40 Finnish Companies Explore the Jordanian Market
Jordan Innovation Program – an innovative socio-economic program between Jordan and Finland, has successfully completed its 2nd phase with a full day participatory exploration workshop, one of many steps in the Innovation Program. The aim is to identify innovative solutions by linking challenge partners with relevant Finnish companies based on the domains of the identified challenges. VentureX, an accelerator of SMEs and startups and an Entrepreneurship Advocate, has cooperated with Ultrahack, a leading innovation management company from Finland, to lead and facilitate the program. The program is a hands-on online experience, with Ultrahack and VentureX carrying the program alongside the support of the Developing Markets Platform, a joint platform between Business Finland and Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, and the UN Global Pulse. The Innovation Program aims to serve people in refugee situations, specifically in the MENA region, focusing on women and girls in the following four domains: Health, Education, Sanitation, and Energy.
The Innovation Program consists of three main phases. The 1st has been a prosperous start. Organizations that work closely with refugees have been recruited as challenge partners to identify and present several existing problems the refugees face in the MENA region. As Walaa Alshaalan accountability team leader of IRC – expressed their main focus by saying, "People are at the center of our strategy. We achieve this by being responsive, which means we collect solicits and listen to feedback, analyze it, then take appropriate decisions to make a change." After three months of extensive discussions, the challenge partners have been narrowed down to 5: World Refugee Schools (WRS), Wadi Araba Development Company (WADC), UNFPA, UNDP, and International Rescue Committee (IRC). With the finalization of the 1st phase, the 2nd phase was in motion.
The 2nd phase of the Jordan Innovation Program began in March, with the Innovation Workshop being its highlight. It included over 40 different Finnish companies, 13 challenges presented by the 5 recruited Challenge Partners, 4 Supporting Partners, and 2 Leading Entities. With the meticulous coordination offered by Ultrahack, the challenge partners worked with different Finnish companies in the Exploration workshop to explore all opportunities and potential solutions regarding the presented challenges. The challenge partners introduced themselves and explained their challenges. Then, the Finnish companies addressed the obstacles presented by introducing feasible ideas and solutions. The workshop signified the first step towards achieving a sustainable collaboration between Finnish companies and Jordanian challenge partners. As Developing Markets Platform’s Project Manager Marjukka Holopainen-Rainio highlights, "What draws us towards the program is the chance to explore innovative solutions that would empower refugee women and girls in the MENA region to address problems they are facing. We aim to do this through supporting Finnish companies on their new developing businesses and helping them make sustainable connections to further establish possible solutions and opportunities in Jordan."
The Exploration Workshop was a tremendous success. Mariam Said, Community Engagement & Outreach Coordinator at WRS, stated, "We were quite overwhelmed at first by the number of companies interested and the numerous different ideas. However, we did find that the workshop was quite an enlightening experience. We cannot wait to proceed to Phase 3". The aim of the workshop, establishing further connections between the companies and organizations, has been accomplished. The 3rd phase, the most exhilarating phase of the program, is only a few weeks away. The highlight of this phase will be the Hackathon. In this 48-hour sprint, companies are presented with a final chance to work closely with the Challenge Partners to finalize their solutions. It will be followed by a 4-week integration program where companies will further develop and tailor their solutions to fit the Jordanian context.
The end goal is to provide refugees with innovative solutions to support them in addressing their existing challenges. Yara Deir, GBV Programme Analyst of UNFPA, said, "During this program, we aim to provide help for refugee adolescent girls. We require novel, innovative solutions to give refugees a brighter future. We hope to achieve unremarkable connections and collaborations by the end of the program to address the issues at hand further."
Franklin Nhung Nguyen, marketing manager at Ultrahack, explains, "We want to create a partnership between organizations from Jordan and SMEs from Finland. The program aims to do that by providing Finnish companies with opportunities to explore distinct solutions and allowing Challenge Partners in Jordan to open up to fresh ideas." The ultimate place to follow through with these plans would be Jordan for its strategic location and vast market of booming potential. Yousef Hamidaddin, the Managing Partner at VentureX, emphasized the critical impact the program would have on the MENA region. He states, "We want to advocate the vitality of innovation in this region and aim to address the region as an "open lab." Starting from Jordan would allow the incorporation of adaptation that would then drive solutions globally."