Middle East Social Entrepreneurship Faces Challenges, but No Shortage of Volunteers

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Arab Spring brought tumult to the Middle East, but the demonstrations have also ushered in new aspects to civil life in Arab society. Egypt this past week saw its first free presidential elections in its history as a result, and Arab youth across the region have used new media as an unfiltered way to express themselves and organize as they never could before.

Researchers at Stanford University say that the Arab Spring has also lent itself to furthering the development of social entrepreneurship in the region. According to its March report, Social Entrepreneurship: Why It Is Important After the Arab Spring, “unanimously across the region, young people are more interested in improving their communities and contributing to the long-term development of their societies after the revolution.”

Jointly done by its Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, online Middle East jobsite Bayt.com, and YouGov Siraj, an online research firm in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the report notes that in a survey of over 12,000 respondents from the region, more than one in four said they were already involved in volunteerism, while roughly 40% of respondents stated they were interested in starting their own business.

The challenges facing social entrepreneurship, the report notes, are those faced by traditional startups in the region. Financing is a big stumbling block, along with bureaucratic hurdles, and unclear regulations. “Although there are other challenges facing social entrepreneurship in the region, such as the lack of entrepreneurial skills among the youth, it is environmental factors that have been cited more widely by the respondents across the region,” the report notes.

Source: Arabic Knowledge@Wharton (link opens in a new window)