This Year’s Global Youth Forum, organized by CSR Al Ahli Holding group in collaboration with the American University of Dubai and Dubai Chamber Sustainability Network, was an unprecedented success. Over 300 students and young professionals gathered from around the world to hear from global CSR leaders and learn how to conceptualize, build and expand a social enterprise. With a focus on innovation, the two-day forum comprised interactive panel discussions, seminars and workshops. The event culminated in a heated pitch competition between two social entrepreneurship finalists, where Emirati ‘Khazaen’ walked away with the $10,000 prize.
“Our focus is to provide opportunities for young people all over the world through strategic global partnerships,” says Muhammed Khammas, CEO of Al Ahli Holding group and visionary behind their CSR division. “We want to equip them with all the knowledge and tools they need for rapid and continuous development, and see them through their journey to becoming some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs.”
Highlights from Day 1 at the American University in Dubai included a contagiously energetic performance from Gold’s Gym as they encouraged the audience to participate in Zumba, MMA, Body Attack and Body Balance, to remind them that a creative mind needs a healthy body. It also included an enlightening coaching session courtesy of Northpoint, followed by a session on innovation with Hisham Al Gurg, CEO of SEED Group. Mr. Al Gurg used his personal experiences to motivate the attendees and added various examples of failures that turned into success, including Nespresso and 3M.
“Starting a new business can be an incredibly daunting task, especially for those who lack the experience. Events like the Global Youth Forum shine a light on all the people and organisations which are there to help those people who have a great new idea for a business,” says Lina Hourani, Director of CSR at Al Ahli Holding group. “Whether you’re still in college or have a history of failed start-ups behind you, there are organizations that can guide and support you on your road to becoming a successful entrepreneur.”
The second day of the forum, which was held at Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s premises, offered insight into the legal environment surrounding social entrepreneurs, with resounding recognition for the need for appropriate legal structures to be put in place to encourage NGOs to set up in the UAE. Essa Al Zaabi, Senior Vice-President, Institutional Support Sector, Dubai Chamber, and General Coordinator of Tejar Dubai, said the UAE stands to be a pioneer for social entrepreneurship in the region, especially if social enterprises become legally recognised.
Al Zaabi said: “Social start-ups in this region are starting to gain interest and the prospects for growing this ecosystem of incubators, accelerators and funding look promising. Dubai Chamber is working to create a business environment where social enterprises can thrive and benefit from a supportive ecosystem. Our entrepreneur development programme, Tejar Dubai, offers an ideal platform for commercially-minded youth to start businesses as it provides them access to training, mentoring, investment capital and networking opportunities. These incentives are vital to the success of any SME, especially in a competitive market like Dubai.”
The forum ended with two social enterprises competing for US$10,000 seed money towards their ventures. From Lebanon, Green Track presented their initiative which aims to reduce the waste problem in Lebanon through recycling, actively engaging victims of war in order to collect, recycle, and sell waste. Khazaen, from the UAE, showcased their brilliant initiative to gather unwanted furniture, upcycle it and use that furniture to renovate one house each month for a family in need.
They also offer storage facilities at the same location. The judging panel comprised Osman Hamid, Manager of Student Engagement and Business Development at Ryerson University in Toronto, Luigi Eizzilli, Enterpreneur & Senior Advisor, Panos Manolopoulos, Managing Partner at Stanton Chase International, and Hamda Khalil, Principle Analyst of the Fund Department at Dubai SME. After a long and intense pitch competition and much deliberation, Khazaen walked away with the prize.
Commenting on their win, Khazaen’s group leader Mohamed Mahmoud Fikri said, “On this occasion, I would like to quote His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai when he said my people and I always strive to be the first” Fikri added, “I would like to thank Al Ahli Holding Group and my teammates for working so hard since our trip to Italy. After securing funds, we are hoping to start our business by next year and initiate social impact with the help of our partners.”