When youth are empowered, there is great potential for bringing about positive change to society. With this realization in mind, the “Youth for Change” program has set Arab youth as key to help bring about a more peaceful, sustainable, and developed Arab region. Together in partnership, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and TakingITGlobal have worked since 2008 to provide Arab youth with opportunities to develop their leadership skills through the implementation of community-based projects on social issues using technology as a tool.
This year saw the launch of phase IV of the Youth for Change (YFC) program, entitled “Information and Communication Technologies (ICT): Supporting Leaders of the Future,” which builds on the foundation established in previous YFC program phases. The program offers 30 youth from ten Arab countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) the opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial ideas in ICT in order to tackle important issues in their communities relating to education, the environment, health and much more.
The YFC program has grown to support the ideas of hundreds of youth through its provision of mini-grants and scholarships, the organization of live chats, open forums, online project management courses, proposal writing sessions, and mentorship platforms for participants. Since 2008, four phases of the YFC program have been implemented, with each focusing on a different theme. As highlighted above, the most recent phase, phase IV, focuses on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and is intended to support young ICT entrepreneurs in taking action in their communities through building their capacities and supporting the implementation of their proposed projects.
In July 2016 the 30 selected youth participants, all of whom range between the ages of 18 - 32, were invited to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt to present their project ideas and receive their mini grants from the program, which range from $1000 - $3000 USD.
The meeting in Alexandria was both an opportunity for youth to present their project ideas and receive their mini-grants. It was also a space for the youth to attend a series of workshops on topics such as social entrepreneurship, pitching, marketing, problem solving, social networking, big data and analytical techniques, group-based mentoring, business model innovation, and new product development methodology. The purpose of these workshops served to enhance the project management abilities and capacities of participants to better develop and lead their respective projects. Youness Benabbou from Morocco says his experience in Alexandria “was enriching and opened up a new horizon” as he was able to interact with the “innovative youth coming from all Arab countries.”
A number of other opportunities were available to the youth involved such as creating a greater sense of unity, diversity, and understanding between the different Arab cultures present at the meeting. One noteworthy social event hosted as part of the July meeting program was the “cultural night” which sought to showcase the varying and different cultures across the 10 participating countries. This event, through its attempt to bring together the participants in a more social rather than educational setting, symbolized the great diversity of cultures that exist in the Arab region. Through such social events, the YFC meeting in July also created an opportunity for youth to create friendships that now span across the Arab world.
The successful implementation of the YFC program is in part due to the role of country coordinators and host organizations based in each country, both of which are integral for the operation of the program. The role of coordinators and host organizations in each participant country is crucial for not only the effective communication with the program’s youth participants, but also for the more efficient management and organization of in-country events such as open forums and knowledge sharing events.
At this time, all of the YFC program participants are in the process of completing TakingITGlobal’s six week Sprout Ideas project management e-course, which seeks to establish an even firmer knowledge and skills base for piloting each participant’s project ideas. One winner, Tasneem Yousif from Bahrain, reflected on the e-course and program by saying that being one of the winners and participating in the YFC e-course has been a valuable experience as it has contributed to her personal growth and allowed her to develop the technical skills that she needs to build her startup and become a successful entrepreneur.
The completion of the e-course will then be followed by adding winner projects on the TakingITGlobal Initiatives page as well as attending the “18th Annual Meeting of the International Friends of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (IFBA),” which invites all participants to Alexandria for the second time to provide an update on the progress of their projects. This second meeting will then be followed by one Arabic and one English “live chat” that will be centered around the intersection of ICT and entrepreneurship. The live chats will invite successful entrepreneurs to speak on their experiences in entrepreneurship and inspire the participants in further developing their own projects.
In addition, through the help of the YFC country coordinators and host organizations, open forums will be organized towards the end of October in each of the participant countries to bring together youth (which are not limited to the program’s participants) to discuss the impact that entrepreneurship can have on better developing Arab communities.
The program activities will come together as part of a culminating event in December when the participants will be asked for the third and final time to attend another meeting in Alexandria to present the final achievements of their projects and to be evaluated by the judges from Bibliotheca Alexandrina and TakingITGlobal.
With the support of the YFC team, the program’s participants are making significant progress and strides in developing their projects. There is a lot of talent among this year’s selected participants and the YFC team has no doubt that what their projects will achieve will leave a positive impact on their communities.
If you are interested in learning more about the YFC program and want to keep in touch with the participants’ project updates and YFC activities, follow YFC on social media: