In this post, we continue our series focusing on Social Enterprises in the UAE and Middle East and If you’re one of the many people that think the UAE is too shiny and glitzy for sustainable companies, then you’ve come to the right place because we are about to smash such stereotypes firmly into pieces.
There’s no doubt that this part of the world is renowned for all things luxurious and glitzy, but the pace at which the social enterprise movement has taken up residence proves just how versatile the UAE really is.
The very essence of the local culture is rooted in acceptance and a strong sense of doing good things for others. This positive attitude, motivation and fast-paced context translate into a nation fully prepared to move with the times. And the times are all about conscious companies and thoughtful consumerism.
A New Type of Hospitality
So, now we know a little about the context, what exactly is going on round these parts and under the social enterprise umbrella?
The latest enterprise that has everybody talking is Evolvin’ Women. This Dubai-based programme provides women from 20 developing nations with work placements in Dubai hotels.
It promotes equal job opportunities, paves the way to economic growth and breaks down social, cultural and economic barriers, all the while taking jobseekers down new, previously impossible avenues.
Each woman receives intensive training and a 12-month placement with the hospitality industry a deliberate choice as it receives plenty of government funding with the view to support tourism and development.
But it’s not only about bringing those from outside the nation into the UAE. There’s plenty going on with the local population too and it all starts with providing education to create greater opportunities and give people the best possible starting block in their career.
With a vision along the same lines as Evolvin’ Women – creating a structure within which individuals can realise their potential – Enable Home and Garden Social Enterprise is a valuable initiative.
Led by the Dubai-based Desert Group, it offers a work-based development programme to support those with special needs and cognitive learning challenges in learning key entrepreneurial and life skills.
While Enable help their students learn how to assemble and sell creative plant arrangements with the aim to gaining the skills to start their own business, this social enterprise model has already inspired a slew of similar initiatives producing artwork, food items and homewares.
Small Business and Social Enterprise
There is also plenty going on with small business social enterprise. We have social fashion brand Palestyle, who employ Palestinian refugee women to produce handbags, luggage and home décor with a percentage of all sales invested into Palestinian development projects.
As new and emerging technology such as FinTech is being aligned with social enterprise, this just goes to show that this type of conscious company is here to stay. Social awareness is firmly rooted in the public awareness and the wariness surrounding such ventures is diminishing with every day.
UAE-based NOW Money use mobile banking technology to “empower the unbanked” and make sure that everyone has access to affordable financial services. They are the first FinTech company in the Gulf region to use mobile banking technology to provide accounts, financial inclusion and a range of low-cost remittance options to low-income migrant workers.
One of the most exciting parts about the social enterprise wave is that the ground is being laid for future generations to continue the trend. The Emirates Foundation appointed Impact Hub to design a youth entrepreneurship program aligned with the UN to encourage young people to become social entrepreneurs. With tech, infrastructure and innovation developing at such a rapid pace, we can’t wait to see what the future holds.
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