Achieving Women 2019: Dr. Iman Bibars, Regional Director, Ashoka Arab World
By Tamara Pupic
Today, the name of Dr. Iman Bibars needs no introduction, as she is widely credited with having introduced the concept of social entrepreneurship to the Arab world.
Dr. Bibars is the Vice President of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, and the Regional Director of Ashoka Arab World, a regional office of Ashoka, a US-headquartered international organization that promotes social entrepreneurship. Since launching Ashoka Arab World in 2003 in Egypt, Bibars has expanded the organization’s operations to 11 countries across the MENA region, identifying and building the capacities of over 100 Arab social entrepreneurs elected as Ashoka Fellows, and raising more than US$12 million to sustain Ashoka’s global activities. Speaking of Ashoka’s beginnings in the region, Dr. Bibars says, “The unique value of social entrepreneurship was unknown to the region, and difficult to embed in a culture where funding for social causes was typically charity-oriented or political. Although there did exist numerous social innovators across the MENA region operating through diverse models of impact, many were unsure of their position in the larger ecosystem, and did not perceive themselves as entrepreneurs. Through our intensive process of search and selection, Ashoka was able to identify these change leaders, direct more support toward their work, and construct a powerful network of over 100 Ashoka Fellows.
Photo courtesy of TheUjulala.