Design Entrepreneurship in Jordan
It’s no surprise that Jordan is a hub of entrepreneurs in the Middle East. Faced with a slew of challenges stemming from traditional employment, the highly skilled and educated workforce in the country has looked to entrepreneurial avenues as an escape for a brighter future. The country boasts a relatively strong scene of incubators, funding programs, and a fresh batch of ideas from hungry, business-savvy individuals looking to launch the next big thing.
Since 2016, after the launch of Jordan’s inaugural design festival, Amman Design Week, the need for a stronger design industry in the country and the region was emphasized to a previously unaware public.
“I am a firm believer that design in Jordan is a necessity and not a luxury” - Ahmad Humeid, CEO/Founder of Syntax in Amman, Frame Magazine (Kuitert, 2017)
Humeid, the curator of Amman Design Week 2017’s Hangar Exhibition, explained the need for transformative design in this country which is often faced with immense social, economic, educational, and environmental challenges. (Kuitert, 2017) Along with the strong reinforcement for positive change, these design events also sparked a sudden interest in the entrepreneurial scene.
Start-up incubators were not a new concept in the country. The creation of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, as well as the establishment of renowned incubators such as Oasis 500 and ShamalStart, have led Jordan’s rank in the Global Entrepreneurship Index to rise from 72 to 49 in 4 years, out of 137 countries. Growhome, 2020) A more design-dedicated platform, Dezain, held mentorship programs and offered funding, training, and support for up-and-coming design startups and projects in the country. This program, along with Amman Design Week, has not been functioning since the pandemic hit in 2020.
“Jordan needs to develop a clearly defined, broad-based, long-term strategy on how to foster a well-balanced [entrepreneurial] ecosystem.” – Rasha Manna
In an op-ed with Rasha Manna, CEO at Luminus Education, she outlines what it takes for the scene in Jordan to progress and mature. That includes bottom-up development programs, strategies to identify competitive advantages in the country, mapping all ecosystem support activities, focusing on innovative entrepreneurs, pushing large organizations to be supportive, and more. (Manna, 2018)
From the outside, the ecosystem is publicized and appears to be functioning and successful, but those from within understand the complexities and roadblocks one might face when starting up a business. Manna’s recommendations, tho written in 2018, still hold true today.
In a report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor in 2019, their studies have found that a majority of the adult population in Jordan has disagreed that making a difference in the world reflects their reasons to start a business. Actually, the vast majority of the adult population agreed that making a very high income reflects their reason to start a business. Nevertheless, jobs scarcity has dominated the scene again and was among the main reasons to start a new business—which confirms necessity-driven, and not improvement-driven, entrepreneurship in Jordan. (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2019) It can be concluded that the ecosystem runs on a survival mindset, thus prompting more reaction to proactive efforts to improve entrepreneurial opportunities.
After mapping out this research on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Jordan, one question remains: how do design entrepreneurs succeed in 2021, when previous support systems for the industry no longer exist, and issues within the system have become amplified post-pandemic?
In a video by The Future titled “The Designer As Entrepreneur”, Jose Caballer and Chris Do discuss how a designer's mindset is important in the overall equation. When as designers, we are constantly looking towards only performing service-based jobs, we’re denying ourselves opportunities elsewhere due to the over-consumption of our time. Globally, there has been a shift in the traditional roles of a designer from full-time, secure positions at large agencies and design firms to freelancing or self-employment as a means for survival. (The Futur, 2014) It’s only when look outside of these traditional roles as designers that we can pave a fulfilling and prosperous future for ourselves, and possibly others within the industry.
For this week’s challenge, and based on Manna’s recommendations for improving the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Jordan, I have designed a maze that outlines the roadblocks but also works as a roadmap to help designers in Jordan on their way to starting up their own business.
Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (2019). Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Jordan National Report. [online] . Available at: https://www.giz.de/de/downloads/GEMJ_EN.pdf. Growhome (2020). The Jordanian Entrepreneurship Ecosystem. [online] Medium.
Available at: https://info-growhome.medium.com/the-jordanian-entrepreneurship-ecosystem-de6cbcccffa1 [Accessed 15 Aug. 2021].
Kuitert, F. (2017). Amman Design Week tackles five regional issues. [online] www.frameweb.com. Available at: https://www.frameweb.com/article/amman-design-week-tackles-five-regional-issues [Accessed 15 Aug. 2021].
Manna, R. (2018). ECOSYSTEMOpinion: How to get Jordan’s entrepreneurship ecosystem back on track. [online] MENAbytes. Available at: https://www.menabytes.com/jordan-ecosystem-recommendations/ [Accessed 16 Aug. 2021].
The Futur (2014). The Designer As Entrepreneur. [online] www.youtube.com. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFm3uzNYQyU&t=1024s [Accessed 16 Aug. 2021].