The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development – REFORM, was engaged in the WeMENA Challenge, run by the World Bank and Voyaj. This challenge empowers and equips women entrepreneurs to solve the future’s most difficult problems. Through a business model challenge, WeMENA accelerates innovative solutions that will help eight cities across the Middle East and North Africa build resilience and better adapt to chronic stresses and shocks.

Therefore, REFORM applied its procurement and recruitment project, “Electronic Community Connections – E-COM Connect” in which the pilot project was funded by FASPAR/GIZ. The aim of this project is to develop a web-based platform that connects NGOs with the private sector in order to enhance transparency of procurement and recruitment procedures and combat corruption amongst both parties. Unequal opportunities for vendors greatly impacts the economic development in Palestine and the lack of access to the public on NGO procedures leaves room for negative assumptions and discredits NGOs. This online system will not only save time and money by reducing administration fees (transportation fees, travel time, archiving for audits) but also will be an online third party solution that is accessible and transparent to everyone. It will provide financial and administrative reports, number of bids and contracts, payment verification, satisfaction rates, NGO usage, and denial explanation. Most importantly, it will contribute to developing the local economy and increase social accountability by enhancing partnerships between public and private sectors and engaging the public in monitoring processes.

REFORM was selected among 200 short-listed candidates from over 2,000 applicants across the MENA region. For the next month, Board Member and IT Expert, Ms. Hedayah Shelleh, received online mentorship through webinars and Skype sessions with experts across the globe in various areas of expertise, including IT, social entrepreneurship, business management, marketing and branding. Through this engagement, commitment and feasibility of the project, E-COM Connect was selected as one of the top 33 finalists to compete in a pitch event in Casablanca, Morocco. During the event, REFORM was introduced to the Program Manager of the World Bank, speakers from BBC and CEOs from Voyaj, YouNoodle and many other businesses and international organizations.

After the first round of pitches, the REFORM team was selected to be in the top 10 finalists. Ms. Hedayah Shelleh was funded a trip to Washington, D.C. to network with members of the World Bank and other prominent organizations. The World Bank noted that they find extreme potential in the E-COM Connect project and would like to visit REFORM’s office in Ramallah on their next visit. Shelleh was introduced to new learning experiences that enhanced her communication, networking and business management skills. She aims to share the technical expertise and advice she gained with the REFORM staff in order to succeed in this venture and achieve their goals of a more transparent Palestinian society with equal access to opportunities.

To watch a recap of the event, click HERE.