Synergos, Microsoft Gulf begin joint initiative
Arab World Social Innovators will support, help grow 20 local entrepreneurs businesses
Microsoft Gulf and the Synergos institute have announced the launch of the Arab World Social Innovators (AWSI) programme in the UAE. The programme aims to expand the scale and sustainability of high-impact social entrepreneurship to empower youth in the UAE.
Synergos and Microsoft will choose 20 social innovators from varying sectors and help them become successful larger-scale enterprises or non-governmental organizations.
The AWSI program uses four main criteria to choose their social innovators from sectors as varied as health care and arts and culture.
The most important criteria, according to George Khalaf, director Middle East and North Africa, Synergos is that they need to be beyond start-up phase.
"We are looking for individuals who have a proof of concept, who have demonstrated social impact, who are looking to tap into our network to help this already proved idea to scale up to reach more beneficiaries or new geographies," he said.
Synergos also requires entrants to speak and be comfortable presenting their ideas in English.
"This is not to discriminate against people who do not speak English, it is more a reflection of the fact that one of the most significant offerings that social innovators benefit from is access to our network, so we get invited to forums and the reality is those events are conducted in English and in order to benefit from the programme offerings, the social innovator needs to feel comfortable presenting their work in English and networking," said Khalaf.
The third important criterion is the social return on the project. Synergos accepts applicants from across all sectors, as well as both commercial and not-for-profit ideas. Every applicant must have a strong social benefit aspect to their ideas.
The final criterion Synergos uses to select its innovators is the ethical fabric of the individual.
"Ethical fabric is almost impossible to measure when you read an application. This is when we really depend heavily on our networks on the ground, so for each of the finalists we reach out to all their references; people they have worked with, people that know the applicant to learn more about their reputation," said Khalaf.
The Arab World Social Innovators programme will be targeting high priority sectors in the Middle East, such as youth employment, education and environmental issues; they will also be focusing on a greater representation of women.
"Synergos was founded a long time ago, the word Synergos comes from the Greek meaning working together and that is our fundamental principle, that as the world gets increasingly complex, but better linked in communications, it is important that the communications that develop are good ones and strong ones and geared towards solving economic, social and political problems so our mission has always been to bring together the different sectors, government, private sector, non-profits to create positive solutions to the kinds of obstacles that prevent societies from flourishing," said Peggy Dulany, founder and chair of Synergos.
The Arab World Social Innovators now has two years of experience under its belt with 22 fellows already in the programme and the new agreement with Microsoft will leverage the company's virtual and social networks for the benefit of the AWSI programme.
"It is our pleasure to find a way to work with the corporation in a way that makes so much sense, as you (Microsoft) are so well connected in virtual as well as actual ways, and certainly well-respected in society and the collaboration we are developing, I think, makes a lot of sense for the UAE, for Microsoft and for Synergos," said Dulany.
Each chosen social entrepreneur will receive an integrated set of offerings over a two-year period. These include a total financial award over the programme period, participation in workshops and training, access to Synergos' network of business, civil society and philanthropic leaders and will benefit from peer network support.
"I want to thank Synergos as what we are doing is a very important milestone in our journey of creating a partnership because this enablement of socio-economic development, the support of the innovation in our region cannot happen by any one organisation on its own, regardless how big or influential or capable financially or otherwise it is. Working together, partnering together means a lot to us because not only will it allow the sharing of best practices, but it brings the value of thought leaders that have been experiencing how this can really help the economical development, how it can help the youth, how it can help the government, really in focusing on what is important, this is very crucial," said Samer Abu-Ltaif, regional general manager, Microsoft Gulf.