June 14, 2021: Riyada for social innovation, a social enterprise that offers education programs, corporate training, and consulting services to foster social entrepreneurship in the community, has virtually launched the “Shabab Lab” platform. “Shabab Lab” is the first social innovation e-learning platform in the Arab world. It comes as a result of 4 years of validating and testing the unique youth social innovation programs across several countries in the MENA region resulting in many successful partnerships, success stories, and thousands of empowered youth.
Shabab Lab https://shabablab.com, is the scalable arm of Riyada for Social Innovation, and aims to transform the youth in the Arab world into change-makers and social innovators. “By immersing them in tech-based, hands-on, and project-based programs, Riyada is empowering high-schoolers in the region to become responsible global citizens and responsible innovators in their communities”, said founder Dr. Mona Itani.
During the event, several prominent keynote speakers talked more about the emerging ecosystem of social innovation and entrepreneurship in MENA, the importance of incorporating them in education, and the future of jobs and how it relates to the needs of the 21st century and the role of social startups. Dr. Yousif Asfour, the Chief Innovation and Transformation Officer at the American University of Beirut, discussed the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship education in the 21st century and this region in particular. He said: “Innovation requires collaboration between multidisciplinary teams from different backgrounds, skills, and nationalities”. The co-founder of Anghami, Mr. Elie Habib, inspired the youth and confirmed that technology-based startups in the Arab region can indeed succeed and compete with international companies in tough domains also mentioned right now there are lots of opportunities and building a startup is so easy, keeping in mind that iteration beats perfection. In addition, the managing director of Microsoft for Startups Middle East, Mr. Roberto Croci, discussed the need for social startups and the growing support ecosystem for inclusive technologies and impact-driven startups in the MENA region. He said: “Technology can be applied in ways beyond imagination. Youth need to be equipped with the right resources to innovate and use tech for good to create experiences that are better for everyone”. Finally, the co-lead at Developer Circles from Facebook Beirut and global shaper at the World Economic Forum Ms. Sarah Abdallah stressed the importance of the 21st-century skills that the youth have to gain in order to be prepared for the future of jobs and to build a more sustainable and equitable world. She said: “Many people are at risk of losing their jobs if they don’t invest in developing themselves”.
After the keynote speeches, the winners of the “Web for Change” pilot program were announced. Five prominent schools namely International College, American Community School Beirut, Brummana High School, Rawdah High School, and College des Saints Coeurs Ain Najm participated in the program where 125 students from grade 10 completed a two-month training. The students formed 42 teams and project ideas where they implemented web development to create effective solutions for environmental problems in their communities. All teams pitched their ideas as sustainable solutions using entrepreneurship concepts they learned throughout the program and competed against the other teams. 16 different awards were announced where all the schools were represented. The winners were in the first rank the Litani Cleanup project, an interactive website that raises awareness and gathers the Litani community by participating in monthly scheduled cleanups, from College des Saints Coeurs Ain Najm. In the second rank the Ferpeelizer project, Ferpeelizer is a device that will be taking advantage of human urine and its potential to replace chemical fertilizers in a unique urine recycling process, from the Brummana High School and the third rank the Pro-Reserves, An interactive website that has information on all Lebanese reserves such as the area, Flora and Fauna, from the International College. Finally, future plans of ‘Shabab Lab” were announced including the “Web for Change” summer edition program.