Overwhelming Support for Mafraq Youth Business Campus

Financially supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, GreenfieldCities completed its feasibility study for the Mafraq Youth Business campus. The extensive study convincingly demonstrates feasibility and provides a roadmap for next steps. The Ministry states: “the feasibility study is a solid base for further development of the campus”.

The study concludes the YBC is feasible in all relevant aspects hosting 2500 Jordanian and Syrian youths, working in six sectors: Agri-Food, Water, ICT, Energy, Construction and Hospitality. Risks are at acceptable levels. Impact on at least 8 SDG indicators including “Decent Work and Economic Growth” is very significant.

Campus Overview with 6 Sectors

The project is unique as it includes a transition from donor funding to private impact investment financing. This is an important part of the GreenfieldCities vision: forced migration can best be tackled in regions of origin and this can ultimately be done without development aid subsidies. This transition is a hard condition for scalability of the concept and sustainable success.

Perhaps the most striking result is the overwhelming support for the idea inside Jordan. More than 50 ministries, institutions and companies endorse the GreenfieldCities effort for the Youth Business Campus and many of them commit to providing tangible support. In addition, key MPs in Dutch parliament support the Youth Business Campus model.

The required public investment in a working model for dignified, humane and sustainable reception in the region of origin is no-regret and very small compared to the avoided costs for hosting refugees in the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden. GreenfieldCities is discussing funding and execution of the next steps with several potential sponsors. For those who want to read more, the following downloads are available:

If you are interested in funding the next steps for development of the Youth Business Campus, please contact us.

Triodos Foundation First Friend GreenfieldCities

For the second consecutive year, Triodos Foundation made a substantial donation to GreenfieldCities. The Triodos Bank, which originates from the foundation, is one of the most sustainable banks in the world and more than 700.000 clients support their positive movement. Therefore, GreenfieldCities is proud that the Foundation become our first so-called friend of GreenfieldCities. Contributions like those of Triodos are important to continuously work on our mission to stop forced migration.

The Triodos contribution helped us to finalize the feasibility study for the Youth Business Campus in Mafraq Jordan and pay our architect’s salary for an additional 2 months enabling her to draft a key part of the feasibility study in which the urban planning and the architectural design of Youth Business Campus are explained in (graphical) detail.Bird Eyes View Youth Business Campus Mafraq

This increased the quality of final report of the study, and helps us to get more “friends” and funding on board. Ultimately, the Youth Business Campus can become an interesting green financing opportunity for the people who donate to the Foundation and the 700.000 clients of the Triodos Bank.

More information how your organization can become a GreenfieldCities friend is found here.

Contribute to Develop and Build an Information and Exposition Center GreenfieldCities Campus

Information Center GreenfieldCities Youth Business CampusGreenfieldCities is developing a Youth Business Campus to create a sustainable future for young Syrians and Jordanians in their own region of origin. We develop the campus in three stages (Pop-up, Touch-base and Fully developed) in the King Hussein bin Talal free zone close to the Syrian border. This is a place where Syrian and Jordanian youth can live, learn and work. To quickly create the first jobs, facilitate education and training, inform people about our plans, increase our visibility and already have actual presence in the free zone, GreenfieldCities aims to build an information and exhibition centre as soon as possible. The center will also serve as a podium for the small but thriving artist community in Mafraq. Right now GreenfieldCities is looking for people and organisations that want to financially contribute to this center.

The information and exposition centre will show the business campus in maquette form and have excellent facilities to present and explain GreenfieldCities plans to visitors. The Center will also be used for the Jordan GreenfieldCities’s office. Students of associated universities (Al Albayt University, University of Jordan) will help run the Center while doing an internship or graduation on subjects related to the center and the development of the business campus. GreenfieldCities’ staff will invest in bringing professional skills of the students to levels required by the (international) labour market. Students (doing Master or PhD thesis) from Dutch educational institutions such as Wageningen University, will help exchange of leading edge knowledge in the same relevant fields (Agriculture, Water, Energy).

Plan Groundfloor Information and Exhibition Center GreenfieldCities

Apart from office space, there will be place to organise workshops and courses while dorms for students, staff and the occasional guest will be part of the center as well.
For the sketch-design a grid of 3 m x 3 m x 3 m was strictly maintained, to enable pop-up production methods that make the actual implementation time of the center very short (about 2 months). Energy wise the Center will be operated independently from the grid and hence will be a showcase how energy can be saved, how renewable energy is produced and how the system between energy demand and supply can best be designed and operated. The water system will also be a showcase for sustainability: low consumption, high recycling rates.

The design, development, building and running of the Center will create jobs for Jordanian and Syrians alike. With its strategic location next to the highway, its high-profile characteristics and while connecting the city of Mafraq and the free zone, it will also help to attract national and international businesses to the free zone.

We estimate the costs for the design, development and building of the campus to be € 350 000. That sounds like a lot of money, and it is. On the other hand, if 350 readers of this item decide to donate € 1000 or 3500 readers decide to donate € 100, we can really plant the metaphorical seed for the campus. Please help us make this work!

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GreenfieldCities visits Businesses in Mafraq

GreenfieldCities co-organized a day-visit to Mafraq based businesses with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply. The delegation was joined by representatives of Luminus Education, an agricultural consultant of the International Labor Organization and the GreenfieldCities Advisory Board. Goal of the visit was to assess the business challenges and opportunities in Mafraq, in addition to the identification of demand for solutions in the area.

GFC visit to the KHBT Development Area

The day started with an introduction about the King Al-Hussain Bin Talal Development Area (Free Zone) by Mr. Khalid Sbihat, site engineer of the area. This is the zone where the Youth Business Campus is going to be located. He explained the various logistics, tax, partnering and regulatory advantages of the Free Zone. The delegation moved on for an inspiring visit to the factory of Petra Co., one of the leading air-conditioning solution providers in the world with a production line in the Mafraq Free Zone, close to the Youth Business Campus. The group discussion with Mr. Ahmad Khamees, director of the Mafraq branch, taught the delegation about the needs, challenges and advantages of being located inside the Mafraq Free Zone. It was also stated that the Free Zone needs more services, such as hospitality, healthcare and housing, exactly what GreenfieldCities is aiming to provide to the area.

GFC visit to the Petra HVAC Company

The delegation also visited two agro-food companies. At the Mafraq branch of Del Monte we discussed the tomato business and visited the greenhouses to have a look at the production techniques and technologies, such as hydroponics. The branch produces quality tomatoes on a large scale, mainly for export to the Gulf. Lastly, we visited one of the largest mushroom farms in Jordan. The main challenges for these agri-businesses are marketing, low wholesale prices for their produce on the market, a lack of water and high electricity bills.

GFC visit to a Mafraq Mushroom Farm

GreenfieldCities aims to support small- and medium farms in Mafraq to produce higher value crops and products while reducing water usage and other costs. The planned Farmer Field School on the GreenfieldCities Youth Business Campus will give farmers access to knowledge, technology and capital to increase their income and deal with the above challenges.

Student Team Al Al-Bayt University Wins GreenfieldCities Design Competition

As part of the feasibility study for the Mafraq Youth Business Campus, GreenfieldCities organized a design competition for students from the Al Al-Bayt University in Mafraq. Jordanian and Syrian students from the departments of Architectural Engineering, Renewable Energy and IT participated and were intensively coached by GreenfieldCities’ staff during the competition.

The multidisciplinary design exercise was a unique learning experience for the participating students, because they do normally not collaborate with students from different disciplines. This exercise forced them to look beyond their own discipline and integrate ideas from students with a different perspective. The winning group won JOD1500, in addition to a signed certificate, real Dutch flowers and an internship opportunity for the best student.

GreenfieldCities is committed to generate impact for young people from Mafraq and therefore believes in the importance of engaging youth in the design process for the Youth Business Campus. The Al Al-Bayt design competition was part of this process; a clear demonstration of GreenfieldCities’ local commitment to Mafraq.

Picture: the winning students from the Al al-Bayt University proudly show their certificates and Dutch flowers



Help save the world’s oldest church and create jobs for Jordanians and refugees

Whilst Jordan as a whole is becoming increasingly popular for international tourists and boasts a number of impressive historical and natural attractions, Mafraq Governorate (where the GreenfieldCities campus will be located) is currently a part of Jordan that is rarely visited. The vast region that borders Syria to the north currently has no formally established hotels and lacks the basic amenities required to cater for tourists. During a recent trip to Jordan, Jessica Beaumont, a GreenfieldCities intern working on the development of the hospitality sector on the GFC campus visited some sites in Mafraq that demonstrate incredible potential for sustainable  tourism development.

The oldest Christian Church in the world, not in good shape

Of particular interest, only ten minutes by car from the GreenfieldCities campus the small town of Rihab is home to, ‘the oldest church in the world’. Dating to the period AD33-70, the small underground church supposedly served as a place of worship and a home. It is suggested that 70 persecuted Christians who fled from Jerusalem once used the church. These 70 people lived in the church, practicing their faith in total secrecy until the Romans embraced Christianity as a religion a few hundred years later. Accessible only by narrow stairs leading to the underground space, the church resembles a cave and is twelve meters long and seven meters wide. Even today several families in Rihab have their own keys to the Church to be able to pray there. Perhaps most striking about the site, is the evident sense of neglect and simultaneously the great potential for further exploration. Small holes in the ground in the immediate vicinity reveal additional underground spaces which are currently unexplored and in some cases filled with trash.

Inside the oldest Christian Church

GreenfieldCities is helping to reduce youth unemployment in Mafraq and will help young people in Mafraq to turn their city into a thriving regional town. The existence of a heritage site of global proportions in Mafraq provides a perfect platform upon which to help realise these goals. Through the restoration of the church site and introduction of community based tourism in Rihab, GreenfieldCities can begin to open up Mafraq region for tourists, further supported by the campus’ hotel and high quality hospitality services.

There are many Christian historic sites in Rihab

As from today, GreenfieldCities will raise funds to rehabilitate the site and to return the church to a state acceptable for visitors. This can be done with relatively simple measures, such as improving access, adding basic amenities such as shading, drinking water and toilets. As with all GreenfieldCities activities, we seek solutions that are ultimately self-propelling. This means that we will help develop a small scale locally executed business model, allowing visitors to contribute to the conservation of the site and the growth of its spiritual and informative importance.

GreenfieldCities was invited and joined the Mafraq Catholic Christmas Celebration 2018

To reach our goals, we need approximately €50.000.  With your donations, this should be possible.  Besides rehabilitating the church and its surroundings, we also create between 10 and 20 sustainable jobs for young Jordanians and Syrians living in Rihab and Mafraq.


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Positive Outlook Feasibility Study Business Campus Mafraq

Plenary and Panel Discussion Workshop Feasibility Study 18 nov 2018On November 18th GreenfieldCities organized a workshop on the preliminary results of the Feasibility Study for a clean-tech Youth Business Campus in Mafraq for Jordanian and Syrian youth. The workshop was successful in two ways: the feasibility of the Campus looks positive and there was support across the board from key Jordanian stakeholders.

Supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, GreenfieldCities conducted extensive research in Mafraq governorate to find out how the local economy could be revitalized in a sustainable way through the Campus model. GreenfieldCities presented its objectives, a design for the Campus and key findings from the feasibility study.Sketch Design Pop-Up Stage Business Campus Feasibility looks good: the overall social, environmental and financial business case for long-term private sector growth in ICT, Energy, Water, Hospitality, Construction and Agri-Food appears strong enough. The roadmap for the creation of 1.500 new jobs for young people in Mafraq is characterized by a step-by-step approach: starting relatively small with a Campus for approximately 150 young people and growing gradually into a fully developed Campus where 1500 young people will learn, work and live.

While the funding of the first phase should come predominantly from public resources and donors, the business model for the Campus allows to make the transition towards private sector funding predominantly after 3 years. The Campus can be financially independent within 5 years. Helped by Jordanian students, our architect made a sketch design of the first phase. The first 150 young talents should be able to start working, living and learning on the Youth Business Campus by the end of 2019 or early 2020.Urban Plan Pop-Up Stage Business Campus

The event was attended by the Minister of ICT, H.E. Mothanna Gharaibeh, and the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Jordan, H.E. Barbara Joziasse. More than 90 attendants saw presentations from Dr. Iyad Abu Haltam, Board Member of the Chamber of Industry, Nayef Al-Bakheet, CEO of the Mafraq Development Corporation, Ruba Al Zu’bi, Managing Director of the Scientific Research Department of the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation and Haneen Al-Shdifat of GreenfieldCities. The speakers emphazised that the Campus will help tackle youth unemployment, which is believed to be above 50% in Mafraq, with the attraction of private sector investments to Mafraq and stimulate green economic growth. The Campus will furthermore provide the Mafraq Economic Free Zone (King Hussein Bin Talal Development Area) with an attractive front office to help attracting more businesses to the zone.

Attendants Workshop FS 18 nov 2018The attendants expressed strong support for the plans and actively contributed during break out discussions about the main challenges and opportunities for partnerships and funding. These discussions were facilitated and summarized in a plenary session by Mahmud Al-Duwayri, Ruba Al-Zu’bi, Laila Abuhassan, Abdelnabi Fardous and Ahmed Al-Salaymeh, members of the GreenfieldCities Advisory Board Jordan. Our Advisory Board contributes with strategic advice, network building, creating governmental support and local embedding of the project.

The event was hosted by the Amman Chamber of Industry which offered GreenfieldCities professional assistance and a wonderful venue for the workshop. Looking back at the event, GreenfieldCities is delighted with the positive reactions from stakeholders and support from the Advisory Board, and is looking forward to work with partners and donors to implement the first part of the Youth Business Campus in 2019. Arie van Beek, co-founder of GreenfieldCities, reflected upon this outcome: “During and immediately after the workshop, we realized our initiative has gained significant momentum”.

GreenfieldCities Workshop during SDG Action Day

GreenFfeldCities Workshop SDG Action DayGreenfieldCities presented output for the feasibility study for a clean-tech business campus in Mafraq in the form of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); “Decent work and economic growth”, “Quality education” and “Climate Action” to name a few. The organizing committee of the SDG Action Day asked GreenfieldCities to host a workshop to illustrate the theme of the day. We came up with a teasing proposition: “Realizing SDGs while capitalizing on international business opportunities”

The SDG action day held in Amsterdam aimed at cross-sector cooperation and boosting SDG action from the Netherlands. Participants were members of the business community, from municipalities, social organizations and knowledge institutions. By way of introduction, a lively plenary presentation offered an inspiring podium for outstanding SDG performers as well as promising organization all sharing their work and initiatives.

The second half of the day was allocated for workshops by different organisations from across the Netherlands. GreenfieldCities hosted a workshop session which was attended by about 30 persons interested in sustainable, international business opportunities foreseen in the GreenfieldCities business campus in Mafraq, Jordan. The workshop focused on presenting key sectors present in the future business-campus in Mafraq: water, agriculture, energy, hospitality, ICT and built environment.

The presentation underlined the potential for business opportunities in Mafraq within each sector, which in turn should be seen as powerful actions within the SDG framework. After presenting GreenfieldCities to the group, participants were divided into groups according to the six sectors. Feedback and advice was collected from individuals regarding the plans for each sector and several contacts were made with those interested in future communication. Overall, staff from GreenfieldCities were pleased with the outcome of the day and were glad to present the preliminary results of the business case for potential investors and sponsors for the business campus whilst making new and valuable contacts.

Link to the report of the SDG Action Day 2018 (Dutch).

Feasibility of Campus ICT Hub Tested in Workshop

One of the most promising sectors identified in the pre-feasibility study for the GreenfieldCities business campus in Mafraq is the ICT sector. Within the framework of the feasibility study a concept of an ICT hub centered around a Post-Academic Training Institute has been developed. Together with Int@j (Jordan ICT association), GreenfieldCities organised a workshop for ICT companies. Aim: to test the concept and to collect input and feedback.

Mafraq region has many underutilized ICT talents, not able to find jobs in Mafraq in the absence of locally based ICT companies. Aiming for Amman, the ICT capital of Jordan, is often not possible for job seekers due to the costs of transportation, the exhausting daily commute and cultural barriers, especially for women. This pushes much talented youth into lasting unemployment (60% of ICT graduates), even after graduation at a Jordanian university.

GreenfieldCities aims to curb this trend by attracting ICT companies, start-ups and experts to the Mafraq business campus to create locally relevant and valuable ICT job opportunities in Mafraq with a Post-Academic Training Institute as its educational starting point. GreenfieldCities achieves this by delivering a comprehensive package of incentives, developed together with education partners and ICT companies, that includes: premium yet cost-effective infrastructure, professional skills training, technical ICT training, internships and job positions at one of the ICT companies on the campus. The business case for this approach looks positive for participating ICT companies.

The participating ICT companies in the workshop learned about the plans and shared their challenges, drivers and needs. As anywhere in the world, also Jordanian ICT companies look frantically for the right talents and opportunities to do business in an effective manner. GreenfieldCities organized the ICT workshop together with Int@j, the ICT association of Jordan. More information about the concept of the GreenfieldCities Business Campus ICT Hub can be found in a onepager (pdf).

Jordan Student Groups Contribute to Sketch Design Business Campus

The sketch design of the Mafraq clean-tech business campus is one of the key tasks of the feasibility study commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Recently, GreenfieldCities lead architect, Dana Ibrahim, visited Jordan and spent four weeks working more closely with the Jordan team, also meeting with Jordanian architects, engineers and urban planners including students for these professions.

Importantly, Dana visited the location of the campus site giving her a much clearer perspective of, and a new sense of enthusiasm for, the design she has been working on when based in the Netherlands. Dana also deepened her knowledge about Jordanian architecture and urban planning and their relationship with the Jordanian climate and culture.

In order to acquire firsthand feedback and knowledge from local people, GreenfieldCities has been working with student groups at Al al-Bayt University (AABU) as well as the University of Jordan. Students from both universities have been working on focused design projects outside of their curriculum, to learn more about urban planning, its challenges and its various layers, for example; energy, greenery and water. University students analyzed the clean-tech campus site and made a design proposal for the site. Whilst in Jordan, Dana supervised these students, discussing their progress, exploring research questions and attending a final presentation of results at the University of Jordan.

Midterm result Students UoJ
Suggestion from a student group for the urban planning of the Campus site.

With some students from AABU, Dana also visited The Edgo Atrium – a Leed Gold Certified Building – where students listened to a presentation about sustainable architecture and the importance of building green. Working with students from the Jordan universities has provided GreenfieldCities with a great starting point for the urban planning aspect and the sketch design of the project, whilst simultaneously forging connections with the institutions and students for future collaborations.
Now back in the Netherlands and with a clearer perspective of the local context, Dana is busy working on the urban plan and sketch design for the GreenfieldCities business campus.