Maryam Jamshidi

Book Cover

The Book — About

The Future of the Arab Spring: Civic Entrepreneurship in Politics, Art, and Technology Startups tells the long overlooked story of the grassroots initiatives, which are changing the face of Arab Spring countries and transforming societies in ways that are key to the ultimate success of the region’s revolutions.

Since protesters first took to the streets of Tunisia in December 2010, the Middle East and North Africa region has never been the same.

When the uprisings first began, spirits were high, as dictators fell and the long silenced voices of the people roared onto the political stage for the first time in decades.

As weeks turned into months and then years, however, the Arab Spring seemed to falter.

Some countries, like Syria, became embroiled in long and interminable civil wars. In other states, like Egypt and Tunisia, transitions to transparent, accountable, and democratic governments appeared hamstrung by deep political divisions, crumbling economies, and weak state institutions.

More than two and half years since the Arab Spring began, people in many regional countries continue to push for meaningful change and better opportunities for themselves and their fellow citizens.

But, a pervasive sense of hopelessness has gripped many inside and outside the region who see little headway being made. Indeed, much work still needs to be done to realize the revolutionary goals of bread, freedom, and dignity in many countries rocked by the Arab uprisings.

The Future of the Arab Spring tells a more hopeful story about the region through a look at “civic entrepreneurism” inside states that have been at the forefront of the Arab Spring, including Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria.

Since the uprisings’ earliest days, a surge in grassroots movements, organizations, initiatives, and even tech startups has kept the revolutions’ spirit alive, and symbolized an important, though largely unappreciated aspect, of the Arab Spring.

Through these entities, activists, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and filmmakers have applied their talents to the task of rebuilding their countries’ political, economic, social, and cultural fabric, in both direct and indirect ways.

Civic entrepreneurism has also reflected several new and important trends among populations in Arab Spring states, including increased political and social awareness, a growing interest in collaborating with others on matters of common concern, a burgeoning commitment to self-expression and risk-taking, and a rejection of traditional social expectations, the politics of fear, and government intimidation.

Collectively, these trends have profoundly shaped people’s behaviors, hopes, and dreams in ways that are equally as important as the outcomes of parliamentary elections and the health of national economies.

Featuring over thirty first-hand interviews with various civic entrepreneurs, The Future of the Arab Spring tells the story of these grassroots entities, from humanitarian committees in Syria and peaceful protest movements in Bahrain to activist film organizations in Egypt and art collectives in Yemen.

The time has come to pay attention to and understand the significance of these initiatives for the Arab revolutions.

These and other instances of civic entrepreneurism are a critical means for holding regional governments accountable, ensuring that revolutionary promises take root in Arab Spring societies, and instilling a profound desire for participatory democracy within regional populations.

Whether in the short or long term, civic entrepreneurship has made the region’s uprisings a truly unique and unprecedented phenomenon.