On October 12th, 2010, Ashoka Arab World launched the Ashoka Innovation Network (AIN) in Cairo, Egypt. AIN is the first forum designed specifically for young professionals in Egypt with an interest in social entrepreneurship to network, meet like-minded individuals from different sectors, and learn about the latest trends and initiatives in social entrepreneurship. The 30 guests in attendance were strategically invited based on their professional background, as event organizers wanted to have a wide range of professional expertise represented.
The theme of the first AIN event was “bridging the gap,” between the public and corporate sectors to affect social change. To highlight this theme, Ashoka Fellow, Raghda El Ebrashi, shared her story on how she is creating employment for marginalized youth through a market-based sustainable model. She caters to business sector needs and market needs thus bridging the gap between the social sector and the business sector and professionalizing the citizen sector. Her model has as its workforce volunteer university students from the student clubs affiliated with Alashanek Ya Balady (AYB), her CSO.
The event was perhaps most unique in the sense that it featured both informal and formal networking sessions. After the initial meet and greet mingling period, AIN participants were divided into four “networking groups” that were facilitated by an AIN volunteers. Participants were asked three questions whose answers spurred conversation about the importance of social entrepreneurship, and its relevance in solving many of the world’s social challenges. The questions were also meant to provide a relaxed and informal way for participants to get to get to know one other.
AIN will also offer opportunities for young Egyptians to volunteer directly with Ashoka Arab World Fellows, helping in their CSO, or offering consulting and mentoring services. Mr. Sherif Hussein Yehia who works at HSBC and is the AIN volunteer coordinator said, “AIN provides me with the platform to meet other young people who are interested in getting involved with Ashoka and social entrepreneurship. We have unique access to the Ashoka Arab World network and can use our skills to get involved with causes we care about deeply.”
Stay tuned for more updates from the event last night, including interviews with guests and information about upcoming AIN events.