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We would like to thank the Network for Social Change, Fritt Ord and the National Endowment for Democracy for their generous support of our work.

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Social innovation

Before 2011, the Middle East was often referred to as an ‘institutional wasteland.’ Arab regimes were determined to prevent the growth of civil society or democratic institutions. There existed no political space for the millions of Arabs who were seeking to emerge from decades of political and economic failures.

A large group of dynamic Arabs are eager to transform their societies. They are now at the forefront of a global push to connect citizens and modernize political structures. In Egypt they are organizing themselves into revolutionary committees, the internet is abuzz with Tunisian bloggers, and social media has brought the painful struggles of Syrian revolutionaries to the homes of millions of westerners. As Arabs continue to find new ways to innovate, we will race to keep up.

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"Big Brother": the art of subversion

Art achieves its highest purpose when it questions the structures of power in a society. A goal that "Big Brother", a satirical show in Egypt, achieves.

The Arab digital philanthropy and transparency nexus

The growing digital engagement and online presence of the philanthropic sector in the Arab region is playing a growing role in engaging people philanthropically in a context where personalized ways of giving still have a stronghold.

Civil society 2.0

In Jordan, a younger generation of educated activists are reinventing their approach in order to build new perceptions of civil society organizations.

The thinking behind a mental health workers pledge for Palestine

Concerned professionals may need to move beyond their accustomed professional roles to support a genuine transformation in Israel and occupied Palestine that respects the human needs and rights of all who live there.

The Bahrain Debate: rethinking the conflict

This debate hopes to recreate a historical moment for civil society participation and action, by arriving at a more articulate understanding of the nature of the conflict that enables us to suggest practical solutions.

Problems of empowerment

Efforts at the economic empowerment of women in Jordan are missing the point - there are political and social issues that need to be addressed first.

The struggle for freedom and food sovereignty: a letter of solidarity to the farmers of Syria

The loss of control over processing agricultural goods, such as turning grains into flour, have made it easier for the regime to punish large regions with starvation, and will in the future make it easier for foreign powers to grab hold of Syria through its dependent state.

Graffiti: a new form of expression on the walls of Cairo

Despite restrictions on expression in Egypt, cultural trends like the spread of graffiti show that the marginalised have created a space for themselves in the public sphere.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression but conditions apply

Rayna Stamboliyska

Egypt has jailed journalists by the dozen; the Gulf is jailing people for tweets they send and surveillance companies are gearing them up. One does not need a crystal ball to see that repressive states in the MENA region will continue to suppress dissent.

Photojournalism in the Palestinian Territories

Young photographers are risking their lives to show the outside world the reality of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, challenging military hegemony. Where mainstream media has lagged behind, social media has stepped in.

Tunisia: the Islamic associative system as a social counter-power

An Islamic bloc is indeed emerging, but more than an occulted project of Islamization, it is a process of activation of the material and moral resources of a conservative middle class summarily excluded until the 2011 revolution. 

No woman’s body should be a battlefield

25 years after Women in Black was founded by Israeli and Palestinian women working together for peace, Sue Finch and Liz Khan report from the International Women in Black meeting in Uruguay on how the movement has grown into a world-wide network speaking truth to power

Voices of Syrian women in civil resistance

Although we now hear guns more than peaceful chants in Syria, and while the news of armed rebellion overshadows discussion of nonviolent resistance, a subtle everyday survival activism performed by civic groups, especially women, keeps the movement alive.

Trade unions and the construction of a specifically Tunisian protest configuration

To understand Tunisia, one must get to grips with its labour movement. UGTT has enjoyed a continuity in history and presence across the country which is paralleled only by the ruling party at its height under Bourguiba and Ben Ali.

You cannot ignore religion in social policy-making in the Middle East

Governments and global development agencies will do well in the formulation of new social protection and social welfare policies, only if they take serious account of the experience of religious organisations in their provision.

Autocrats, super-tweeps and Twitter’s overnight tribes

Why people who seek to use Twitter as a measure of popularity, legitimacy or credibility should begin by blocking their fake followers.

Aid local councils, not the Syrian National Coalition

Countries wanting to aid the Syrian revolution must focus on local councils like that of Manjib, not the Syrian National Coalition, and act together.

The representation impasse: accounting for Egyptian women in the post-Morsi age

To move towards a more accurate account, it is imperative that we dissolve the binaries of tradition and modernity, relativism and universalism that these hegemonic narratives are contingent on, since they undermine the heterogeneity of the Egyptian woman and bind it to the political ploy du jour.

The Islamic state in context

Almost by default, the swelling numbers of young Arabs, especially in the culturally vibrant centres of the Arab world (Cairo, Tunis, Beirut, Damascus, Casablanca, Kuwait, Manama), will create plurality - in social views, political positions, economic approaches, and in social identities and frames of reference.

Egypt: small oases of transformation

The new Heliopolis university in Cairo has developed from SEKEM principles and is devoted entirely to sustainable development. Scilla Elworthy reports on the challenges of setting the pace of social innovation in education

Emerging civil administrations: a way forward in Syria?

Whereas the government and security institutions of Egypt and Tunisia have remained intact, necessity being the mother of invention, a new form of governance has emerged in Syria. This in itself is worth celebrating and supporting.

A third perspective: Stronghold Sound’s new hip hop album, Khat Thalet, reviewed

The lyrics are all in colloquial Arabic, with artists using different dialects and referring to idioms, metaphors, and historical events from a variety of socio-political contexts, targeting Arabic-speaking communities from North Africa to the Gulf.   

What might have been: a decade of civil activism in Syria

The Syria Trust for Development was beginning to play an important role in Syria, when the Syrian uprising took place: an excerpt from a study of Syrian civil society on the eve of revolution that helps us to understand some of the deeper changes that were under way.

Online aggregation in the 'mass web'

Amidst the ruins of the global economic crisis, the rise of aggregation as the master frame of online interactions, and the adoption of liking as a means to subscribe to collective identities, points to the emergence of a new culture of collectivity which we should welcome and embrace.

Last call for Egypt's activists?

What Egypt’s revolutionary activists lack is a coherent organisational base. Only the Muslim Brotherhood manages to reach out to the electorate and by doing so easily grabs the levers of power.

Why I chose to give my vote to a Palestinian

To protest against what they see as unjust exclusion, some Israeli citizens have given their vote to Palestinians who couldn't make their voices heard in the January 2013 elections. One of these activist citizens explains why his action could help Israel become a 'real' democracy.

Tunisia: Siliana and the heritage of Farhat Hached sixty years after his assassination

Farhat Hached is still making history in Tunisia, where the government is fixated on shifting Tunisian society in a more religious direction, while failing to address the country’s appalling poverty and unemployment. We learn about that history.

Revolution is female: the uprising of women in the Arab world

The Arabic word for revolution, thawra, has a female gender. So does the word ’huriya (freedom), and so does the word intifada (uprising). Sara Abbas talks to the social media revolutionaries behind The Uprising of Women in the Arab World, a facebook group that is taking patriarchy head-on

Harassment free zone

Why isn’t anybody doing anything? Attempting to curb sexual harassment by targeting the harassers is very challenging in Egypt since the driving forces are complex and compounded.  We need to focus on the bystander, says Eba’a El-Tamami.

Not yet a revolution: the fight for women’s rights in Egypt continues

While the eighteen day uprising saw Egypt’s men and women equally contribute to the greater good of the country and fought side by side in the face of violence and drastic uncertainty, women’s rights are being undermined.

Pussy Riot: Russia’s unwitting gift to the women of the Arab Spring

What if a feminist post-punk collective's action in Moscow could influence the cause of women everywhere, starting with protesters in Arab countries?

The pathway to Tunisia’s constitutional future

The language of constitutional revision and civic values based on human rights has become the baseline of political discourse, but only by submerging crucial ideological differences. 

Resisting relocation: active communities in revolutionary Egypt

Residents’ actions highlight growing expectations that a more inclusive model of decision-making is both possible and achievable. 

Workers' strikes: the ongoing revolution from below

With disputes between the liberal, Islamist and military forces stealing the show, the battle against the horrendous inequality that casts a deep shadow over Egyptian society constitutes the last chance to push the revolution forward before being strangled by the capitalist forces dominating the economy.

Libya: still a long road ahead

Libya’s transition has been aided by the fact that it has not had to dismantle the kind of ‘deep state’ that has made the transition in countries like Egypt so difficult. Consolidation will be more difficult.

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