In a sunny January week, the Cogite team took to the road to launch its new initiative, Cogite Direction Sud. In partnership with Mercy Corps, this project aims to bring together the diverse community of entrepreneurs in the governorate of Medenine to explore opportunities for establishing coworking spaces or similar-style hubs in this governorate. It was also a fantastic opportunity for Cogite to expand its activities outside of the capital city of Tunis and to learn more about the entrepreneurship ecosystem in southern Tunisia.

Over the course of one week, the Cogite team hosted a series of entrepreneurship activities, starting with workshops in Medenine, Djerba, and Zarzis. During these one-day workshops, participants refined their skills in mentorship, financial literacy, and advocacy while also getting to know other fellow entrepreneurs or civically-engaged people within their communities. One participant, Yassine, in Medenine even walked 5km on foot as part of the 25km journey from his home just to attend!

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In addition to the workshops, the Cogite team facilitated two “Open Space” events in Medenine and Djerba concerning the question: “How can we create a coworking space in the governorate of Medenine?” During these open space sessions, local stakeholders identified the obstacles to creating a coworking space within their respective locations and then broke into small groups to craft specific, implementable solutions to the identified challenges.

At the end of the events, participants were inspired and ready to begin thinking of next steps to make coworking a reality within their specific cities. Moreover, both sessions were also a fantastic opportunity to introduce Cogite to a broader community and to share stories of successful coworking initiatives in the Arab world (including fantastic work done by our friends who took part in the October 2015 Coworking Summit!)

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On our last day, we had the pleasure of interviewing several local entrepreneurs about their various initiatives in Djerba Houmt Souk. For example, Mohamed of El Houch, has transformed his family’s traditional Djerban-style house into a collaborative pottery workshop.

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We also spoke to Mr Nacer Bouabid, President of the Association de Sauvegarde de l’ile de Djerba, an organisation working towards implementing sustainable development on the island. We’ll be turning these stories into a video series about entrepreneurship in southern Tunisia, so stay tuned!

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While we were sad to leave our new friends at the end of an action-packed week, we left knowing that we will be back soon. That’s because, in February, the Cogite team will be returning to Djerba Houmt Souk to host a three-day Coworking Camp. After executing a series of successful coworking camps in Gafsa, Kairouan, and Djerba in 2015, this new Coworking Camp format that will bring together motivated, creative individuals from across the Medenine governorate to explore the concept of coworking and to co-create new coworking models tailored to the region. And in between now and then, our partners in Medenine will host several follow-up events to further explore coworking possibilities in their respective cities.

In the meantime, we’re back in Tunis, working away on the next steps of this exciting initiative. But we’ll be back in Djerba before we know it and we can’t wait!