A recent event at the Ismaili Centre, Dubai explored the growing role that social entrepreneurship is playing in the Middle East and around the world. Titled Uniting Nations through Social Entrepreneurship, the event brought together regional leaders in government, the diplomatic sector, corporate leaders, philanthropists, and leaders in civil society.
“The social conscience and responsibility of the individual to contribute to society's betterment is an ethic that is strongly embedded in this region's tradition,” said Naushad Noorali Rashid, President of the Ismaili Council for the United Arab Emirates, in his address during the event. “The Ismaili community is honoured to be an ambassador of this tradition today at the Ismaili Centre, Dubai.”
The search for sustainable approaches to alleviating pressing societal challenges requires pioneering innovation, strategy and collaboration. What differentiates social entrepreneurs is their penchant for enabling this across sectors. By bringing together skill sets and resources from commercial, government and civil society entities, social entrepreneurs work towards building sustainable, long-term solutions.
During the session, initiatives addressing local, regional, and global causes were discussed. A number of success stories were shared in education, empowerment, health, telecommunications, community mobilisation, and economic development.
One such example is Rags2Riches, a venture that produces eco-ethical fashion products and home accessories out of recycled scrap cloth, organic materials and indigenous fabrics. Rather than focusing solely on profit maximisation, it provides a positive business model that improves both social and environmental circumstances.
Afghanistan-based Roshan, an initiative of Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, provided another example of a socially responsible business. The for-profit telecommunications company takes a multi-stakeholder approach, training local people in their market to open their own businesses and scale up through community engagement. This bottom-up method empowers the population to be economically independent.
The event also provided a platform for leaders to contribute knowledge and examples from experiences in impact investment. A panel discussion highlighted ways in which various members of the community are building social and environmental stability, and sought to strengthen collaboration.