The IDB Innovative Program "DEEP" a Pathfinder of Economic Empowerment in Palestine

Poverty and unemployment rates in Palestine are still imposing a serious challenge; about one out of three individuals (29.2 percent) were living below the poverty level in 2017[1].   Gaza Strip contributes more to national poverty than the West Bank; its share of the poor population is 71.2 percent compared to 28.8 percent of the West Bank[2].   

Economic growth is the most powerful instrument for reducing poverty and improving the quality of life.  In the case of Palestine, despite the increase of the Gross Domestic Product, this has not been noticeably reflected on reducing poverty and unemployment rates; on the contrary, there was an inverse relationship between poverty rate and GDP increase.[3]  

Out of this situation, The Islamic Development Bank “IsDB” in Jeddah, initiate the creation and the design of an innovative initiative in Palestine called DEEP. The Palestinian People Economic Empowerment Program (DEEP) has emerged in 2006 to empower the poor and marginalized Palestinians and transfer them from being dependent on humanitarian assistance and charity aid to being dependent on themselves. 


HE the President of IsDB visit the DEEP exhibition in Jeddah 2017


The overall goal of DEEP is to empower chronic and hard-hit poor Palestinian families to graduate from being economically dependent on aid to becoming independent generators of income and providers of employment. The DEEP aims to achieve this by providing a package of financial and non-financial services to selected households that addresses their most critical livelihoods needs, including Islamic micro financial and promotional social safety net activities.



Through its application of Sustainable Livelihoods Approach Framework, DEEP promoted inclusive economic growth by supporting productive, low-income households. The DEEP modality provides a solid and inclusive approach for targeting vulnerable yet productive households and engaging their members in sustainable income-generating activities, mainly through micro- and small enterprise development, to provide employment and bridge their consumption and income poverty gaps. The empowerment approach of DEEP lies at the heart of the most effective strategies to promote a real human rights approach in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — MDG1 (poverty reduction), MDG2 (primary education) and MDG3 (gender equality and women’s empowerment). Economic empowerment and self-sustainability are core values under the program, which also aims to allow beneficiaries to maintain a level of dignity and freedom to fulfil their aspirations.


In the meantime the DEEP lies at the heart of the sustainable Development Goals “SDG’s” and fit with SDG1 (No Poverty), SDG2 (Zero Hunger), SDG5 (gender equality), SDG8 (Decent work and economic growth), SDG9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG10 (reduce inequalities), SDG (Life on Land).


Under the direct lead and supervision of the IDB, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) /Program of Assistance of Palestinian People (PAPP) have managed the DEEP in Palatine with close cooperation of Palestinian governmental and civil society intuitions.  The Aqsa Fund and other Arab donors are the main financial supporters of the DEEP.   


DEEP’s Innovative Approach


DEEP’s successful scale-up and replication in MC was attributed to its development and use of innovative tools and polices. The following is a brief description of these innovations.


  1. Endowments of poor people as an opportunity: Poor people as business partners
  2. Introduction of Islamic microfinance products, operations and Systems in MFIs
  3. Revolving fund and Exit strategy
  4. Effective implementation tools: (i)Targeting and selection of beneficiaries, (ii) Household needs assessment, (iii)NGO assessment, (iv)MFI assessment, (v)Interactive MIS, (vi)Operation manuals, (vii)Revolving funds .
  5. Capacity development at all levels and Building on the existing capacities of households
  6. Building synergies to ensure supportive and integrated social services for targeted families
  7. Smart partnerships between the low-income producers and the private-sector

DEEP has scored a breakthrough in the economic empowerment of the youth, women, small farmers and persons with disability as the alternative approach for poverty reduction in Palestine.  


DEEP adopted the following strategies for economic empowerment of the above mentioned poor groups:


  1.  Establishing income generating projects (microenterprises):  

DEEP started with establishing microenterprises for economic empowerment that is accompanied with the provision of business development services to the beneficiaries.  The financial services to establish these microenterprises have taken the form of grants for the beneficiaries enlisted under the Cash Transfer Program (CTP) managed by the Ministry of Social Development and loans for active poor who are not benefiting from the CTP.  This strategy is based on mobilizing the human resource among the poor family toward managing the microenterprise.   Micro and small enterprises can ensure national competitiveness and innovativeness while at the same time creating jobs.

SHAFFAF project in East Jerusalem


  1. Knowledge Transfer and Resource Mobilization:

DEEP diversified its economic empowerment strategies by adopting knowledge transfer and resources mobilization as a tool for economic empowerment in addition to the traditional approach of establishing microenterprises.   This approach responded to the high rate of unemployment among youth in general and young women in particular. 


This strategy encompasses different approaches depending on the context and target group that would be summarized as follows:


  • Incubators and accelerators for entrepreneurs: to provide the opportunity for youth with business ideas to establish new businesses that would lead to job creation.  This approach has been implemented in partnership with Palestinian universities and NGOs under different brand names like SEEDS and JADARA.

Economic empowerment intervention in Gaza under SEED project - Studio for two youth entreprenuers in Gaza


  • Skilling leading to employment: training of youth has taken place based on assessing the market needs of professions and skilled people.   This approach concentrates on pinpointing the demand before working on the supply.

Skilling in market needed professions


  • Developmental employment:  this approach is based on mobilizing hidden developmental needs that can open new job opportunities for the youth.   For example, Geographic Information System (GIS) units were established at several municipalities in Gaza Strip to meet developmental needs at the municipalities while creating tens of job simultaneously.
  • Resources Mobilization:  this approach is based on mobilizing frozen resources at the assets and human resources level.  For example, some universities have unutilized land and water resources while graduates in agricultural engineering are suffering from unemployment.  DEEP helped in joining these resources and providing the financial services to establish productive projects like greenhouses.

Aquaculture project




  • Electronic distant work and on line freelancing (e-work): this approach aims at opening job opportunities for youth by networking with abroad job market.  WAMD is the brand name for such project in Gaza.

Mobile application for taxi request


  • Matching available human resources with industry needs: this approach provided the opportunity for youth graduates in fields relevant to the local industry to constructively engage in the production cycles at local industries.  Graduates proved that they can add value and enhance the production techniques and save costs related to maintenance and volume of production.  This approach has been implemented in partnership with the Palestinian Federation of Industries and has the brand name of MAHARAT.



  • Group Projects and Partnering with Private Sector: DEEP is now engraving a new economic empowerment model through partnering with private sector for the benefit of the poor families.   This model is designed to move the engagement of active poor from the microenterprises to being incorporated into the small and medium enterprises.  The theory of change under this approach is the transfer of wealth to the poor.  This approach would incorporate poor in the economic production cycle and provide them with the opportunity to own the production means.  In addition, it would be important to gear economic empowerment of the poor to small and medium-sized businesses that hold out promise for the future.

Social Enterprises:


To provide the room and enabling environment for youth males and females to be involved in the production cycle in the context of businesses that are beyond their management capabilities, these businesses were established under the auspices of robust NGOs or CBOs.  This model ensures the sustainability of businesses and assisting in the marketing of products. 


DEEP Impacts and Results:


DEEP is a leading initiative that assisted in linking social protection with economic empowerment.  DEEP has influenced the social protection policy in the State of Palestine demonstrated through the adoption of economic empowerment by the Ministry of Social Development.   Economic empowerment is now perceived as the first option and the Cash Transfer Program is the last resort for deprived families.


DEEP has built the competencies of almost 250 staff members of the executing NGOs, MFIs and governmental officials in the field of sustainable livelihood approach, poverty analysis, feasibility study preparation & business planning and coaching.  Also, tools, manuals, forms and templates were developed to ensure the proper targeting of the poor families, the assessment of their conditions and capitals, and harmonization of the execution throughout DEEP different partners.  A special capacity development program was designed for the Ministry of Social Development (MoSD) to meet their technical needs especially in the area of economic empowerment of poor families.


Since its inception in 2006 and until the end of 2017, DEEP through its partner NGOs and microfinance institutions provided economic empowerment activities leading to the establishment of 15,659 microenterprises3,485 youth males and females were exposed to knowledge led them to enter the job market.   12,773 families received supportive social services in the fields of education, health and housing.  Over 50,000 job opportunities were created in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip as a result of the established microenterprises.  The estimated yearly income out of the established businesses is about 270 million USD. The cost for creating one job opportunity was about 3,000 US$.






[2] Ibid.