17-Apr-2014 08:50 AM

In the scope of International Women’s Day celebration, Women Think-Tank committee represented by ASHOKA Arab World organized an event for Women and Social Entrepreneurship.

The event aimed to bridge the gap between the corporate and the social sectors by inspiring and empowering young business women and social entrepreneurs in the Arab World to become the next generation of Change makers.

The event was divided into three parts, 3 parallel working sessions, documentary screening and a panel discussion. The first working session was concerned about issues of financial sustainability for organizations and initiatives working to tackle social problems. The session was facilitated by Mark Nelson, Founder and Co- director of Stanford Peace Innovation Labs. Joining experts on the topic were Nada El Guindy from Mercy Corps Egypt, as well as Geraldine Tawfik and Nada El-ahwal from CID Consulting, in addition to Ashoka Arab World staff members Omar Al-amin and Nariman Moustafa.

Participants, led by the facilitator and experts, started each by identifying their funding model. Participants then went through an exercise of mapping their business/financial model identifying all the key stakeholders for their initiatives, this being the first step in working towards creating a financially sustainable model. Additionally, the social entrepreneurs mapped potential stakeholders and what value proposition they can offer. Participants were able to share their different existing financial models together and highlight best practices and financial innovations that allow them to reach sustainability.

The working session was followed by a conversation about the problems associated with the social initiatives in Egypt when it comes to financial sustainability especially ones that are donor-dependent.

Participants agreed that accessing funds and the limitations of the available legal structures were major threatening factors to their efficiency and sustainability and also agreed on other factors that can hinder the sustainability of any social initiative such as; “Making one side transactions, when it is not clear what stakeholders are getting in return from the social entrepreneur”. On top of this, attendees have identified the factors and pre-requisites for financial sustainability of any social initiatives.

The working session was wrapped up by participants sharing valuable resources with each other for further exploration of the topic.

The second session gathered participants from different academic and professional backgrounds, to discuss the different techniques and approaches to fundraising for social entrepreneurs.

Participants led by the facilitator discussed the backbone or starting point of any fundraising endeavor which is having a convincing story. The techniques come afterwards as they are only tools. The main fundraising techniques for social entrepreneurs discussed were crowdfunding, utilizing networks, and non-monetary support such as exchange of expertise. Participants also discussed the benefits of each technique especially crowdfunding. The session convened with a pledge from everyone on the table to utilize their networks to support on project at a time, starting with the crowdfunding campaign of Robot-Khana.

The third session was a discussion between social entrepreneurs and journalists about best practices for entrepreneurs to showcase their initiatives in the media; the session was facilitated by Hanan Sulayman “Founder of Mandara”. The discussion resulted in highlighting the concern of the representation of female entrepreneurs in the media.

Following the working sessions, there was a display of a documentary screening titled “Change Makers” that showcased the success stories of 4 female social entrepreneurs; Azza Kamel-Founder of Alwan Wa Awtar, Amani El-Tunsi-Founder of Banat Wa Bas, Fairouz Omar-Founder of Qalb Kebeer and Reda Shoukry-Founder of Alshehab Center for Comprehensive Development.

At the end of the day, there was a Panel Discussion titled “Female Entrepreneurs: The Added Value of Changemakers” the panel discussion was facilitated by Dr. Hala Hattab and panelists included; Heba Gamal, Managing Director of Endeavor, Marwa ElDaly, Founder of Waqfeyat ElMaadi and Dr. Amani Asfour, President of Egyptian Business Women’s Association.

Panelists discussed their own success stories, the factors that play a role in creating an enabling environment for female social entrepreneurs and how they can encourage an entrepreneurial ecosystem for female entrepreneurs.