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An entrepreneur for freedom

Houssem Aoudi, co-founder and CEO of Cogite Coworking Space 

In the young Tunisian democracy with towering unemployment rates, co-working space Cogite is an oasis of hope. The space serves as an incubator for young social entrepreneurs – and basically anyone with a dream to build. Co-founder and CEO Houssem Aoudi has a friendly collaboration with Hivos.

Founded four years ago, Cogite now comprises 120 souls and runs 140 events per year: on average one event every three days. From training meetings to summits for co-working and internet governance, all of its events sprout from the confines of the co-working space.

But it’s not only about the physical spaces – the idea behind Cogite is very important. Aoudi describes it as ‘winning the battle for freedom and the future, empowering people to grow, empowering the individual’. “People make a community and the community can make a change. We share common values with Hivos, such as freedom and minority rights, we value creativity.” On a more concrete note, in a country that suffers from huge youth unemployment, Cogite’s motive is job creation. Starting a new business and doing what you really believe in can offer a solution to the problem of unemployment. “At the end of the day it’s about empowering these youths to thrive”, Aoudi says.

He describes the collaboration with Hivos as often informal; as friends would interact. “We’re always on WhatsApp for example, my team and people from Hivos. Our relationship can be defined more in terms of equal partners than partner versus donor. We come up with solutions together and make change together.” Aoudi acts as strategic partner of Hivos’s Mideast Creatives Programme.

According to Aoudi, Hivos’s added value lies in its extensive experience, and an eye for innovation: “When it comes to the creative industry in the MENA, Hivos was ahead of everyone else. They changed the way people look at the creative scene, that it possesses a constructive value.”