The Arab region’s largest age group population is that of the youth. Despite some of the geopolitical challenges along with high unemployment levels that exist in the Arab region, the youth have become assets for social change and development in their countries. The Youth for Change (YFC) program harnesses this potential and allows for opportunities of engagement for the Arab youth to be able to take part in their communities so that they may generate innovative ideas and to network with the rest of the world.
Since 2008, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and TakingITGlobal have partnered to provide Arab youth with opportunities that develop their leadership skills so that they may implement their community-based projects of social innovation through technology.
This year, Phase 5 “Information and Communication Technologies (ICT): Supporting Leaders of the Future,” launched building on the previous phases, in the month of April, 2017. The program targeted and offered individuals from 10 Arab countries with the opportunity to expand their entrepreneurial ideas in ICT so that they are enabled to address and improve important issues in their communities relating to education, the environment, employment and many more. The 10 Arab countries participating include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia,; bringing the Arab world together.
The YFC program has grown to provide a range of support including the provision of mini grants and scholarships, mentorship, training, capacity-building, local and online events, and access to networks. Each phase has had a different theme. This phase’s theme Information and Communication Technologies (ICT): Supporting Leaders of the Future is intended to support talented young ICT enthusiasts who have proposed philanthropic projects in order to help their communities. The winners were invited to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt to be trained, present their project ideas, and receive their mini grants of 1500 USD to help them further their projects.
The YFC winners are aided in the process through country coordinators, successful alumnus of previous YFC phases. They provide personal connections, mentoring, and a network of learning and sharing that the youth can use not only during but after the program as well. Ebaa Hussain reflected on her coordinator Farah from Saudi Arabia, “I'm thankful for my coordinator because she let me know about the program, mentored me throughout the application process, and supported any concerns I had in the workshop” The success of the YFC program is in part attributed to the dedication of the coordinator's roles and the role of the community partners, which are crucial to ensuring that there is an efficient transition in the management, organization, and development of the participants in their projects.
Not only was the meeting in Alexandria meant to have the winners present their project ideas and receive their grants but it was also for them to participate in workshops to help the winners learn and develop many important entrepreneurial skills. The first half of the workshop was run by Start Up School, a service school who are primarily interested in offering educational and professional support to idea phase entrepreneurs. The workshop offered a variety of lessons including: Design Thinking Deep Dive, Prototypes to Empathize, Ideate, and Define, Building Prototypes to Test, Lean Startup Deep Dive, Build – Ideation and MVP, Measure – Innovation Accounting, and the lesson Learn – Pivot and Persevere. Menidjel Oussama, our Algerian winner expressed his gratitude towards the workshop expressing that “the workshop was really amazing, I had learned many new things, and what kept it interesting is the practice that I had during the workshop”.
The second part of the workshop was lead by TakingITGlobal and the coordinators who led training sessions. The workshop began with a focus on how to deliver a successful pitch and the usage of various tools to manage effective pitches. Many sessions were offered including Tools for Pitching, Pitches and Feedback Rounds, ICT and MS Project Group Session, Group Mentorship for Project Deliverables, Deliverables Presentations, Peer Sounding Boards, and a training session on Financial Management.
Through the workshop, bonds were created on a local, regional, and international level with the networking that occurred. This has a lasting impact on all those participating.
A sense of unity, togetherness, and understanding is created in the environment as participants gain knowledge about their project enhancements. The cultural night is an event hosted during the YFC meeting session. It celebrates the unique culture of each of the participating countries, and that of the coordinators as well. Participants share their own cultural sweets dressed in their traditional clothing as well. This allows for cultural diversity and connectedness between the countries, who have many cultural similarities but also many cultural differences and distinctions. Through the social events, participants were able to create bonds of friendship and share their own personal touch, what better way to do so than with the sharing of food!
The Sprout e-course was the next segment of the YFC winners program. It is an 8 week Project Management and Social Innovation e-course that leverages the materials and methodology of the TIG “Sprout e-course” program. The project management course seeks to further educate the participants on topics such as: social and business enterprises, project development, organizational structures, recruitment planning, SWOC analysis, financial management and marketing strategies. The different lessons in the e-course were as follows:
Lesson 1: Introduction to Social / Business Enterprise and Enterprise Development.
Lesson 2: Understanding Your Project Core
Lesson 3: Organizational Structure and Team Recruitment
Lesson 4: Stakeholder and SWOC Analysis
Lesson 5: Financial Management
Lesson 6: Marketing Campaign Strategies
Dana Harb, the Lebanon winner shared her experiences from the e-course saying “from what we are learning from the e-course and what we learnt from the workshops and the continuous support of the whole team, whether friends or even trainers, the lessons added value to my project. I learned things I never thought existed or that they would change my project for the better”.
After the e-course completion, during the months of October and November, the winners will be engaged in live chats and local forums in each of the participating countries with professional entrepreneurs who will share their experiences and stories publicly. During the end of October the winners will submit a progress report and later a final report in December. Then a final report will be issued during the month of December that culminates the YFC program, by the TakingITGlobal team.
The YFC winners have been working hard and have made tremendous progress in their journey with the help of the YFC team. They have grown considerably and will continue to grow and further their project ideas to actual tangible socially conscious community projects. Their unique talents will surely positively affect their communities, and the Arab World at large.
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