UAE-based Female Entrepreneurs Visit UK to Learn How to Increase the Social Value of Their Business


Thirteen UAE-based female entrepreneurs have started their social entrepreneurship training journey with the pilot edition of Badiri Social Entrepreneurship Programme (BSEP), which kicked-off in the UK.

BSEP is the brainchild of Sharjah-based NAMA Women Advancement Establishment’s education and capacity building arm, Badiri Education and Development Academy, and the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE). Through their collaboration on BSEP, SSE is expanding its reach into the Arab region for the first time.

Spread over 10 months, the programme aims to empower Emirati and UAE-based female entrepreneurs above the age of 20, through knowledge-exchange and expert sessions that will equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to turn their business into profitable social enterprises.

After a rigorous selection process that was undertaken by BSEP in the first quarter of 2018, it was successfully launched with participants flying to the UK for 10 days of intensive learning in London and Cornwall, organised by SSE.

The programme’s customised curriculum will expose the participants to the social enterprise ecosystem in the UAE, England and India. They will learn what it is really like to run a social enterprise - an organisation which goes beyond commercial success to create a positive social impact - through project visits, practical learning sessions and talks from established socialentrepreneurs.

The programme’s participants, who have diverse socially driven businesses, split their time between London and Cornwall to attend ten project visits.

The participants Include, Assia Riccio, who runs Evolvin' Women; Ayesha Naseem, founder of aqash platform; Khadija Behzad who brings expats and tourists closer to authentic Emirati culture through her company, Meet the Locals; Maitha Shadad from the volunteering organisation, Nashama UAE.

The list of participants also features Mariam Hoteit from one of the oldest Lebanese bakeries in Sharjah, Al Mukhtar Bakery; Mariam Ketait, owner of wellness brand Ebb and Flow; Najat Ould Haj, who wants her social enterprise to focus on raising breastfeeding awareness for girls and women before they get pregnant ; Sabeena Zeghum who promotes ethical trade practices and supports artisans through The Little Fair Trade Shop; Maitha Bin Turkeya, who wants to start a teen coaching institute, Lighthouse; Sara Ramadan from PharmaVgate Academy; Asma Ahmad, founder of Zaha, which connects people from different cultures through co-creating food experiences and storytelling; Fatuimah Bu Mussa, founder of With Hope, which promotes mental health awareness in the UAE through volunteerism and advocacy and finally, Mariam Qayed who owns alBeqsha, which specialises in authentic Emirati gifts and souvenirs.

UK leg: 10 social entrepreneurship sessions delivered by eight specialists

On their UK leg, the entrepreneurs learned about the purpose and goals of social entrepreneurship from Alastair Wilson, CEO of the School for Social Entrepreneurs; attended sessions on business model canvas by Reetu Sood, a social enterprise consultant; and discovered how to communicate their stories effectively from Jean MacKay, Director at JumpTraining.

Project visits are a central focus of BSEP, as social enterprises thrive on a unique dynamic, which is being socially conscious and requires in-depth exploration of opportunities and resources within the context of their social impact.

In Cornwall, participants learned about the social entrepreneurship vision behind the historic Eden Project, guided by the project’s development director, Dan James. In London, they visited Stour Space, a socially minded organisation offering exhibition, performance and studio space for the development of creative enterprises. Juliet Can, Director of Stour Space, spoke about her journey, detailing how she set up her vibrant business and overcame challenges she faced along the way. They also attend an expert session on measuring social impact by Lee Robinson, Evaluation and Research Manager at SSE.

HE Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, said: “Our participants are currently in one of the most exciting phases of BSEP; gathering first-hand experiences from experts in the field of social entrepreneurship in the UK as well as previous SSE graduates. In a world driven largely by a profit, it is imperative to equip the upcoming generation of business owners with the tools and expertise to benefit communities within which they operate.

“Women take to social causes naturally, which is explained by the fact that they outnumber male social entrepreneurs in several countries like Argentina, Iceland, Lebanon, and Russia. NAMA, under the leadership of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wants to bring this wave to the UAE and the Arab region by empowering more female social entrepreneurs who will innovate and experiment, and add value to society through their businesses.”

Commenting on the workshops Amy Barbor, Network Manager, Quality and Learning, SSE London said: “It’s an absolute privilege to be working with such a dynamic powerful group of women.  We are working them hard and they are rising to the challenge.  It’s also very exciting to be working alongside Badiri Academy, it feels like a strong impactful partnership that I hopewill long continue."

Reetu Sood, social enterprise consultant, said: “We looked at business model canvas and discussed how we can create strong business models that combine social and commercial value, so that a social enterprise is sustainable and can do what it is set out to do: which is create a strong social impact.

“The participants are amazing; they were all so engaged. Their businesses are all incredible; they brought so much knowledge with them, were open to sharing with others, supported each other, and had great questions and keen observations. I am looking forward to knowing what they experience in a few months as they put their learnings into practice.”

Participants also attended witness sessions where they picked up valuable lessons from hearing experiences of other people’s social entrepreneurship journeys, and attended money management sessions that shed light on the crucial aspect of how they should be handling their finances to run a healthy and sustainable enterprise.

The BSEP cohort has also been introduced to Action Learning Sets (ALS), a structured learning tool used by small groups or ‘sets’ whose participants come together to address their complex business issues by meeting regularly and working collectively. After learning how the tool works, they got together and participated in their first set.

BSEP participant, Assia Riccio, said: “The programme has been an eye opener; fully action- oriented and deeply insightful for us. We have been introduced to several new ideas and heard many successful stories of social businesses operating in the UK, which has been very inspiring. All the parts of the programme are so intense and engaging; each session has offeredus a clear picture of the challenges and opportunities inherent to social entrepreneurship and at the same time offered us the tools to identify our specific challenges and find answers.”

“This has also been a journey of self-discovery; an opportunity to validate what I have accomplished so far and an incredible forum to learn from other entrepreneurs. There should be more dedicated teams like Badiri Academy and SSE to help entrepreneurs around the world make an even greater social impact.”

Emirati national Mariam Ketait, owner of wellness brand Ebb and Flow, said: "BSEP has breathed a new life into my business, empowering me with the knowledge I need to define the social objectives of my enterprise by gauging the kind of impact it can have. I am truly inspired by the journeys some of the speakers and experts shared during their wonderful interactions with us. I am eager to implement what I learnt here, and look forward to sharing my successful story in social entrepreneurship with others.”

As part of their training and development, BSEP’s participants will have access to the extensive SSE network of social entrepreneurs around the world who have completed SSE learning programmes.

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