ACE is a new AFAC special program in partnership with Drosos Foundation, and supported by the German Federal Foreign Office. It fosters a collective space for reflection on sustainability and is designed to inspire, invigorate and strengthen small and medium cultural institutions, based and working in the Arab region, and whose initiatives engage with communities. Twenty-four arts and culture institutions will benefit from three cycles during the period 2018-2021, i.e. eight per cycle. ACE comprises entrepreneurship training and mentoring components, as well as an incentive grant for the participating institutions to implement an innovation activity aimed at improving their institutional resilience. The novelty of ACE is that it is experimental, far-reaching and encourages learning from other sectors. It focuses on inspirational case studies, and intends to share best practices and experiences mainly South-South, and to share findings using an on-line interactive platform that benefits many other institutions not directly participating in the program. The program provides an opportunity for these institutions to re-examine their mission in light of a rapidly-changing globalized world; re-assess their relevance to their audiences and stakeholders; get inspired by peer institutions in other sectors and geographies facing the same challenges and opportunities; and finally to acquire new skills and capacities to improve their long-term sustainability.

The program is conceived as an experiment in “learning and doing” crafted and delivered by a group of specialists from the culture sector and beyond, that will continue to evolve in content throughout its planned three-year duration. ACE workshops’ modules include strategy, communications and fundraising; learning from leaders in microfinance, social media and entrepreneurship; case studies from peer institutions in Africa, the Indian sub-continent and South America; as well as reflections on global themes of inequality, technology and ethics. Each cycle spans one year and benefits eight arts and culture institutions. The director and deputy director of the respective institutions participate in the 12-month program that includes three workshops as well as mentorship and follow-up in-between. Participants will additionally be supported with a grant of $25,000 to fund a specific innovation activity, inspired by the program, to strengthen the organization’s sustainability.


Arts and culture institutions in the Arab region operate in an increasingly challenging environment. Dependency on any one type of support be it state, corporation, foundations or individuals, comes with potential pressure and risks. In cases where regulations are strict on institutions, many cannot make ends meet, let alone achieve their full potential. Few have opportunities to take time to reflect on their development and to re-invent themselves, further undermining their sustainability. With funding for arts and culture generally decreasing in this sector, and with the inevitable changes in the funding landscape, arts and culture institutions need to continuously adapt by thinking out of the box and diversifying their sources of funding.

One of the recommendations that came out of the ten years’ study in 2017 on AFAC was to consider supporting institutional resilience of cultural organisations. With its own track record in supporting arts and culture and identifying innovative sustainability approaches, AFAC is committed to take the lead on supporting a community of practitioners in their quest to revisit their raison d'être in order to remain relevant to the communities they address, and to develop more sustained operations that generate artistic and public value, and to be able to effectively communicate the impact of their initiatives.

As arts and culture institutions, we are public benefit entities with much to be proud of and with a profusion of questions that keep us on our toes. What is the value we generate? What is the social impact we create and for whom? How can we remain relevant and connected to our communities? How is what we do locally linked to global efforts for sustainable development? What can we learn from practitioners in different contexts and sectors? What kind of stories do we tell of our work and with what tools? How do we mobilize individuals, corporations and institutions in innovative ways to invest in arts and culture in our region? What are ethical considerations related to sources of funding? How adaptive is our leadership to espouse an entrepreneurial spirit? How do we inspire ourselves to innovate and what are our priorities? How can we work with a public and non-profit sector that aims to be as efficient as the private sector, and a private sector that tries to be socially-minded? What other aspects should we be busy with?

These are some of the queries that the Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship (ACE) program will unravel.

Selection Process and Criteria

ACE is a curated program and the process of application is through nomination. For the first cycle, 29 nominators were involved, both individual and institutions, with wide knowledge of arts and culture institutions in the Arab region. AFAC received 82 nominations, out of which 7 were recommended more than once, so there were in total 73 distinct institutions nominated. Out of those that AFAC contacted to apply to ACE, 48 institutions expressed interest and a total of 39 effectively submitted their applications. The jury selected 8 final candidates.

The three jury members who deliberated on the final selection for this first cycle of ACE were Khadija El Bennaoui (Morocco), Ahmed El Attar (Egypt) and Mokhtar Kokache (Lebanon/Syria). Rich discussions among the jurors reflected their focus on prioritizing those institutions that stood the highest chance to benefit from the opportunity that ACE offered and have existing or the potential for wider social impact. The two key criteria for selection were:


  • role or potential role they play within the arts and culture sector;
  • community engagement and reputation;
  • how internal reflections on challenges and priorities are linked to the ACE program in terms of modules and spirit;
  • the extent to which the institution will benefit from the program; and
  • experience and stage of development;


  • calibre of the management team;
  • their willingness to think outside the box;
  • how motivated and able they are to experiment with new tools and entrepreneurial approaches.

ACE Cycle 4 | Third Workshop | Beirut, Lebanon | 15-18 November, 2022

The third workshop of the fourth ACE cycle took place in Beirut between 15 and 18 November, 2022. Accompanied by specialists and mentors as well as experts with diverse backgrounds and experiences from Egypt, Palestine, Tunisia, Lebanon, England and Brazil, participants were exposed to a plethora of ideas, such as Individual Giving, Crowdfunding, Governance and Entrepreneurship in the cultural sector. They explored a range of funding models and approaches to supporting cultural and creative organizations and projects. And learning about crowdfunding as an increasingly viable method of fundraising and community building. They were introduced to digital platforms and technologies which are revolutionizing the arts and culture sector; they also learned about solidarity economy through a tour of the cultural landscape in Brazil. Additionally, they were inspired by previous ACE grantees, exploring their organizational and programmatic challenges and successes.

For the full program, click here


Crowdfunding for Culture
Khaoula Behi
Cultural crowdfunding refers to the use of crowdfunding to finance the production, distribution, and consumption of cultural and artistic expression. Lowering communication and outreach costs as a result of technology has allowed cultural organizations, challenged by the decrease in public funding and the increased competition with regards to donors and sponsors, to adopt crowdfunding as an increasingly viable method of fundraising and community-building.
This session is about the definitions of crowdfunding platforms and the typology of how you could transform and convert the “likes” on social media to financial contributions towards cultural and creative projects or initiatives.


How Can Cultural and Entrepreneurial Approaches be Sympathetic Collaborators?
Siân Prime
In this discursive presentation, a range of funding models and approaches to supporting cultural and creative organizations and projects will be explored. Examples will be drawn from countries including Uganda, Kenya, Ireland and the UK, and we will reflect on the ways that generating revenue can strengthen values, relationships with stakeholders and ensure sustainability. We will look at the potential that emergent tools such as technology have given us, which has also led to the reinvention of some traditional approaches. Additionally, we will consider the complexity of commercializing culture and the tension of economic value and social values.


A Frame on the Cultural Landscape in Brazil
Georgia Haddad
Brazil is a continental country with a diverse population and a rich arts and culture landscape. In this session, we will have an overview of the history of cultural policies in the country while highlighting some successful yet challenging moments. We will also explore some worthy examples of recent cultural entrepreneurship, community-engaged arts and cultural initiatives from Brazil’s diverse population and socio-political contexts.


Digital Platforms
Reem Kassem
Digital platforms and technologies are revolutionizing the arts and culture sector and our communal aesthetic experiences. How are current experiments and efforts in digital artistic production and presentation spearheading and imagining the future? What is at stake in terms of audience engagement, community building and monetization of culture through innovative technologies? In this session, we will focus on a platform founded by Reem Kassem, called Basita. We will discuss the steps that were needed for the research, development and design of the platform and Reem will share some early learnings that they are accumulating in terms of formal considerations, engagement, demographics and market viability. We will also discuss other existing virtual platforms and innovative artistic projects that are exploring this realm.


Commons Now!
Georgia Haddad
The commons is a general term for shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal interest. In this session, we will explore the concept of commons, its roots and how it has come to be practically defined in various examples, situations and contexts. We will also investigate related concepts such as Shared or Solidarity Economy. Can art and various cultural practices be considered a commons? Together we will discuss various examples of networks, collectives and organizations working with the commons as a framework for action and creation.


When Culture Meets Entrepreneurship
Khaoula Behi
Start-up mentality and spirit is used to literally create something out of nothing: mobilize the structures, alliances and strategies needed to leverage one’s assets rather than being restricted by financial constraints. Entrepreneurship develops new audiences as well as the opportunity for creating revenue to invest back into cultural content.
What can we learn from the existing entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports different sectors? Could enablers such as accelerators, incubators, and makers’ labs help us re-imagine the entrepreneurial journey of a curator, an artist, or a cultural manager?


What About Governance?
Moukhtar Kocache
In this refresher session, we will highlight what is meant by Governance in the non-profit sector, and how Boards of Directors or Governing Boards form the foundation of organizations’ stewardship, accountability and development. What is the real function of Boards? Who should we invite to serve on such structures of governance? What should be the profiles and responsibilities of board members? How can we ensure a balance between managing, leveraging and keeping board members in check?

Individual Giving
Mohammad Hamdan
Why is it essential to sustain and diversify income, and how can this measure kick off and be promoted? In this session, we aim to take a flavor of individual giving and community giving. We will have the chance to analyze real cases and interactively draw the first conclusions and next steps for our initiatives to consider Individual giving as a sustainable source of income.


Economy as a Cultural Practice - How to Turn the Financial Crisis into a Cultural Question?
Yazan Khalili
Funding has been the dominant dilemma of cultural practices in the world, and in our region in particular. It is a dilemma that has structures, laws, and an economic environment that depends on it. To critically approach this dilemma, we need to understand the cultural institution as an ideological structure that maintains this dilemma, because it acts as if it is ahistorical, as if it has been functioning outside of the progression of time and politics, as if it is not a result of years of policy and regulation changes through the funding processes and requirements of the donors. As such, we need to think of how to reimagine the cultural institution, to challenge it, and subvert it.

About Entrepreneurship
Christina Chehade
The session will explore the different stages of a new enterprise venture from seed stage to scale-up and beyond, including the support and funding to these ventures at different stages of their lifecycle. The discussion will also focus on scale-ups, their growth and main challenges. Scale-ups are high-growth, innovative Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) that have a high impact on local economies and contribute heavily to the development of ecosystems around the world. We will also tackle the importance of networks in such ecosystems, and the creation of a “multiplier effect”.


ACE Cycle 4 | Second Workshop | Beirut, Lebanon | 15-18 August, 2022

The second workshop of the fourth ACE cycle took place in Beirut between 15 and 18 August, 2022. In this workshop, we concluded the design thinking series with a focus on developing prototypes for innovative programs and testing them with audiences. We also concluded the communication strategy series by going into the details of the implementation of an effective communication strategy. Accompanied by specialists and mentors as well as experts with diverse backgrounds and experiences from Egypt, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United States and Lebanon, participants were exposed to a plethora of ideas, such as cultural policies, leadership, organizational management and the basics of financial resilience. They learned about the relationship between art, social change and narrative shift, and they dove deeper into how best to manage both the social and business parts of a social enterprise. Additionally, they were inspired by colleagues in the field, exploring their organizational and programmatic challenges and successes through case studies from South Africa and the United States.

For the full program, click here


Survival of the Fittest? (Some) South African and African Case Studies in Sustainable Artistic Practice
Mike Van Graan
South Africa is a metaphor for the world: a wealthy – mainly white – minority enjoying the fruits of globalization based on the exploitation of the black majority under apartheid (as is the case with colonialism). Inequality, poverty and unemployment have increased since the formal demise of the racist ‘crime against humanity’, and yet it is overwhelmingly black people who continue to be on the underside of history, notwithstanding a black government having been voted into power 28 years ago. Corruption is rife and the ‘rainbow nation’, once the darling of the world under Nelson Mandela, is wracked by violent crime, racial strife, Afrophobia and social ills associated with poverty and social exclusion.
And yet, the country is deemed to have the second largest, and the most diverse economy on the continent, one of the world’s most progressive constitutions and relatively to other African countries, sophisticated cultural policies and public funding. However public funding is skewed towards buildings rather than creative practice. So how do artists survive? What are some models that sustain creative work? What lessons may be gleaned from the South African and African experiences that could be replicated or adapted in similar situations?


Communication Strategy/ Goals and Activations
Hatem Imam
The aim of this session is to help you to consider questions such as: what are your short and long-term goals? What are the obstacles that keep you from reaching your goals? How do you translate your goals into activations? It is also aims at identifying activations across different media, and specifying how each will help you reach some of the outlined goals. In addition to going into the details of how a strategy should be implemented, going from the generalities of the message, its tone and visual language, to the details of which platforms to use and how, as well as the timeline of deployment and execution.


Cultural Power to Transform Society
Favianna Rodriguez
Arts and culture forge our collective imagination. they have the potential to transform society and address some of the world’s most critical issues, from climate change, to gender equity to democracy. Favianna Rodriguez, Artist Activist and Founder of the Center for Cultural Power, shares how she grew her organization to be one of the most influential cultural institutions in the United States, transforming the way artists engage in social change. She shares key concepts about the relationship between art, social change and narrative shift, and presents case studies about how artists can be supported to engage in this new era of cultural production. She also explains how she solicited philanthropists and non-arts partners to uplift the critical importance of the arts, and how she helped shape a lexicon that eventually led to increased support for marginalized artists across the USA. Participants learns about how setting bold visions, scaling, centering impacted communities, collaboration with other sectors including entertainment, and arts and culture in general, shape politics.


Gearing Towards Financial Resilience
Amany Alhadka
After two years of living through pandemic times, we are still adjusting and pivoting, as humans but also as organizations. The organizations that survived the pandemic and were able to continue their work were the most financially resilient. They were able to pivot and respond to the crises, and at the same time, were able to look ahead and do scenario planning. But what do we mean by Financial Resilience and how do we gear our organization towards it?
In this session, we learn about the different elements of financial resilience and the building blocks that any organization needs to have in place in order to achieve greater sustainability and resilience. We discuss strategic finance as opposed to bookkeeping, and learn new concepts such as true program cost and core mission support. We also learn how a strategic budgeting approach can strengthen an organization’s financial management capacities and enable it to develop different scenarios. Finally, we cover income diversification and learn more about its prerequisites, about different sources of financial inflows and some of the new trends in financing organizations.


What’s Policy Got to Do With It?
Mike Van Graan
Cultural policies in many Global South countries are known more for their hollow ambitions than for their practice in making a real difference in the lives of practitioners. Yet, whether they are aware of it or not, whether they like it or not, creative workers are impacted by cultural policies, in their own countries or by policies made elsewhere and implemented across borders. The Goethe Institute, French Institute and British Council are key supporters of the arts in countries where there is poor public sector support. But how do these institutions reflect the cultural policies of their countries, or of the European Parliament? What of UNESCO protocols such as the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and the 1980 Recommendation on the Status of the Artist? How might such international policy documents help practitioners in their home countries, and in building their international markets? This session interrogate the good, the bad and the ugly of policies in the arts to trigger action in the interest of the sector.


Design Thinking
Nadia Roumani
This session provide an opportunity for participants to dive deeper into the concepts of ideation and prototyping. Participants work on brainstorming ideas for one of their internal processes - practicing the skill of generating a wide range of ideas before selecting. It aims at exploring the power of prototyping–building a low-resolution concept and sharing it with the intended user in order to answer a question or test an assumption.


Social entrepreneurship
Fadel Zayan
With the emergence of social enterprises in the Arab region, and the increased interest in this type of enterprise from clients, beneficiaries, donors and investors, some key questions are rising about how best to operate and manage a new social enterprise, given the context of the Arab region. This session reviews our general understanding of social entrepreneurship and where it belongs within a spectrum that includes charities and businesses. It explores how best to manage both the social and business parts of a social enterprise, with an interactive session addressing questions like how to manage impact, how to identify necessary versus desirable costs, and how to efficiently divide roles and responsibilities within an organization.


Robert Wolfe
In this session, we look at the three aspects of leadership, and aim to apply certain frameworks on the individuals and their organization to see if these fit and deliver value. We distinguish between leading self (think time-management, self-motivation, purpose, discipline); leading others (think connecting, clarity of communication, dealing with imperfections, setting goals, etc.); and leading a vision (think of setting goals for the organization, knowing the purpose of the organization and how to communicate it, setting strategies and changing them as well as managing stakeholders).


Organizational Structure
Robert Wolfe
It is an eternal question for leaders of organizations. Do we have an optimal organizational structure? Should we tweak it, or try something completely different? How do people think about this in different sectors? What do recent innovations look like? Do I build the organization around my personality or do I try to make it run without me?


ACE Cycle 4 | first Workshop | Beirut, Lebanon | 9-12 May, 2022

The first workshop of the fourth ACE cycle took place in Beirut between 9 and 12 May, 2022. In this first workshop’s introductory series of sessions, participants presented their organizations and their work, as well as exchanged and reflected about their contexts, narratives, successes and challenges. Accompanied by specialists and mentors as well as experts with diverse backgrounds and experiences from Egypt, Tunisia, India, the United States and Lebanon, participants were exposed to a plethora of ideas, such as design thinking practices, the crafting of effective communications strategies, and the basics of financial resilience. They explored important questions related to the positioning and value of their work, and learned about organization-specific and country-wide approaches to cultural sustainability and independence. Additionally, they were inspired by colleagues in the field, by exploring their organizational and programmatic challenges and successes through case studies from Egypt and India.

For the full program, click here


The Global Context and the Arab Region
Oussama Rifahi
The world around us is evolving at a rapid pace. Can we talk about progress or regression with the current headlines? What are the major forces shaping our world today and tomorrow? Are the principles and values that we believe in personally and at the core of the work of our institutions unchanged? Are we still relevant to our communities and audiences as cultural actors? Where do we focalize the meager resources at our disposal to further the mission of our institutions? What are the skills and attitudes needed for the cultural leadership of the future?

Design Thinking 1
Nadia Roumani
This session, which is the first in a series of three to be delivered throughout the program’s duration, will guide you in how to apply human-centered design methods, mindsets and behaviors, to a program you are looking to launch or redesign in the coming year. A number of case studies will be shared during the session, and you will be taken through a series of exercises to answer the following questions: who are you specifically designing for? What need are you addressing, or emotion are you trying to prompt? How might we generate several exciting ways to achieve that goal?


Social Business Modeling: From Venture Philanthropy to Impact Investment
Reya Kanaan
The last decade has seen the emergence of social enterprises in the Arab region. A nascent phenomenon in much of the region, the understanding of the concept and where it belongs within a spectrum that includes charities and businesses, remains unclear. This session will look at clarifying the different structures available for organizations with both a social purpose and an aspiration towards sustainability. Taking best practices from both the region and across the globe, we will seek to identify the structure model that best suits you, the funding opportunities that are available, and how to articulate your vision in a model that is attractive to both supporters and potential investors.


Positioning & Value: Locating Ourselves within the Arts & Culture Ecology and Framing our Societal Value
Moukhtar Kocache
In an increasingly discordant and competitive cultural and civil society landscape, how can arts and culture organizations better position themselves and describe their missions? How can that process help them be more strategic about their energies to secure increased social and financial stability? For a variety of reasons, both intrinsic and extrinsic, the arts and cultural sector falls short in proving its value in a way that can be understood by funders, recipients and the public at large. What are some of the categories, strategies and methodologies that can help artists and cultural leaders better outline their contributions and value to the “public good”? What are the opportunities, misconceptions, and pitfalls of increased specificity, measurement, evaluation and classification in the arts and culture sector?

Introduction to Financial Management
Thérèse Ghobriel
This session presents the basics of financial management, with a focus on the development and maintenance of budgets. We will explore how to create a customized chart of accounts, and how to develop project and operating budgets, so as to generate an annual organizational budget. Other financial procedures and tools will also be presented, to help you better understand financial systems and enable you to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of your operations and future planning decisions, in view of ensuring your organization’s health, growth and sustainability.


Unsettling the Dust: India at the Edge
Arundhati Ghosh
This session will take you on a journey across India to see how artists and cultural practitioners are surviving, building solidarities and mobilizing resources to continue to practice their art, ask difficult questions, disrupt oppressive powers and imagine building collective futures. It will attempt to analyze how diverse strategies and inter-sectoral comradeships are enabling the arts and culture sector to look beyond traditional means of support and counter the challenges of the present times.


Communication Strategy
Hatem Imam
This session on strategic communications campaigns aims to dovetail with previous conversations around messaging, language, identity, storytelling, and media engagement. In addition to reflections on the moderator’s experience working with diverse cultural organizations across the region and globally, participants will be asked to actively consider their audiences, mission, and goals to jointly discuss relevant approaches to communications. How can we respond to today’s volatile environment and in doing so, redefine the narrative and reality facing our organizations and communities? Discussions will include the relationship between communication goals and tactics, and the balance between traditional and social media.


External Diagnosis Tools
Ouafa Belgacem from Culture Funding Watch
This first session by Belgacem will introduce participants to three key tools that help guide their analysis and understanding of their environment and context. These tools are Stakeholder Analysis, a process of reflection on one’s added value within a broader ecology and environment; Power Analysis, a mapping exercise to identify key competitors and potential partners as well as a deeper understanding of how to engage with others in the field; and Dynamics Analysis, a methodology of analysis of the relationships that exist between various stakeholders.

Internal Diagnosis Tools
Ouafa Belgacem from Culture Funding Watch
This second session will familiarize participants with various thinking processes and exercises to allow leaders to explore their organization’s existing assets and internal resources for the development of fundraising and income generation strategies. Key elements include identifying knowledge and expertise existing within the organization, resources already within reach and what else might be produced to develop and launch a healthy income stream strategy. Participants will be introduced to a variety of types of resources, especially earned income and a broader understanding of the fundamentals of resource mobilization.


How to Build, While We Work
Lina Attalah from Mada Masr
You will be introduced to the story of Mada Masr’s inception, focusing on institutional building for creative and critical knowledge production; how the content (creative and critical knowledge production) informs the form (the institution) and vice-versa. You will learn about a number of creative projects that Mada Masr developed and will reverse engineer them to show what were the enabling elements that made these projects work.

Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship Third Cycle

Click here to explore the 2021 cycle of the Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship program

Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship Second Cycle

Click here to explore the 2020 cycle of the Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship program

Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship First Cycle

Click here to explore the 2019 cycle of the Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship program

Previous Jurors

1 2

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