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Climate Change and Global Crisis: The Syrian Example

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Written by Dana Dadoush

In light of a recurring theme that has been driving a lot my recent experiences, as a Syrian native, I will highlight an idea that I believe, should be a very important part of our discourse on the Syrian issue.  One of the forgotten stories that took place, which can be identified as one of the root causes to uprising of the Syrian Revolution in 2011, was the water crisis. For many years, Syria was suffering from water scarcity; even before the severe drought which reached a new high in 2009-2011. I am sure some will relate when I describe how I spent my summer days in Syria filling up buckets of water in preparation for the water cut that was going to happen in the afternoon. Although for me, that meant just spending an hour or two a day without water at home, but to the many lower-income families, especially in the rural areas, it meant spending several hours a day without water. Anyhow, in 2011, tensions from the Syrian people reached a new high because of the poor living conditions, lack of basic human amenities and the many injustices carried out by the Syrian government (Wendle, 2016). In response, the people went onto the streets to ask for their rights. Five and half years later, over 400 000 people have been killed, and over 10 million displaced. (Mercy Corps, 2016). And it’s nowhere close to being the end.

One of the many devastating implications of Climate Change on our earth is water depletion, in many dry areas of the world. And, one of the most affected areas, to our luck, is the Middle Eastern Region. In discussing one of the triggers of the Syrian Revolution, the topic on water cannot be ignored. For many researchers, it became evident that the war in Syria can be used as an example of the types of conflicts and calamities that can occur, due to Climate Change-related events. It points to the destruction, deaths and instabilities that it can lead to, along with other global problems that it can trigger. The association between Climate Change and the Syrian Crisis has not been communicated enough or clearly to the public, especially to those Climate skeptics, who deny the scientific evidence. Hence, emphasis should be put on making this reality part of the discourse on the Syrian Crisis. Such global and catastrophic events like Syria’s water crisis, are one of the prime global factors that need to drive more sustainable practices.

Innovation and Impact: Taking Your Organization 10x: Lessons from the Indian Approach to CSR



The Sustainability Platform team, in partnership with PeoplePro Trainers and Consultants, held the first of what is shaping out to be a series of workshops on how to take your impact 10x. While we have done the same workshop around the world, this is the first time we did in front of an audience of Indian CSR practitioners. Here are some of the lessons we have learned along the way:

The Challenges Are Global, The Solutions Are Local

Wherever in the world you work, if you are an impact-driven organization looking to create change in the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) markets, chances are you will come across a similar set of challenges. Lack of trust, an inadequate infrastructure, high barriers to entry and lack of relevant policies often times hinder the CSR efforts. While these challenges are global, the most successful initiatives are the ones that focus on local solutions. This includes building long-term relationships with the communities; hand in hand cooperation with government bodies and a “long game” approach to impact. That might mean the shared value will take longer to be created, but the solid foundation will increase the impact 10x.

Creating an Ecosystem is a Priority

The key to sustainable social change is creating an ecosystem involving all the relevant players. This includes academia, public and private sectors, beneficiaries and non-governmental organizations. A dialogue between all the stakeholders is necessary to ensure no backtracking is happening and proper strategies are in place. Lack of communication and the exchange of ideas is an issue in many parts of the world and have severe effects of the end beneficiary and as such need to be addressed as soon as possible. Indian CSR practitioners are very open to collaboration, and proper channels need to be in place to facilitate the conversation.

Funding Remains an Issue

The Sustainability Platform firmly believes that the future of CSR budgets is impact investing. Many NGO and social enterprise managers bring up a lack of corporate funding as one of the biggest obstacles in reaching their end goal and scaling their operations. On the flip side, many CSR managers do not know how to deploy their funds to ensure maximum impact. That gap can easily be bridged if we start looking at CSR programs as impact funds that are aligned with the overall strategy of the company. The global case studies prove this to be a viable concept and hopefully we will be seeing a lot more of this approach in the Indian (and Middle Eastern) markets.

Don’t Do Things for Free

The CSR team has a great program or a product that the BOP market really needs and they are very excited about it until they realize no one from the community has signed up for it or seems to be interested in it. Their first response is to start adding on perks, from a free meal and transport to employment possibilities. And yet, the results seem to be really low. It has been proven over and over again that, in order to ensure your customer takes your service seriously, there needs to be cost attached to it. From malaria nets in Sub-Saharan Africa to vocational trainings in India, the most successful strategies are the ones that empower the beneficiaries to make the choice by paying for it. This psychological trick works in all cultures and markets, the only thing to be mindful of is finding the right pricing strategy. That way you ensure commitment and instill a sense of pride.


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The Global Reach of Enterprise


Written by Alam Zia

Globalisation is an underlying trend that has been taking the world by storm for the past fifty years. This trend refers to the ever-growing connectedness between people across the world wether it be socially, politically or economically. As I am a nineteen year old undergraduate one could assume my attention centers social and political concerns. Such as, my dissipating nationalism or the conceivable election of a reality television host. On the contrary, as a hopeful entrepreneur, I dwell on the economic factors of globalisation.

Modern technology has given ease to the conduct of trade and through that has given rise to Multinational Corporations (MNCs). In 1996 the top hundred MNCs were responsible for a third of trade in the entire worlds market[1]. The same hundred corporations also owned a quarter of all stock of foreign direct investment (FDI)[2]. These numbers are undoubtedly increasing and prove that large corporations are no longer concerned with domestic domination but are pursing to encompass the global market.

These companies have great power and with that they must have a great sense of responsibility as well, right? Most do, and thereby display programs of corporate social responsibility on their illustrious websites. But that has been shown, in the past and present, to be a veil for some select MNC’s such as Volkswagen. CSR programs encounter the dilemma of implementing characteristics like sustainable operations but lack to create initiatives for real positive change.

This is where social enterprise comes in, for me, for substantial causes and for the future. Social enterprises bridge the gap between businesses and societal issues by using non-traditional models. Doing good and being profitable is the ultimate goal. The aforementioned economic globalisation will also have an effect on this ever-growing sector. Expert in MENA, Soushiant Zanganehpour, believes that:

“The fundamental values of social entrepreneurship [will] become incorporated into  mainstream business practice. The implications of this for large businesses and brands will  vary; some may see it as a threat while others will see this as an opportunity to reinvent themselves to redefine purpose, responsibility and expectations in order to build loyalty with a new emerging consumer demographic.”

The emerging populace he refers to is the millennials and inferably the upcoming workforce of Generation Z (those born in 1995-2000’s). Social enterprise challenges the norms instilled by major corporations and forwards fluidity that is paralleled to the factors of economic globalisation. My opinion, based on the content above, is that corporations have a duty to not only preserve our fragile world but to also enhance it. Wether it’s targeting environmental or societal issues on a global or a local scale there is a need for action. Of course this is easier said than done but hundreds of attempts to do good and falling short are better than not trying at all.


[1]  G. Shangquan, ‘Economic Globalization: Trends, Risks and Risk Prevention’, (2000), (, Date Accessed: Jun 28 2016

[2]  J. Stopford, ‘Multinational Corporations’, (1998), pp. 1-3 (, Date accessed: Jun 29 2016

Coming Up: Making Every Business a Social Business


Join us on May 3rd at AstroLabs for a free session on how to make every business a social business!

Sign up here:


josh astrolabs

The Introduction to Social Business: Making every Business a Social Business is designed for non-social entrepreneurs looking to create impact through their businesses.

Over the course of 90 minutes the facilitators will cover the teachings and basic principles of social businesses, using real world examples of highly impactful businesses.

This workshop is aimed at startups in all fields, entrepreneurs at all stages and anyone curious about the best practices in the social impact world.

Watch your STEP & Top Tech companies to watch out for in MENA


Written by Aya Sadder - Expecting to grow to 8,000 people in 2017, Ray Dargham – Founder of STEP Group, announced as he welcomed 4,000+ through the doors at Dubai International Marine Club this April. With the wave of startups, speakers, incubators, angels and VC’s exhibiting at STEP, the crowd seemed to want more. It’s a good thing there’s still 2017.

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While most of the startups have come to exhibit their hard work over the course of weeks, months and some even a few years, and yet expectations are as high as the cost of the tickets and every minute echoes the sound of excitement, mixed with fear, sweat and competition. Albeit all of this, there was still one big discussion that was on the tongue of all the startups: the need for funding. VC’s like LEAP Ventures & MEVP among others took to the stage pieces of advice that would help startups remain successful in a highly condensed market like the UAE. Tena Pick, Head of Advisory at VentureFin, stated that “a good business idea comes from a desire to change the status quo as opposed to starting a business as a means to gain purely financial profit.” Among the startups at STEP this year, I have listed a few below that are bringing that innovation and creativity to the table.

“If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.” – Warren Buffet.

Entrepreneur Middle East‘s Editor-in-chief, Fida Chaaban, moderated the opening panel at STEP 2016 to begin the discussion around the investment opportunities that are investable and why? Ms. Hala Fadel, Co-Founder at LEAP Ventures, responded with figures: “we should be investing at least 0.3% of the overall GDP capital injected into the UAE economy which is about 1.2 billion USD in funding.” Although she is correct to look at global best practices that have played out successfully; in this region,  if we are to do it correctly, we need to have the right infrastructure in place that allows for more failures and testing in the marketplace before we can drop in a much more serious amount of capital. We need a lot more funding support from the government in STEM & Fintech as the future shines bright for these industries.


Here are some of the startups that are moving the needle forward in the technology space in the MENA region:

1) Vybz: The latest and greatest in the entertainment technology space right now. Vybz is a musical social network bridging the gap between established artists, up & coming musicians and fans.

2) Need a shiny place in a fancy city like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Doha? Justmop gets the job done. They are an online on-demand marketplace for booking cleaners to help you keep your most precious resource, your time.

3) IRIS Solutions: One of the most innovative and latest technology solutions to autism. The Sensory Box created by IRIS Solutions is a cutting-edge & affordable approach to create a rehabilitation-friendly and safe environment – mostly but not only – for households with children who are affected by developmental disorders.

4) Bridg: On a mission to spread Fintech to masses and let people know they hear them when it comes to the pain of dealing with their banks.

5) Magnitt: A portal that helps and supports startups from concept exploration to launch and growth. All you have to do is join their platform to connect with Investors, Mentors and Potential Partners!

6) Gruptrip: No more forgetting who owes what, forgetting to share the photos, worrying what the itinerary is going to look like. With Gruptrip, everybody gets to see what’s going on through a click of a button. Available both on the app store and play store.

7) Higher Education: Education is the backbone of a society. And Higher Education provides a one stop destination to find out about all universities, colleges, higher education service providers and courses on offer in the United Arab Emirates.

Supporting Startups In Gaza: A Mentor’s Experience In Palestine

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Written by Tena Pick

Originally published at Entrepreneur Magazine Middle East on March 2nd 2016

If one were to create a list of startup epicenters in the Middle East, chances are Gaza would be overlooked. That would be a grave mistake though- one that many players in the ecosystem have been making. Since the day I found out I was to join Gaza Sky Geeks as a mentor, I was met with confusion and the same question: “But why? Why are you going to Gaza, when there can’t be any entrepreneurs there? Why are you going to Gaza, when the situation there makes it impossible for startups to thrive?” And now I can reply to these queries with first-hand experience: while the situation in Gaza is difficult (to say the least) after the ten-year embargo, people were wrong about almost everything else.

Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG), Gaza’s first and only startup accelerator, is run by the international humanitarian organization Mercy Corps. It focuses not only on the startups in the program, but also on building an ecosystem in Gaza. In its current intake, there are ten businesses, ranging from educational services to wearable technology. GSG supports female entrepreneurs as well, through a series of specially designed events and workshops that answer the specific needs of female startup owners.

I have been following the work of GSG with great interest and had filled out their online application out of curiosity. After a Skype interview and a bit of logistical emails, we agreed on my dates and on the scope of work I was expected to do in the three days on the ground with the GSG team. My focus was on scaling to MENA, crowdfunding and female leadership, as well as offering ad hoc support for the teams in GSG.

The biggest challenges faced by entrepreneurs in Gaza are not so different from entrepreneurs all over the world: how to penetrate new market segments, how to raise funds and allocate them efficiently, how to structure the business so it can grow and take on additional pressures. What is different is the drive that the entrepreneurs have: for them, it really does come down to do or die. The energy, the passion and the dedication I have witnessed in the offices of GSG cannot be compared to anything outside of Silicon Valley.

Some of the businesses have already received their first round of funding, such as Maktabi, the Airbnb for office spaces, which is doing their pilot soon in Beirut. Other notable businesses are Walk’n’Charge, a wireless device that generates energy through simple movement and can charge your device anytime, anywhere, Baskalet, a mobile game developer, and Mockapp, the InvisionApp for the Arab world.

The team behind GSG, led by Iliana Montauk, reflects the ethos of GSG: hard work plus relentless passion equals success. Everyone I worked with had been nothing but welcoming and supportive, pushing both the entrepreneurs and the mentors to do their absolute best. They are driven by a vision of a tomorrow, in which Gaza’s youth are using their skills and expertise to advance not just their own lives, but also the entire region. On top of that, they were deeply engaged throughout all mentoring sessions and had an infinite appetite for new ideas.

One of the greatest pleasures of my line of work is being able to go and explore the startup scene in different parts of the world, supporting them in their growth. Working with Gaza Sky Geeks has been nothing short of inspiring and eye opening. I encourage more and more mentors to look beyond the preconceived ideas of what Gaza is and isn’t, and go be part of the next big wave of MENA entrepreneurship.


World Coaching Congress Recognises The Sustainability Platform’s CEO

coahing award

This year marked the 4th edition of World Coaching Congress, held at Taj Lands End in Mumbai on February 16th 2016. The one day event covered a range of topics related to coaching and development of human resources within organisations, from the relationship of the physical body and work performance to igniting your spark and reaching your full potential. Tena Pick, The Sustainability Platform CEO, has been invited to present her signature talk on Gender, Coaching and Entering the C Suite, which explores how gender effects not only ones likeliness to reach C Suite, but also how coaching can help break “glass ceilings” and clean “sticky floors”. She has also been awarded the Best in Class Coaching Leadership award. “It was a great honour just to be in the same room as some of the world’s leading business coaches and learn so much from there, not to mention the award” said Tena. The Sustainability Platform would like to thank the organisers of the World Coaching Congress for having us and we are looking forward to next year’s edition!

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To book the TSP team for speaking sessions please contact 


The Sustainability Platform Projects: Rowad al Seyaha

Rowad al Seyaha, an initiative by Khalifa Fund and Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority targeted Emirati nationals in an effort to crowd source the new tourist attraction in the Corniche area in Abu Dhabi. The participants, ranging in age and in different places in their careers, went through a six-week program designed to get them to the level where they are confident in their idea and ready to pitch to a panel of high-profile judges.

sultan       996706_792877307483855_3030332658247442596_nThe Sustainability Platform team has developed the content specifically for the Rowad al Seyaha, based on global best practices. The program covered topics such as Marketing and Branding, Sustainable Tourism and Pitching, culminating in a pitching session in front of judges that included Ms. Medea Nocentini, CEO of C3-Consult and Coach for a Cause, Ms. Sallyann della Casa, Founder of Growing Leader Foundation, Mr. Ramzy Ismail, Program Manager at Flat6Labs and SHK Ahmed Al Qassimi, the CIO of VentureFin. The final presentations will take place on February 28th in front of Khalifa Fund and TCA judges and the winning idea will be implemented on the Corniche.

Managing People in Intercultural Teams


This post was originally published in Training Magazine Middle East on December 8th 2015

Written by Tena Pick

One of the biggest challenges faced by many businesses, social and commercial alike, is how to successfully manage employees from different cultural backgrounds. Management studies have focused mostly on managing people from similar age groups and the same ethnic and cultural backgrounds, but with the growing number of international companies and longer work lives, those studies seem outdated. Managers are increasingly faced with three or four generations working together; even the smallest social businesses often boast employees from different countries. That is especially true for the United Arab Emirates, home to over 200 nationalities and almost as many different languages.

Social enterprises are usually started by entrepreneurs who are passionate about a certain cause or a certain area, but that does not necessarily mean they themselves are from that area or that they understand the cultural implications of doing business in that certain way. Many managers go about that problem by hiring people from the local communities, an approach that has its merits, but does not solve the main issue: how do you work with people who are inherently different from you? We have worked with an enterprise that provides Indian women with access to sanitary pads – started by an American white male – and early childhood education providers in East Africa ran by European management. These companies are extremely successful, not in spite of the differences among their staff, but because of them. They have managed to leverage the different points of view and even different sets of values to enrich the work culture of the organization. A lot of times that means one simple thing (and yet, so many managers seem incapable of that particular thing): listening instead of imposing, learning instead of directing.

Good managers know where their own shortcomings are and great managers know how to build teams that fill those gaps. That means hiring people that understand your target market and creating a business that is culturally sensitive and relevant. The internal culture of a social business is directly reflected on the brand image and, ultimately, on the business results themselves. In practical terms, that means creating a safe space in which employees can freely express their personal values and bring different ideas to the table, as well as having clear guidelines on what happens when an employee is disrespectful to fellow employees based on their culture, religion, race, age or gender.

The cultural abundance that comes from working in international teams should be seen as a competitive advantage for the company and an added value for the employees; an opportunity to learn and grow, both on a professional and on a personal level. The business world is becoming more and more integrated in every sense, so instead of focusing on what makes us different and seeing it as an impediment to growth, managers need to focus on what makes us similar and bridge the gaps through dialogue and an atmosphere of respect and openness.

Arab Sustainability Leaders Honored with TAKREEM Awards

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Written by: Elias Jabbe

The 2015 TAKREEM Awards, held in Dubai on November 14, was notable because it shared the inspirational stories of laureates from throughout the Arab world who have led causes involving sustainability. The award ceremony, founded by veteran Lebanese news reporter Ricardo Karam, was held for the sixth time and made its debut in Dubai after being held in Marrakech last year.

Twitter recap:

During a special event that took place as part of the United Arab Emirates Innovation Week, sustainability was described by a CSR specialist as needs such as energy, education as well as clean water and food being provided to all people.

The individuals and organizations honored at TAKREEM Awards have made many contributions to society in order to make the aforementioned ideal situation a reality. The group of winners (which can be found in this article) included exceptional individuals who have created a ripple of change starting in their cities and extending to the wider MENA region.

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One of those winners was Beirut’s Paul Abi Rached. Stepping on stage to receive the TAKREEM award for Environmental Development and Sustainability on behalf of the Lebanon Eco Movement, Abi Rached exemplified how solidarity created change in his country. Though he has been dedicated to furthering the cause of an environmental NGO he created two decades ago (T.E.R.R.E. Liban), he accepted the award while wearing the hat of President of the Lebanon Eco Movement.

The latter exemplifies how there is power in numbers: it is a collective of over 60 environmental associations in Lebanon that have teamed to create and implement successful initiatives like the “Close Naameh Landfill” and “Trash to Cash” campaigns. It has also been engaged in efforts to preserve Lebanon’s spectacular Mediterranean coast so that more generations to come can enjoy it as it is.

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Abi Rached said that the award is an honor and vindication not only for those who want sustainability to be the status quo in his native Lebanon, but also throughout the Arab world. “I think the TAKREEM award offers huge support to the Lebanon Eco Movement, especially as we continue to face dilemmas revolving around the construction of big dams that hurt our environment and waste management issues,” said Abi Rached. “The government prefers means like landfilling and dumping but the Lebanon Eco Movement believes the best solutions are sorting, recycling and composting as well as clean technologies for solid waste management.” He added that going forward the award will help his team “convince decision makers and stakeholders” to go green and “encourage other environmentalists in the Arab world to continue with their mission to create change in their countries.”

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Awarding Activists
The TAKREEM Awards ceremony also served as a platform to recognize individuals in the nonprofit sector who have been steadfast activists for social justice and CSR over the course of decades. Among the three Lifetime Achievement award winners was the late Mamdouha El-Sayed Bobst, a native of Lebanon who passed away in September 2015 and was represented on stage by her husband and children. She made an impact as a longtime philanthropist and advocate for causes like education in the MENA region and in the United States of America.

More information about her life and charitable efforts around the world are available on the American University of Beirut website.

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Another inspiring award-winner who was recognized for her positive impact on society was Dr. Jumana Odeh, who founded the Ramallah-based Palestinian Happy Child Centre. She was recognized for her initiative which provides affordable high quality healthcare for handicapped Palestinian children the Humanitarian and Civic Services award.

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TV interview with Dr. Jumana Odeh on Dubai One

Rounding out honors in this category was the International Contribution to Arab Society award which shows appreciation for impactful initiatives launched by individuals and organizations not originally from the MENA region.

This year’s winner was Save The Children, which was recognized for its efforts to provide education, support and other resources for children who have been impacted by recent conflicts in countries like Yemen and Syria.

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The award was accepted by Save The Children Programme Policy and Quality Director Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, who has been a leader in the international development sector in the Middle East and Africa over the course of two decades.
She reminded everyone of the importance of every single young person needing the opportunity to lead a life with dignity with a timely quote from a legendary humanitarian.

“In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’”

Videos of the winners are available on the TAKREEM Awards YouTube page.
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More info on the author: 

Elias Kamal Jabbe (@Elias213) is a Dubai-based marketer, writer and translator. His portfolio of stories about sustainability and entrepreneurship in the MENA region and other regions of the world can be found here.