GreenfieldCities 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.
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).
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.
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.
A few kilometers from the Syrian border, in a small village called Al-Mkyfta in Mafraq region, GreenfieldCities has met farmers of “Hands of Badya”, one of the few farmer cooperatives in Jordan. The purpose of the meeting was to learn from the farmers about the challenges and opportunities of their cooperative in relation to the agricultural sector in Jordan.
The plans of GreenfieldCities to establish a cooperative around a farmer field school at the Mafraq campus were welcomed with much interest by the farmers. They expressed the need for access to new markets and more advanced technology to increase production and reach higher quality level.
The farmer field school, as part of a food value chain on the campus, aims to equip farmers within the cooperative with technical knowledge, skills and inputs to help them compete on costs and quality in the regional and international market. The farmers told that this will help many poor families from Jordan and Syria to become financially more secure.
After the discussion, GreenfieldCities staff went to the field to see how the farmers of the cooperative grow tomatoes, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and how they process dried tomatoes. The cooperative makes use of hydroponics to irrigate their crops, and expressed their satisfaction with the system as it saves them a lot of water and increases their production levels as well as quality levels.
We are thrilled to announce that from July 1st GreenfieldCities has opened its second office, located in a beautiful location in the center of the Jordanian town of Mafraq. Mafraq is the town in Northern Jordan where we develop our campus.
By locating in Mafraq we help to curb the trend of brain drain from the town to Amman, and we walk the talk of acting and hiring locally. Our office includes specific areas to create a safe living and working environment for women and has space to grow towards 10 employees. The office is a great base for local stakeholder consultations too (see picture of a visit to a local pepper farm).
Our local team consists of Hedzer, Alaa and Haneen and packs a lot of talent and experience. Their first task is to complete the ongoing feasibility study for our campus and to attract more co-development partners. All of this is well under way and local feedback is very positive. Our presence in Mafraq at a 10-minute walk from our campus project site brings us a big step closer to building and operating the campus.
On September 25th GreenfieldCities contributes to the SDG Action Day in Amsterdam
You may want to participate in our working session ‘Realizing SDGs while capitalizing on international business opportunities (in English)’. This session #13 is part of the morning program (11.00-12.30) and is targeting companies that are looking for “clean-tech” business opportunities in the Middle-East, and that can contribute to, and benefit from our clean teach campus development in the Mafraq Economic Free Zone in Jordan.
When: Tuesday September 25th, 9:30-18.00
Where:KIT/SDG-house, Mauritskade 63, Amsterdam
Program:See: SDG Gateway
Tickets: €40, see registration page.
We are looking forward to meeting you in Amsterdam in September
The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has given GreenfieldCities a grant of 400 k€ to fund an in-depth feasibility study for a pilot campus project in Mafraq, Jordan. The campus will serve and accomodate 1500 young local inhabitants, Jordanians and Syrian refugees alike, who will be able to live, study and work on site. The Campus will boost the local economy of Mafraq and will focus on creating jobs in several industries: ICT, Agriculture, Energy, Water and Leisure.
The Dutch Ministry praised the innovative and entrepreneurial ways in which GreenfieldCities works to contribute to the alleviation of the migration crisis and the tangible ways in which they work towards creating enabling environments for refugees in the region of origin.
For GreenfieldCities the 400 k€ grant represents an important milestone, as it reflects both the recognition and material support from the government for the project. As Arie van Beek – one of the founders – puts it: “Our mission can never be realised without public and political support”.
After a period of volunteering, the most talented Syrian and Eritrean team members earned a well-deserved labor contract to work for GreenfieldCities on our plans to curb migration in their regions of origin. Salim from Syria (left) will be working on research and partnerships, whereas Nahom from Eritrea (right) will be responsible for the financial accounting for GreenfieldCities.
By signing their contracts, both talents leave the social benefit system (uitkering) and become full-fledged employees. This is a major career-step that is unfortunately not yet the norm for refugees in the Netherlands. Historically, some 50% of the newcomers remains life-long dependent on the social benefit system.
We try to improve this situation with our mutually beneficial method: empowering refugees while simultaneously employing them to develop context-fit solutions in their regions of origin.
GreenfieldCities works hard to get refugees at competitive productivity levels. We believe that this is what is needed to achieve better integration, less burden on Dutch municipalities and an inclusive solution to forced migration. We strongly believe that Salim and Nahom will serve as a showcase for other refugee talent in the Netherlands. GreenfieldCities is looking forward to continue working together.
Our Syrian team has made a short video that explains in three minutes why and how GreenfieldCities is a great and realistic concept for curbing forced migration and improving refugee integration in Europe.
In the last cold winter week of 2018, GreenfieldCities visited De Ceuvel in Amsterdam. The site describes itself as a clean-tech ‘playground’ for innovation and creativity and a showcase for sustainable circular urban development. The former shipyard has been transformed by and for a community of volunteers with a passion for circularity.
De Ceuvel has areas for experiments related to urban food production and water re-use as well as a café, a hotel and meeting rooms. What is special about the site is that all infrastructure has been installed above the ground due to digging restrictions on the polluted shipyard. In order to be able to conduct experiments, De Ceuvel has a special arrangement with the municipality of Amsterdam to function as a partially regulatory exempt area. This fosters innovation, and fuels the creativity and sense of responsibility and ownership of the community.
We have had the opportunity to learn more about the concept, innovations and experiments through an inspiring meeting and site tour with Chander van der Zande, consultant of Metabolic, and member of De Ceuvel’s board. It was an inspiring afternoon that has allowed us to learn, to identify similarities with- and differences between De Ceuvel and the Campus in Jordan, and to search for points of collaboration.