Posted on April 04, 2016

Reach Out To Asia (ROTA) has wrapped up the eighth edition of its three-day EMPOWER 2016 conference with a pledge to establish a regional network responsible for advancing innovation and youth social entrepreneurship. The newly announced network will be conducted in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and will be made up of young inventors and social entrepreneurs who attended the EMPOWER 2016 conference. They will be responsible for establishing a regional mechanism for capacity building and cooperation, as well as creating a crowd funding academy for the Arab region.

Held under the theme ‘Innovation in Youth Social Entrepreneurship’, this year’s EMPOWER conference brought together more than 450 bright enthusiastic young minds from around the world to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing entrepreneurship from a community-building perspective. It was designed to encourage youth to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Qatar National Vision 2030 using the youth social entrepreneurship business methodology. Mr. Mohammed Jassim Al-Naama, Acting Executive Director and Senior Management Representative at ROTA, said the conference hoped to encourage youth to become successful and profitable entrepreneurs, while giving back to society.

“The success of ROTA in organizing the eighth edition of the EMPOWER 2016 conference reflects our organization’s strong commitment to support Qatar in its journey toward promoting innovation and building a knowledge-based economy, as part of the country's efforts to diversify its economy,” he said. The first and second day of the event included 48 workshops and two panel discussions, focusing on the concepts of crowd funding, innovation in product creation, entrepreneurship, and the power of social networking, among other topics.

Six different clubs from ROTA’s Youth Service Clubs took home prizes in six different categories, which were presented at the closing awards ceremony on the third and final day of the conference. After moderating a panel discussion and presenting a workshop on the ‘Operational Aspects of Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship’, Saudi Arabian national Firas Ragheb Al Jarrah, who holds a master’s degree in social entrepreneurship, said: “While this is my first experience as a moderator, and despite the time constraints, I believe it was an excellent opportunity to discuss the definition and objectives of social entrepreneurship.”

Empower 2016 lays foundations for 2 [].jpg

“Personally, I believe speakers successfully conveyed their ideas and presented valuable answers to participants. Simply put, my participation in EMPOWER represented a great interactive experience. I will certainly participate in future conferences if I’m invited,” Mr. Al Jarrah added. The conference welcomed experts and participants from 34 countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain. Omar Rabih, who has seven years of experience working in the social entrepreneurship field in Egypt, said: “The conference brought together participants from all around the world, providing a rich platform for the exchange of ideas. I thank the organizers for their efforts and for answering all our questions on an individual level.”

“The multicultural dimension of the panel discussions provided a platform for rich dialogue, while the workshops represented new and challenging experiences given the variety of topics addressed throughout the conference. Choosing which workshop to attend was difficult, but it allowed me to engage with other participants and for us to exchange information,” Mr. Rabih concluded. Munira Abdul Qadir, a representative of the Naqaa Sustainability Solutions, one of the first social enterprises in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, applied to participate in EMPOWER 2016 after learning that the conference’s objectives align with Naqaa’s mission.

“I heard about EMPOWER from an online post put up by a friend. I believe that the objectives of this year’s conference align with Naqqa’s mission that involves helping people make profit using environmentally-friendly solutions,” said Ms. Abdul Qadir, also a member of the Arab Youth Climate Movement. Youth Social Entrepreneurship, which lies at the core of this year’s conference theme, aims to address skills development, education, and investment in young people to motivate them to utilize their capabilities to achieve success and independence.

Empower 2016 lays foundations for 3 [].jpg

While conventional entrepreneurship typically measures performance in terms of profit, social entrepreneurship takes into account positive returns for the community. As such, Youth Social Entrepreneurship integrates social, cultural, and environmental goals while generating profits, employment prospects and opportunities for youth innovation. Saleh Mohammed al-Masoudi, who traveled from Oman to participate, said: “Mr. Karim Qassim, a lecturer at EMPOWER, told me about the conference, which featured discussions on obstacles and challenges, and solutions presented by experts. I participated in several interesting workshops and I thank the organizers for the great support they offered participants in terms of reception and accommodation.”

Youssef Janahi, board member of Bahrain-based Good Word Society, also praised the organizers of EMPOWER 2016 for providing a platform for the exchange of ideas and expertise on social entrepreneurship. “The panel discussions touched on every aspect of social entrepreneurship and social media networks, which I found very beneficial. I intend to participate in future editions of EMPOWER and to become an ambassador for the event in Bahrain,” Janahi said.

The EMPOWER 2016 Conference was inaugurated by Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Chairperson of Reach Out To Asia. It was also attended by H.E. Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s Minister of Economy and Commerce; HE Doctor Sheikha Aisha bint Faleh Al Thani, ROTA Board Member; and Mr Essa Al Mannai, ROTA Executive Director, in addition to a number of other VIPs from Qatar and the region.

Al Mannai praised ROTA’s partners and sponsors for their participation in the conference, saying they contributed a great deal to the success of EMPOWER 2016. ROTA partnered with Qatar Charity, the Qatar Financial Centre, the Qatar National Convention Centre, as well as Qatari Diar, Qatar Airways, The Translation and Interpreting Institute (TII), and Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU). ROTA is a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), and the event further illustrated the success of the organization’s mission to unlock human potential.