Why not combine an international work experience with living in an Islamic country with ancient culture and thousands of years of continuous history and traditions? This was the initial question on my mind when I first came across to the opportunity to intern at Ashoka’s office in the Middle East. By serving as an Ashoka intern, I would be gifted with a deeply cultural experience, and at the same time would be working for the leading organization of social entrepreneurship—hence ensuring that my job would have a social-based purpose and a positive impact in the society.
Renan enjoying the view of the Nile from Ashoka’s office balcony
One of the main projects of Ashoka Arab World is the organization of our Induction event, when the new elected Fellows—individuals with innovative solutions for urgent social problems who are supported by the organization—are formally presented as a part of the oak tree’s team. When I started my internship, the Arab World Social Innovation Forum (AWSIF) would happen in May, meaning I would be part of the team with the ambitious goal of bringing together influential leaders for advancing the agenda of social innovation and entrepreneurship in the Arab world.
Since the second half of 2009, the first arrangements had started for the success of AWSIF 2010. By the time I arrive in Cairo, the entire office was already putting all efforts in preparing the best AWSIF Ashoka Arab World had ever organized. My initial 4 months were dedicated exclusively for such event, especially in the co-coordination (thanks to Emily Kaiser, who brilliantly guided me and made use of her experience to show me the right path for the achievement of our goals) of one round table discussion on the second day.
Ashoka staff and interns at AWSIF 2010
This allowed me the experience of carrying out a multidimensional internship, in which I interacted with different people and handed different issues all the time. By working a little bit with research, marketing, logistics, planning and outreach I developed professional and personal skills that will be useful for my future career plans. To point some out: a sharp and precise holistic view and flexible thinking—especially after dealing with contingencies and having to take quick actions. Stakeholder focus might have been the most developed competence, because one should keep in mind all sustainable partnerships and private support when it comes to working for a non-profit organization.
The experience at Ashoka also led me to work my effective communication (clearly conveying and receiving messages, either verbal or written), to feel what goes on in an international work environment, and to understand the importance of the division of tasks and responsibilities: synergy is what makes a team strong and harmoniously synchronized. During the internship I analyzed information and situations, made effective decisions and thought out-of-the-box, not leaving behind the commitment to results.
After AWSIF 2010, I had the chance to work with Fellowship, and came across to people doing excellent work in a region that seeks positive change. By looking over such profiles fed me with inspiring ideas, and allowed me to see how individuals can change the patterns across society, making the difference and contributing to a better world. People as Magda Iskander, Azza Kamel, Rabee Zureikat and Abdelfattah Abusrour, just to mention a few, are revolutionizing the social sector with their great changing potential and wonderful initiatives.
During the last 5 months I also had the opportunity to make friends and to chill out with incredible people. Everyone should have a Dr. Iman, Doa’a, Nairy, Inji, Emily(s), Rebecca, Jamil, Anna, Peter(s), Wael, Maha, Mark, Amir, Farida, Elaina, Alex, Zoe in a lifetime. I’ve met the most generous individuals ever, and I do not doubt they all have a great future ahead of them. These brave individuals were the roots of our oak tree for the past months, and even tough some have left, the others will carefully drive Ashoka towards success.
Renan with Ashoka staff and interns at Sports Day
As a final remark, but not any less important, this experience would not have been that intensive and worth if it weren’t in Egypt, one of the most populous countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Brazilians are fascinated by this ancient civilization, and I would even take the risk and say I won’t be in such a magical place for a lifetime. Despite the similarities that nations under development might have, Egypt is unique: the honking horns, the koshary and grilled corn vendors, the lively night life, the tannura dancer, the Nile flowing down…Come to Egypt and leave your heart in the Pharaohs’ land.