In Egypt, the social enterprise movement has gained momentum in the years since the January 25, 2011 revolution. This moment in history gave Egyptian youth a sense of belonging and control over thier future they had not previously felt; manifesting itself in a proliferation of young social entrepreneurs who are determined to translate their long held dreams into tangible outcomes that help their communities.
Young Egyptian social entrepreneurs join youth across the developing world in pioneering new ways to provide basic services to their local communities. The power of these emerging non-state providers (NSPs) is especially successful in post conflict fragile states like Egypt. While the state rebuilds itself and its capacity to deliver services, NSPs are able to satisfy the urgent need for basic services, stimulate economic activity, create jobs, and reduce poverty through their sustainable market-based, socio-economic solutions.
In addition to those creating impact on the ground, other NSPs have surfaced to nurture, incubate, guide, train, and sometimes fund the business models coming out of this moment in Egyptian history. Even the government, which still lacks a regulatory framework, has played a key role in advancing social entrepreneurship through initiatives such as Bedaya, a knowledge and learning center that enables Egyptian enterprises to access different financial and non-financial services needed to ensure growth and development. The Bedaya Start-Up Academy – which aims to equip entrepreneurs with the skills, competencies and knowledge required to establish and run their own businesses – saw the graduation of its first class just last week.
For any business, investment capital is important, and social enterprises are not immune to this. Despite this, social enterprises need more than funding to sustain their lasting impact. Impactful partnerships between various NSPs, private sector entities, bilateral and multilateral donor agencies, and governments are the most vital catalyst for success for these social enterprises. These partnerships allow for the pooling of resources and the creation of significant synergy to further impact societal needs. Such partnerships have shown possibility in forming strong consortiums that would create even farther reaching impact by introducing or amending existing social policies and sensitizing them to local needs.
The Egypt Development Marketplace (DM) is especially unique when it comes to building these crucial and meaningful partnerships. We have put the theory of developing partnerships into practice by gathering the largest numbers of NSPs (Including funders, corporates, development financial institutions, foundations, and technical service providers) to support the growth and sustainability of these passionate social enterprises desirous to change their communities. In fact, more than 20 NSPs have come together to contribute to strengthening the social entrepreneurial and impact investment environment in Egypt.
Through this blog, I will be tracing the evolution of partnerships between the various NSPs under the Egypt DM. Together, we will identify and document best practices, draw from lessons learned, and question how these alliances can be fostered to have long lasting impact. Examining these partnerships will allow us to see the benefit of creating a common platform for collaboration and partnership that can bring about true and lasting change to those who truly need it.
Ranya Abdel Baki is a consultant and development economist working in the World Bank Group's Country Office in Cairo, Egypt. She blogs about the fundamental role partnerships play in helping social entrepreneurs reach their potential and create an extreme poverty free world with shared prosperity.