Faced with Iraq’s rival politics, one group based in Baghdad is seeking change by promoting collaboration and entrepreneurship through public spaces.
Fikra Space, based on the Arabic word fikra meaning “idea,” finds its roots in hackerspaces, which act as physical places where members of a community, usually involved in some way with technology, meet and discuss ideas and their work. The idea of hackerspaces originated in Germany in the 1990s and later became popular across Europe and the United States.
Fikra Space describes itself as an “open place where people with common interests—often in computers, technology, science, art and anything else—can meet, socialize, share their knowledge, build new things or make use of existing things, make workshops and collaborate.”
According to an article on CNN, Fikra Space’s endorsement of a public space meeting point intends to promote collaboration and entrepreneurship with the hope of helping solve some of the country’s current problems. Along with providing physical space in the office of a local journalism institute for community members to organize, Fikra Space provides electronic equipment and devices for members to use.
The group was founded by Bilal Ghalib, who stresses the importance of having an open space, like that which Fikra Space provides, for communities in the Middle East.
Fikra Space provides a physical location for anyone, no matter their background or education, to join in the exchange of ideas and projects relating to technology. Fikra Space is accessible to anyone and requires only involvement in the promotion of collaboration across barriers and obstacles, a concept that might otherwise be prevented if there were preconditions to membership.
"How do you look into the future and see your (hand) in it?" asked Bilal Ghalib in the CNN interview. "That's what entrepreneurship is, putting control back into your hands and letting you create what you want to see and make a living doing it."
With Fikra Space, Bilal Ghalib and other participants are making access to problem solving in Iraq open to all who would like to be part of the process. Although in the context of hackerspace it may be limited to technology and its subcategories, promoting the idea of making the exchange of ideas accessible to everyone opens the doors to the free exchange of thought and information.
Fikra Space is not the only Middle East–based hackerspace. In Beirut, another group, known as Lamba Labs, boasts that it has become Lebanon’s first hackerspace. Lamba Labs states that its space is funded by the community in order to “facilitate the sharing of skills, and to contain specialized tools and expertise together in a single location.”