Spotlight on Ashoka Nominator : Judith Van Raalten, Jordan

In the first edition of “Stories from Ashoka Arab World’s Nominators Network and Spotlights on Ashoka’s Nominators” – we welcome Ashoka’s newly elected Fellow, Sami Hourani and dedicate this space to spot a light on Sami and his nominator Judith Van Raalten.

Want to be in the spotlight too?! Let us know about the social entrepreneurs you meet! You can nominate a social entrepreneur for the Ashoka Fellowship by clicking here.


Follow the interview below with Judith to know more about her changemaking journey!  and How did Judith know that Sami will make it to the Ashoka Fellowship?  

1- What social issue are you most passionate about?                                                          image013

I am passionate about youth’s social and political inclusion and civic engagement as a solution to the socio-cultural struggles youth face on their way to adulthood represented by restrictive mobility and unemployment. Societal challenges of marginalized young people across cultures and countries motivate me to work hard to make a difference.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area in the United States, from where I contribute to the Jordanian social entrepreneurship scene via strategic planning and fundraising to positively impact local communities across the Arab region.

2-   How did you know about Ashoka?

One of the long-term initiatives I am a part of is “Forsa –” Forsa is translated to English as “opportunity.” The overall goal of Forsa is to provide in an open, egalitarian and free way access to educational, professional, and skills development opportunities for young persons from any background in the Middle East and North Africa, and to build the capacity of underprivileged young people to thrive in their personal and professional lives.

For Forsa I am always looking for the latest opportunities, and, since the start of Forsa as a blog in 2008, I have posted about Ashoka, sharing the support opportunity for young entrepreneurs in the Arab world.

3-    Tell us about the situation when you first met Sami Hourani?

Over seven years ago I met Sami in Amman where I was conducting a three-month research on Palestinian refugee identity issues in Jordan. His extensive network and intuitive understanding of the social and political spheres in and outside of the Palestinian refugee camps contributed immensely to the data collection and analysis of the research and made him an invaluable collaborator. It was a great start of a fruitful partnership that developed into a pioneering social venture, called “Leaders of Tomorrow,” which has now become a leading citizen sector organization in Jordan and the Arab region.

4-    What drew your attention most about Sami as a social entrepreneur?

Sami does not believe in change by itself, but rather in empowering and mobilizing people to develop, invest and serve local communities. Sami has a warm personality; he cares for his family, relatives and friends, and extends this caring to his peers, his community and his society at large – you find this in all his work.

Sami is one of those rare finds—an emerging young leader with outstanding achievements who always performs with utmost personal authenticity and integrity. His honesty and lucid reasoning reaches across cultural and socioeconomic divides. He is obsessed by his cause of empowering young people and breaking the cycles of elitism. For that he has a listening ear for youth from any background and has the ability to generate new ideas and set those in motion through innovative projects and initiatives.

5-    How did you know Sami Hourani was a good “Ashoka Fellow fit?”

Ashoka looks for leading social entrepreneurs who are creating a system changing impact in society. Ashoka social entrepreneurs pioneer new ideas that are implemented for the first time in their communities and sectors; such ideas should solve the root causes of social problems and have the potential to be replicated and scaled up. Sami does exactly that; he is a leading innovator—creating groundbreaking ideas that address the problems of youth exclusion and apathy. Sami’s initiatives reach the hearts and minds of people at the grassroots level, inspiring and eliciting the citizenry to engage publicly and make a difference in their local communities. His visionary thinking and sound judgments tackle the challenges that youth and more, broadly, citizens in general face nowadays. As a strong leader he easily connects to others, and, with his intellectual talents, he quickly analyses social and political situations.

More about Judith Van Raalten:

Judith is a development professional; she currently serves as the Director of Development at Leaders of Tomorrow organization. She has co-founded several initiatives that support youth in the Arab region to jumpstart their professional careers and mobilize young Jordanians to take on changemaking roles around issues they care for in their local communities. Previously, Judith was a Fulbright Scholar to Jordan from 2009 – 2010 researching the social and political identity of young Jordanians of Palestinian origin and lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Hawaii. 


Judith is the nominator of the recently elected Ashoka Fellow: Sami Hourani.

Ashoka Fellow – Sami Hourani, Jordan                                                                                 Sami Hourani

Leaders of Tomorrow Organization

Website | Facebook  | Twitter

Sami is a pioneer in the Arab world, breaking the vicious cycle of elitism and nepotism in young people’s accessibility to education, skills development, and civic engagement opportunities. Within a context where opportunities for personal, educational, economic and civic engagement are only circulated within closed circles of the privileged, youth have become passive and apathetic towards the social and political scenes. Sami is creating a shift in the norms of thousands of youth by introducing a new way for youth to counter this disempowering trend and become an active, educated, and motivated generation.

Sami is Founder and CEO of Leaders of Tomorrow organization in Jordan. He was elected into the Ashoka Fellowship in March 2014.

Don’t miss reading more about Sami’s idea, strategy, impact and himself as a person on Ashoka’s website here.

If you know a social entrepreneur like Sami, Nominate them today to join the largest professional network for social entrepreneurs around the world, Ashoka Fellowship, by clicking here.


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