Entrepreneurship boot camp on 'smart cities' and social businesses brings aspiring tycoons to UAE

UAE is the "obvious partner" for a platform hoping to encourage innovators

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It is the sort of idea that both inspires and warms the heart, using the most up-to-date thinking and technology to help people who are in desperate straits through no fault of their own.

Hope for Opportunity an online platform to provide quality education opportunities for Syrian refugees in camps.It is the brainchild of the UAE's Suaad Mohammed  Yousef Al Hammadi  and she presented it to the Global Youth Forum in Dubai.

In its first phase, the project will allow 500 refugees in camps  in Lebanon to access  skill training as well as  bringing them to the attention of potential employers "while simultaneously changing how the world views the refugees,” said Suaad.

It's the sort of project the conference  is all about, with eager young entrepreneurs and students from around the world, listening to and learning from  some of the most innovative minds in the modern business world, and  proving once again that when it comes to entrepreneurship, the UAE is up there with the best.

Yousef Khalili, one of the architects of  Dubai’s smart city project was just one of the many business experts from around the world who gathered  in Dubai   to share the wisdom of their experiences with an equally diverse and enthusiastic group of 96 young entrepreneurs and students from 26 countries. He held his eager audience captive, posing questions like: “What makes a city smart? What can it do for businesses?"

. He wanted to talk about other "smart" places too.  “We often talk about smart cities, let’s talk about smart villages today. Why not build services and systems that improve the lives in rural parts where the urban migrations often originate from,” he suggested. “For instance, it is possible to employ technology to connect the rural farmers with global exchange for selling their crops at the best price and the best time. This is just one of the ideas of how a rural community can benefit from smart technology.”

Mr Khalili’s engaging discourse on the potential created by smart communities for social businesses left many the room thinking of how they could build services that offer their own communities a slice of the “smart” initiative.

The platform, an annual conference facilitated by Czech-based organisation Youth Time, was conceived with this very idea in mind— to establish "meaningful exchange and learning between the enterprising youth and the industry experts,”said Youth Time founder Julia Kinash.  The conference theme this year was ethical entrepreneurship in a knowledge-based economy. “Our vision is to encourage new businesses to not just focus on building profits but also communities, by creating a positive social impact,” she told The National.

Among the contributors were Roman Vishnevskiy, expert on cryptocurrency and Dr Allam Ahmed, founder of World Association for Sustainable Development, among several others, offering their expertise on fund-raising, the use of technology and the social impact of business.

The UAE was the obvious partner, said Ms Kanish. Fatma Abdulla Al Rustamani, who is co-ordinator at the UAE's General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare and the country's representative at the forum, agreed. “The UAE is now among the leading countries that not only encourage young entrepreneurs, but extend our support to such [social] businesses,” she told The National.

For the participants though, there was more at stake. Thirteen of them presented plans and ideas for social and sustainable businesses and community programmes, competing for a full grant to fulfil their dream project. Among other prizes up  for grabs were full and partial scholarships to some of the best business schools in Europe.

Networking is a key part of any business and the platform allowed entrepreneurs to build relationships that could turn into future collaborations. Joi Sears, founder of The Green Store, a sustainable fashion brand from the United States, told The National, “We have received so much support for our business idea by just being here and interacting with other participants.“Whether or not we win the grant, we have already won opportunities in form of valuable relationships,” she added.