Riyada (a term in Arabic which refers to pioneering and entrepreneurship) is a community changer that focuses on planting the seed of social entrepreneurship in the youth (15-24 years) through innovative educational programs. The Arab world is facing many problems including the Syrian refugee crisis, waste management problems, environmental issues, scarcity of water resources, difficult economic conditions, unemployment, etc. Believed to be a catalyst of development, entrepreneurship is gaining a lot of attention from policy makers, the private sector, and academic institutions. Most entrepreneurship supporting efforts, influenced by the Silicon Valley, emphasize the importance of building high-growth, scalable, and highly profitable technological businesses and describe the entrepreneurial journey to be the path to become a billionaire. Thus, many young people understand entrepreneurship as being the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg and rarely think of it as a tool to change the world positively and find solutions to eminent problems that they are facing.
Riyada intends to revolutionize the perception of the meaning of entrepreneurship for the youth by making them experience the power of social change. To do so, Riyada offers a complete educational program that plants the seed of social entrepreneurship in the youth through engaging them in hands-on activities and technology projects to solve real problems in their society thus transforming them into social innovators throughout the program.
Through a multi-faceted program which includes seasonal camps, online courses, hackathons, etc. Riyada aims to maximize the exposure of youth to social entrepreneurship allowing them to socially innovate. Moreover, through partnering with Riyada, schools and universities will be able to offer their students a full-fledge program that equips them with problem-identification skills, ideation skills, technical capabilities, and solution development skills through hands-on implementation projects where the students apply the social entrepreneurship cycle. In addition, we believe that the future of education will rely more on dynamic digital tools, this is why we are in the process of developing an online platform with Arabic language capabilities which will enable anyone in the Arab world to access this educational program to make a real change in the society.
Riyada is building on the concept of technology for good as the main motivation for the youth to change their world. Riyada’s main business is education but it also provides consulting for small and medium enterprises on how to increase the social impact of their businesses and provides young entrepreneurs with free mentorship if they are interested in social entrepreneurship. So far, we have been working on developing the core elements of the educational program which targets the youth at ages 13-21 and have piloted it in one of the most prominent schools in Beirut, Lebanon. We have also recently started marketing for the enterprise on social media and have already established a strong presence in the ecosystem in Lebanon and have been invited to talk in social entrepreneurship summits and events. We have two main partnerships being negotiated currently with technology enablers in the Arab World namely Bamboo Geeks, The Little Engineer, and other partners in order to successfully deliver one-of-a-kind summer camps in July 2017. We have two workshops planned in May 2017, one in “Girls got IT” and another in “LIU Tech week”. We are starting with the Lebanese market but as soon as we have an online educational presence through our online platform, we will penetrate other Arab countries. We already have a partnership in place for creating high-quality Arabic content material in an innovative and interactive manner.
Although Riyada was started in July 2016, it has achieved many successes so far. It was chosen as one of 30 social startups from the MENA region started by women social entrepreneurs to participate in the She Entrepreneurs Programme in Sweden in March/April 2017. In Stockholm, the founder of Riyada pitched twice in front of prominent investors and entrepreneurs from the Swedish ecosystem and received excellent feedback about the endeavor behind Riyada and the communicated plans. Moreover, it was selected as one of 200 social startups by women entrepreneurs as part of WEMENA competition. Moreover, it was selected as one of 6 startups worldwide to pitch in the Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference in May 2017 in the Silicon Valley, USA.
So far, Riyada has won the iSME grant from Kafalat and World Bank and has been invited to participate on the panels in the Social Entrepreneurship summit and NAWF in Beirut, Lebanon.