialized in the oud.  In 1998, Naseer founded the Beit al-Oud al-Arabi al-Harawi, at Cairo.  Following his discovery of a ninth-century manuscript of the musical theorist al-Farabi, Naseer reconstructed the 8-string oud, which expanded the range of the instrument from the 6-string oud, giving it a “distinct tonality”.  Most recently, he established an “Eastern Orchestra”, composed of seventy musicians playing rare instruments from the Arab World.

Naseer’s belief that art is an integral part of the human soul is evident in his humanitarian work.  He has established an organization dedicated to the education of talented and creative children in Iraq.  He has also worked to alleviate the plight of Iraqi refugees, including at a concert organized by the UNHCR at the Damascus Opera House in June 2008.

As expected from an Ashoka honoree, Naseer is an innovator in spirit.  Naseer is testimony to his own belief that, “when an innovator is really cultured, he can choose to adopt any cause.”


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