I love being a staff writer for 3BL Media/Justmeans on topics - Social Innovation, Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs. When I am not writing for 3BL Media/Justmeans, I wear my other hat as owner of Serendipity PR. Over the years I have worked with high-profile, big, powerful brands and organisations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from my industry....
Social Innovation in Gaza is Giving Hope to Youth
The University of Applied Science (Ucas) in Gaza creates social innovation in web systems, computer games, animation films and Geographic Information System (GIS) tools for a growing number of clients across the globe, as well as for the young people in this region who are longing for an opportunity to develop their creativity. Ayman Afifi, international relations officer at Ucas who oversees its mentoring programme for information and communications technology (ICT) entrepreneurs, says, "The employment crisis in Gaza makes it increasingly vital for people to find a way of rising above the challenges here and not to succumb to the doom and gloom prevalent among so many youth. We are creating work that directly develops the economy of Gaza. Young people want to study and work here, because Ucas recognises the potential of great ideas."
A visionary and social innovation outlook is needed in Gaza. Research by Danida, the Danish government's international development agency, found that the majority of young people in Gaza are graduating from school and university with little hope of finding employment. This is causing disillusionment and also providing a fertile ground for radicalisation. So, to help create change, over the last year, in collaboration with Ucas and six other local partners, Oxfam has been supporting youth in a three-year economic recovery programme, funded by Danida. The aim is to create job opportunities for 5,000 young people in the ICT sector by providing vocational training for schools, university graduates and for young entrepreneurs.
Ucas's ICT sector in Gaza has the most potential in terms of long-term economic and social innovation opportunities. Karl Schembri from Oxfam Gaza says, "ICT is one of the emerging and most promising economic sectors in Gaza. Its sustainability depends primarily on human resources and local skills, which are ideal features for an economy like Gaza, where movement is restricted. At Oxfam, we realise that humanitarian aid interventions need to be coupled with longer-term economic recovery approaches. ICT is the only thing that can be exported out of Gaza without Israel's interference."
Despite the Israeli blockade, Ucas has already won four major awards. Social innovation contracts are coming in from clients from around the world, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Dubai. A website and programme that Ucas recently produced for a South African client already receives 300,000 views a day! Another project, to be launched in July, is a smartphone mobile app for university students, which is the first of its kind in Gaza.
There are more than 1,400 students graduating in ICT-related subjects each year in Gaza. The ICT sector here is mirroring the growth in the industry globally. It's a success story, but not just one of social innovation: it is a story that will hopefully inspire the young people to keep believing in a future for Gaza.
Photo Credit: inventati.org