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Formation 2004 (2004)
Founder Tarek Ben Halim
Purpose improve lives in disadvantaged communities
Region served
Arab Region
Board Chair
Lubna Olayan

Alfanar (which means lighthouse in Arabic) is the first venture philanthropy organisation (VPO) focused specifically on supporting development efforts in the Arab Region. Started by Tarek Ben Halim in 2004, Alfanar is guided by the vision that building effective and sustainable civil society organisations will not only improve lives, but also transform communities across the Arab region.

Alfanar has been operating in Egypt since 2004,[1] supporting innovative organisations that work to improve early childhood education, enhance economic opportunities, combat domestic violence, widen access to healthcare, and raise awareness about social, economic and human rights.[2] A description of Alfanar in Arabic is available here.

The Founder[edit]

Tarek Ben Halim was born in Tripoli, Libya, on 4 December 1955 to Mustafa Ben Halim who served as Prime Minister of Libya from April 1954 to May 1957, and Yusra Kanaan, a mother of Palestinian descent. After receiving a BSc in Finance from Warwick University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, he worked as an investment banker at JP Morgan, Credit Suisse First Boston and Goldman Sachs where he rose to Managing Director. In 2005, Tarek was appointed non-executive director of the MAF Group in Dubai. He also acted as an Advisor to the Central Bank of Libya and Trustee of Common Purpose International. After battling brain cancer for 14 months, Tarek died on 11 December 2009, one week after his 54th birthday. Tarek’s obituary in The Guardian reads: “He believed passionately in the duty of wealthier Arabs to give something back to the region, and he railed against the ‘self-serving, unrepresentative governments that have, with few exceptions, ruled the Arab world since the 19th century’”.[3] Tarek Ben Halim is survived by his wife Cynthia Oakes, the daughter of iconic US journalist John Bertram Oakes, and their three children. The Tarek Ben Halim Memorial Fund Film, which tells the story of Tarek’s vision behind Alfanar, can be viewed here - Memorial Fund Film

Alfanar’s Venture Philanthropy Approach[edit]

Venture philanthropy (VP) is a results-oriented approach to development that employs high engagement, long-term investment, tailored financing, non-financial capacity building, and performance measurement to charitable giving. It is a form of ‘engaged’ philanthropy that aims to build effective, sustainable organisations with high social impact.

Alfanar recognizes that inadequate funding, limited management capacity, and difficulty scaling hamper innovative charities, non-profits, and social enterprises in the Arab region from meeting their social goals and achieving financial independence.

In response to these challenges, Alfanar employs a three-part venture philanthropy approach, including:

  1. Financial grants
  2. High-engagement management guidance
  3. Volunteer technical expertise

Alfanar builds long-term partnerships with enterprising organisations that meet its selection criteria, including:

  • Imaginative ideas responding to a demonstrable need within a disadvantaged community
  • Enterprising leadership and culture
  • Long-term focus
  • Commitment to income generation
  • Alignment with Alfanar’s core principles

Alfanar tailors its venture philanthropy support to each organisation’s needs, working with:

  1. Start-up organisations to strategically develop and implement their ideas
  2. More established organisations to devise innovative programmes that ensure both social and financial returns.

Since 2004, Alfanar has employed its high-engagement venture philanthropy approach with nine partner charities in Egypt, impacting over 5,000 lives. Alfanar’s current portfolio includes 6 partners

Alfanar’s Partners in 2011[edit]

  1. Early Childhood Education with the Future Lights for Development Organisation, started in 2007 Childhood Education Film
  2. Counselling and Psychological Support for Victims of Domestic Violence with the Way Association for Charitable Activities, started in 2010
  3. Women’s Economic Empowerment and Community Development with Helwan Association for Community Development (Bashayer), started in 2007 Women's Empowerment Film
  4. Combating Domestic Violence with Shomoo Association for Sustainable Development, started in 2010
  5. Arts Training for Disadvantaged Youth with Al Mawred Al Thaqafy, started in 2010
  6. Psychological Health and Community Development with Kelmetna Association for Dialogue and Development, started in 2010

Youth Outreach[edit]

Jussoor: Connect for Change

Jussoor (meaning “Bridges” in Arabic) is an outreach initiative that aims to identify young social entrepreneurs, philanthropists and leaders interested in Arab development efforts and engage them in Alfanar’s venture philanthropy work through workshops and follow-on creative labs. Jussoor was launched with a pilot workshop in London in February 2011, which brought together 18 university students and recent graduates for an experiential learning weekend. In addition to panel discussions with young Arab leaders, fundraising and social media challenges, the workshop exposed participants to the core concepts of venture philanthropy through group work around case studies and organisational challenges faced by Alfanar’s partners in Egypt. Jussoor graduates now meet on a monthly basis to plan and execute activities aimed at building support for Alfanar and its partners, while gaining essential skills including leadership, strategic planning and fundraising. Once firmly established in the UK, Jussoor will expand to the Arab world and the U.S. For more information on Jussoor, please visit Jussoor-Alfanar

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our History". Alfanar. 
  2. ^ "Alfanar website". Alfanar UK. Archived from the original on 2014-02-12. 
  3. ^ Thomas, Gina (12 January 2010). "Tarek Ben Halim Obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 

Related videos[edit]

External links[edit]