The situation in the Middle East seems hopeless. Leaders on both sides are unable to envision or bring about a peaceful end to the conflict. Even in the best-case scenario, it would take years to establish the necessary trust and institutions.
So we can't waste time. And we should not leave it to the leaders to figure things out.
Stable peace hinges on increased trade, investment, and positive-sum interaction among all people in the region—Arabs, Israelis, Muslims, Jews, and Christians. When life gets better, and the future seems bright, people are less likely to pick up a weapon. When people do business together, they are less likely to believe hateful lies about their neighbors.
Ordinary people can do more to accelerate regional prosperity. I want to empower such people and amplify their efforts—and I need your help.
What's the plan?
Create a fellowship and grants program to accelerate the economic integration of the Middle East. This means supporting entrepreneurs and thinkers working to increase and facilitate investment, trade, and understanding between people in the region. It's called The Old New Fellowship, alluding to the Middle East's rich history and bright future.
What kind of people do we want to support? Anyone working to promote positive-sum interactions. It could be a technologist working on a new educational startup, an economist working on a feasibility study for new infrastructure investment, a writer working on a new book, a scientist working on new agricultural varieties, or a therapist working on a new approach to help trauma survivors.
We will take a portfolio approach to social impact and fund a variety of ideas and initiatives — on the assumption that many will fail, but some will change the world. We want to support any effort that facilitates more positive-sum interactions between people in the region. We'll support non-profit and for-profit initiatives but not seek any equity—only their success.
OK. But what does it mean in practice? What kind of support will this initiative offer? Money, guidance, and a network of good people.
We draw inspiration from Tyler Cowen's Emergent Ventures—a program that supports "entrepreneurs and brilliant minds with highly scalable, 'zero to one' ideas for meaningfully improving society."
All participants in our program will receive the following:
- Participate in a two-week online orientation program to get acquainted, understand the region's potential, and refine their action plan;
- Receive a cash grant to support their efforts. The grants can vary from 4 to 7 figures, depending on the needs. The grant amount will be tied to the cost of a specific action or project; and
- Benefit from ongoing support with advice, introductions to relevant people, and occasional meetups and check-ins.
Is this some kind of political project? Which side is it on? We want to bring together people of all faiths and backgrounds who recognize each other's rights and aspirations and want to work together to create shared prosperity in the Middle East.
Ultimately, we want our fellows to change the world and for "Old New Fellow" to be an exclusive designation synonymous with excellence and goodwill.
How can I help?
Thank you for asking. At this stage, we want to hear from anyone who would like to participate in any capacity—apply for a grant, donate money, or contribute their expertise or other resources. Is this you? Please fill out the form below:
Can't see the form? Click here.
Do you know anyone else who might be interested in this initiative? Please share this article on social media and with anyone you deem relevant. You can also visit OldNew.com, which is taking shape as we speak. Thank you!