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Effat University’s Leading Role in Empowering Women in Social Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia

Within the chaos of fragmented entrepreneurship events and activities, in terms of focus and outcomes, in the Kingdom, Effat University appeared recently on the theater with its first entrepreneurship boot camp for universities’ women students. It was not only a good one but unique in deliverables. For me, it looked a professional package in empowering women in social entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia.

 

In collaboration with Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Program from the United States, on March 5th, Effat University conducted its first four days social entrepreneurship boot camp. A total of 148 women students joined the boot camp where 112 were from Effat University, and the remaining 36 were from other educational institutes in Jeddah. Through a structured ‘one-step-at-a-time’ methodology, the attendees built 37 different teams mentored by 23 professionals with various backgrounds such as engineering, education, business, finance, and law. The competition was hot between the teams toward winning joining the Henry Ford Program in Effat University’s accelerator.

What is unusual about this event is that Effat University replaced the common trend of wishful thinking, that is likely leading to no-where, with a value-focused direction. It used the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 as the Compass for the potential entrepreneurs. The participants, who were full of passion and enthusiasm, worked hard on articulating ventures’ ideas that contribute to both the Saudi society, economy, and themselves under the Kingdom’s vision 2030 umbrella. The breath-taking part of the story is that those students were not only Saudis but also from Africa, India, Pakistan, Egypt, and Yemen. Ideas were diversified and some were creative. For instance, the Indian student’s team wanted to transfer the Indian know-how model in treating diabetes to the Kingdom in the format of a joint-venture business with Saudi entrepreneurs. The Pakistani students’ team identified a way through using audio technology to effectively and efficiently manage pilgrims’ convoys while communicating with locals in Makkah and Madinah during Haj seasons. The scene was something new for me. I enjoyed living the diversity and the desire of those young talented women entrepreneurs to participate in the Kingdom’s vision in their own ways. Most of the ventures’ ideas were amazing, and few, in my opinion, were potential for a first-round pitching. The output was astonishing from those very young ladies.

 

Effat University merged, homogeneously, between empowering women and social entrepreneurship. Using the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 as a compass for this boot camp, makes this institute one of the first ones, if not the first indeed, to apply what I define it as “Value-Focused Entrepreneurship” in the Kingdom. The boot camp’s output is not something abnormal as this educational institute is an outcome of the dream and effort of Queen Effat’s in improving the education in Saudi Arabia. With the empowerment from King Faisal who believed in education, Queen Effat’s vision is not only a reality, today, but an icon too. For me, Effat University could become the top-notch institute in the field of empowering women and social entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. I am so happy for the evolution, I see, in high education. The Kingdom is changing!

The mindset in this private educational institute is unique when compared to others. It is rigorous yet practical. It is open yet with ethics and values. Every time I go there, I see more evidence that makes me believe that Effat University is more likely to become the “Eton” of Saudi Arabia in the field of women empowerment and social entrepreneurship. Its experience could be replicated in other areas in the world especially in the Islamic world as it considers the Islamic values yet with a modern and an open-minded perspective.

Jamal A. O. Al Akkad, Jeddah, 2017

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