Ashoka launches Gulf platform for social entrepreneurship

The Arab World Social Entrepreneurship Programme aims to help social innovators in healthcare, environment and women participation
Ashoka launches Gulf platform for social entrepreneurship
Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises and managing director of the Crescent Group, who spearheaded the partnership with Ashoka.
By Staff writer
Wed 09 Apr 2014 07:48 PM

Ashoka, a global platform for social innovation, has launched a dedicated programme to promote social entrepreneurship in the Gulf region.

The Arab World Social Entrepreneurship Programme (ASEP) has outlined its roadmap for supporting local social innovators in scaling up their operations in three core areas – healthcare, environment and women participation for inclusive growth.

A Leadership Circle, comprising business entrepreneurs from the region who will support social development initiatives in these three core areas, has also been formed.

ASEP said it will follow a structured approach to drive growth by first engaging with social entrepreneurs who are ready to scale up their model; connect them with business entrepreneurs, global peers or consultants; analyze their strategy and operations; present plans to business entrepreneurs for their feedback; evaluate the business plan of the social entrepreneurs and select best strategies for their implementation.

Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises and managing director of the Crescent Group, who spearheaded the partnership with Ashoka, said the launch of ASEP will catalyse social entrepreneurship in the Gulf by establishing a community of the region’s business entrepreneurs as supporters and linking them to Ashoka’s global network.

“Social entrepreneurship, which addresses issues ranging from job creation to women economic empowerment and sustainable development, has tremendous potential to transform the socio-economic landscape of the Arab World," he said.

"ASEP aims to introduce regional business leaders to the concept of social entrepreneurship by facilitating networking with Ashoka Fellows globally. These social innovation experts will help identity high-impact social initiatives and partnerships that contribute to positive change,” Jafar added.

At the ASEP launch event, Iman Bibars, vice president of Ashoka Global and regional director of Ashoka Arab World, said: “ASEP will establish the UAE as a regional pioneer of social entrepreneurship and a key global contributor to the sector by covering business, academic, government and civil society leaders to help scale social innovation.

"It will be a hub for dynamic contributors from the public and private sectors. From the UAE, we will expand and establish ASEP as a regional landmark.”

The Leadership Circle has highlighted water scarcity as the key environmental issue to be addressed while it also identified obesity as the key healthcare concern to focus on. It is also projected that the economic burden of obesity and related diseases will cost the region about $60 billion by 2025.

ASEP added that it will draw on the strong interest in volunteerism in the Arab world and a rising interest among entrepreneurs and the youth to contribute towards the region’s sustainable development.

Jafar said: “With the International Labour Organization reporting that average youth unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa is at the highest in the world at over 25 percent, there is a tremendous amount of underutilized productive capacity in the region, particularly with our women population.

"The opportunities for individual, social and economic development can be realized through a focus on social entrepreneurship, which will be the main mandate of ASEP.”

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