The Arab world’s 200-million youth can truly drive sustainable development in the region, a PepsiCo-sponsored panel discussion in Dubai at the CSR Summit 2014 has concluded.
Speaking on a panel entitled Youth Engagement in Development: How Social Entrepreneurs Are Making A Difference, representatives from PepsiCo, The Synergos Institute, and two social entrepreneurs highlighted the importance of engaging youth in community development.
“Youth not only represent the majority of the population in the region but they are also the most impacted by unemployment. There is a great need for partnerships at all levels to address skills development, job readiness and creation. Engaging with youth and making them active partners in the sustainable development of their communities is of great importance,” said Noha Hefny, Director of Corporate Affairs at PepsiCo Middle East & Africa.
The panel discussion offered Yorgui Teyrouz, Founder of Lebanon-based Donner Sang Compter (DSC), and Hisham El Rouby, Founder of ETIJAH, a Youth and Development Consultancy Institute – who are both on this year’s Pepsi-sponsored Synergos’ Arab World Social Innovators Program (AWSI) – the opportunity to showcase the work they are doing to develop their community in both Lebanon and Egypt.
“The region’s huge youth population is a gift, especially when you look at countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which have a high youth demographic. We need to create relevancy in this part of the world for community organizations, businesses and local initiatives and most importantly, we need to listen to the youth and develop programmes based on their needs,” said El Rouby.
ETIJAH works to help young Egyptians develop technical and leadership skills and become effective contributors to society by providing them with volunteer and job opportunities. The institute works directly with young people, in addition to governmental and non-governmental youth-serving organizations.
“When I see my fellow social entrepreneurs that have been helped by The Synergos Institute, it really demonstrates the importance of working together to create social change. I would urge companies looking to engage with youth to follow this example,” said Teyrouz.
Teyrouz established Donner Sang Compter (to give without expecting anything in return) to boost voluntary blood donation in Lebanon. The NGO comprises groups of young volunteers who raise awareness about voluntary blood donation across the country. To date, DSC has compiled a database of more than 15,000 people willing to donate blood to any person in need at any hospital or clinic. Since January 2010, DSC has helped more than 32,000 patients.
PepsiCo announced its partnership with The Synergos Institute last year to support the development of social entrepreneurship in the Arab world. As part of the agreement, PepsiCo supports Synergos’ Arab World Social Innovators Program (AWSI), which provides support and guidance for young Arabs running social enterprises. Through AWSI, PepsiCo provides financial support and mentorship to 12 social entrepreneurs. The model has already been deployed successfully in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, helping social entrepreneurs to develop social innovations that bring about change in their communities.
“There are two vital areas that we need to focus on in the future in terms of engaging and developing youth in the Arab world. We need to start by listening to what their ambitions and hopes are and build programs and initiatives around those needs,” said Shahd Alshehail, Senior Consultant at The Synergos Institute. “Secondly, it’s about working together. I hope to see more partnerships across the region that bring together social entrepreneurs with NGOs, the private sector and the government. The only way we are going to get a systematic, long-term change is by engaging all of the stakeholders from a top down and bottom down approach.,” Shahd added.
The CSR Summit 2014, now in its 11th year, brings together CSR professionals from across the region to debate, discuss and learn about industry best practices.