Back to Israel & Palestine programme

When The Crowd Funds Your Impact

Introducing three social impact projects in Palestine who have run successful crowdfunding campaigns with our partner organization ‘BuildPalestine’

© forumZFD

Since 2017, forumZFD is partnering with BuildPalestine, a Ramallah-based organization with a big dream: to connect 12 million supporters to social impact projects in Palestine. They believe that a strong community of people who believe in an idea is the key to sustainable success and to escape the donor dependency that currently characterizes the Palestinian economy. On their website, BuildPalestine features more than a dozen social impact projects that anyone around the world can support through crowdfunding. Together with our counterparts from BuildPalestine, we met three of the amazing people who have successfully run campaigns with BuildPalestine.

Raed Hammouri, Director of ‘Disarming Design from Palestine’, crowdfunding campaign to open the ‘Alternative School of Design’ in Bir Zeit

disarming design
© forumZFD/BuildPalestine

Raed is the director of Disarming Design from Palestine, a unique organization that aims to spread alternative narratives about contemporary Palestine through design. Among their creations are a checkpoint brush (to brush of dust and bad memories after crossing a checkpoint), a chess consisting entirely of watchtowers and water tanks (see the picture) and a fruit bowl made out of old newspapers from Palestine.

“My name is Raed Hammouri, I am the director of Disarming Design from Palestine. Like any social enterprise in Palestine, our number one obstacle is financing. We don’t want to have large funds from international organizations, we are not looking for donations from international donors - we want to be locally funded by the private sector and the community, so running a crowdfunding campaign was the right option for us.

Through our crowdfunding campaign with BuildPalestine, we were able to launch the Alternative School of Design. Since we had the crowdfunding campaign last year, we ran four major training courses for designers and residence, we were able to add more tools and to renovate our space. Now we have a social café, a gallery, a library, and a guesthouse that will become an additional training room to cover the high demand.

We were able to reach a lot of people who were interested in our products. Our customers became friends, and friends became supporters. Our network grew significantly through the campaign. Crowdfunding turned out to be a great way to promote our work and to show more of what we are doing. It’s like a snowball. Almost every day we received applications from people who wanted to come to give more courses or people who would like to meet our designers and artisans, so the crowdfunding was a successful way to expand and become known."


Have a look at the incredible designs through which Palestinian designers share their perspectives of the conflict:

"Since it was the first time we have had a crowdfunding campaign, the team from BuildPalestine was really motivated and excited to help us. They helped us to create the right video and to find the best story to tell. They really know how to run a crowdfunding campaign in a strategic way, to think of all possible scenarios. The nicest part of this experience is that we have new friends now. Engaging with other initiatives, offering our space for other organizations …that’s how we are paying the community back. We always say that this place is an open space for other initiatives to come and run their activities for free. We got so much from the community in the crowdfunding campaign, now we want to help other social initiatives to continue and to give back.”

Read the full Interview with Raed here.

Shirabe Yamada, Director of ‘Sunbula’, crowdfunding campaign for a book on Palestinian Embroidery

© forumZFD/BuildPalestine

Shirabe is the director of Sunbula, a fair-trade non-profit trade organization committed to promoting social justice and economic empowerment. In their little store which is just a five minutes’ walk from forumZFD’s Jerusalem office, they sell traditional handicrafts made by local artists. When we visited Shirabe for the interview she just received the first print of a book on Palestinian embroidery that was ten years in the making. Needless to say, she was ecstatic to finally hold the product of her hard work in her hands.

 “My name is Shirabe Yamada, and I am from Japan. I have been the executive director of Sunbula, a Palestinian fair-trade organization. Sunbula is a very unique project, an NGO with a social business component. We focus on income-generating activities for the people who would otherwise do not have the means to support their families and currently have 24 partners from all across Palestine. Most of our partners are women’s organizations but we also work with people with disabilities.

In 2018, we ran a crowdfunding campaign with BuildPalestine in order to raise the funding to publish a book called “Seventeen Embroidery Techniques from Palestine: An Instruction Manual”. We wanted to make this book because when people think about Palestinian embroidery today it is almost always only about the cross-stitch. Most of the stitching techniques that people used a long time ago when making those beautiful dresses are no longer used and forgotten. So it was a race against time to document and catalogue all these techniques in order to revive them. We went around in in Gaza, in villages and refugee camps in Ramallah and in Amman and spoke to the older women who still remembered these techniques, so we were able to compile the names, origins, and the use of them. We also filmed the women who knew how to embroider with these techniques, broke down the stitching process step-by-step, turned them into the illustration, and wrote the instructions."

This beautiful book on Palestinian Embroidery was published through the power of crowdfunding. It is now available at Sunbula’s Shop in East Jerusalem and on their website.

"The reason we went to crowdfund with BuildPalestine is that we were having a difficult time with the funding. It takes a lot of work and expenses to publish a book, and we couldn’t raise enough from the traditional fundraising with donor organizations. So we decided to go out and tell the world about this project and get support. I’m really glad we worked with BuildPalestine for the campaign, it was a fantastic experience. I think what comes out of crowdfunding is not just about the money. You can generate the kind of support that you will not get from the traditional fundraising. Anyone can donate from $5 or $10 and feel that they are part of creating the project together. It is about the connection that you make and the excitement and energy that you can generate.

Lesson learned? It’s a lot of work. Anybody who wants to run a crowdfunding campaign should go in with their eyes wide open, knowing it’s going to take lots of your energy and time for it to be successful. But it’s really worth it. The work that we do - directly in the communities and with the people - is very empowering and beautiful. I think that’s what keeps me going.”

Read the full Interview with Shirabe here.

Daoud Ghannam, founder of uMake, crowdfunding campaign to expand co-working  space in Ramallah

Daoud Ghannam found that there is one crucial thing that is missing in Palestine: space - space to cooperate, to build coalitions and to support each other’s ideas. Whenever we at forumZFD have meetings with our Palestinian partners who are not allowed to travel to our office in Jerusalem we rent a room at uMake. Not only is it a place with beautiful interior, giant flipcharts and many interesting events, it also has one of the best coffees in town.

“I am Daoud Ghannam, the founder of uMake. I started uMake about a year and a half ago because I needed a space to work in with my friends, and we didn’t like going to cafes and restaurants all the time. And from here came the idea of uMake - to provide a space that’s clean, good, quiet, and that’s open for people to benefit from. We focused on having an open environment for entrepreneurs, free-lancers, youth, and students who need an environment in which they have the space and the community to benefit from each others’ experiences. uMake then grew to be more than just a co-working space, its currently a community of hard workers, dreamers and changemakers. As a community, we work to empower and support each other professionally and personally.

Recently, we noticed that our space was getting small, and we needed to expand. BuildPalestine was not something we’d initially considered, because we thought of ourselves as a for-profit company. But later we saw that instead of seeking investment or to take loans, we could crowdfund. Crowdfunding was a great tool to use in order to expand. Many people heard about uMake from the crowdfunding campaign, many people knew uMake but didn’t really know what we do - things became clearer to them. There were also people who’d never been to uMake, or even to Palestine, and who contributed significantly to the campaign. So, one shouldn’t focus on their network only, but to try to reach a broader network that could have potential."

uMakes incredible achievements in just one year are a prove to the things that are possible if you bring the right people together.

"The main thing that changed for me personally was that I saw that we have a real impact, and that there are people who believe in us, and most importantly - that we should keep doing what we’re doing, even though there are challenges, we should keep moving. And the other thing was that I saw the power of outreach, the power of showing people what you are doing, and what you are asking them. Because if you’re just doing your thing alone and nobody knows about you, it’s different than showing everyone. I saw the reaction of the people, so it gave me more confidence to continue doing what I’m doing and even grow more.”

Read the full Interview with Daoud here.

If you are interested in social impact projects in Palestine, have a look at the campaigns featured on BuildPalestine’s website, where you can support campaigns like the ones of Disarming Design, Sunbula and uMake.



Back to Israel & Palestine programme