While the Arab Spring has highlighted the urgent need to address the economic obstacles that prevent young people from being fully integrated into their societies, it has also opened “civic space” for them to participate in shaping the futures of their communities. Sustainable, lasting social change requires grassroots involvement and participation, and Silatech believes that the long-term viability of the youth agenda is strengthened by the engaged participation of young people in solving the challenges that affect them directly.
To that end, Silatech works to expand the capacity of youth organizations and social entrepreneurs. Apolitical and non-partisan, Silatech’s aim is not to directly mobilize youth organizations, but, rather, to provide them with the capabilities and opportunities to be engaged citizens playing an active role in shaping their own futures.
In 2011, Silatech launched the Taqeem Fund, a regional partnership between Silatech, the Youth Employment Network, the Jacobs Foundation and the World Bank, which supports small- and medium-sized social enterprises, youth employment and enterprise programs from across the Arab states to measure the actual impact they are making, evaluate what works best, and present their results to governments, other NGOs, donors and investors. Taqeem is the first such “Monitoring and Evaluation” (M&E) fund of its type in the region.
In December 2011, the Taqeem Fund announced 11 youth-focused organizations from throughout the region that will receive grants and technical assistance to help them improve the impact and effectiveness of their youth employment and entrepreneurship programs. Representing seven countries, these 11 organizations collectively serve more than 250,000 young people throughout the Arab world (as of early 2012). There are plans in 2012 to scale up Taqeem’s reach to include around 50 participating youth-focused organizations.
Social Innovation Fund
In 2012 (depending on co-funding), Silatech plans to initiate a “social innovation fund” that will provide support, through an annual competitive granting process, to 15-25 leading social innovation organizations in the region. Similar to a venture capital (VC) model, Silatech’s Social Innovation Fund will “seed” investment into potentially great ideas and organizations that can be scaled up to benefit others throughout the region.
There are many great examples of institutions globally that work on starting and running such regional social innovation facilities, and Silatech aims to build strategic partnerships to ensure it is leveraging best practice.