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Ashoka launches social entrepreneurship programme for the Gulf region

April 9, 2014 4:13 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) – launched today, April 9, in Dubai – outlined its roadmap for supporting local social innovators in scaling up their operations in three core areas: healthcare, environment and women’s participation for inclusive growth. A leadership circle was also formed, which comprises business entrepreneurs from the region who will support social development initiatives in these three core areas.

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

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

“Social entrepreneurship, which addresses issues ranging from job creation to women’s economic empowerment and sustainable development, has tremendous potential to transform the socio-economic landscape of the Arab world. 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,” explains Jafar.

The leadership circle also identified obesity as a key healthcare concern, with a recent World Healthcare Organisation report estimating that approximately 40 per cent of the children in the Gulf region, between the ages of 13 to 15, are obese. It is also estimated that the economic burden of obesity and related diseases will cost the region approximately $60 billion by 2025.

The focus on women’s participation for inclusive growth draws on the well-documented fact that it is crucial for generating inclusive and sustainable regional economic growth. There are positive trends in this regard with Al Masah Capital, reporting that women own or run approximately 30 per cent of SMEs in the UAE.

ASEP will draw on the strong interest in volunteerism in the Arab world and rising popularity among entrepreneurs and the youth to contribute towards the region’s sustainable development. There is also a remarkable surge in social innovation that brings together the public sector, businesses and youth to drive social and economic development.