By Nudge Sustainability Reporter Mostafa Shahat
There are many different success stories about young Egyptians that managed to pass hard times in their life and be successful in their professional careers, or who have helped their communities by starting successful developmental organizations. The best opportunities come once in a life; only those ready to jump on it, will take it!
The story of a successful doctor of Pediatric Surgeon Alaa Obeida starts in 2004. Alaa is now one of the most influential young Egyptians who managed to start one of the most successful, sustainable and influential youth community in Egypt called EYouth. It is considered one of the top ten successful youth communities in the whole MENA region.
Alaa has been in a rare challenge, but with a great deal of passion and persistence, he managed to be successful in every aspect of his life. His professional career kicked off as one of the top students in Cairo University Faculty of Medicine where he managed to be a resident in pediatric surgery department at Cairo University – Faculty of Medicine. He also managed to be successful as a community leader through founding and leading EYouth.
Back in 2004, Alaa was in his 1st year in high school, excelled academically, being always among the top students, but he wasn’t satisfied. He was always felt like something was missing. One day, Alaa heard about an activity running in one of the school’s rooms called “The Internet Room”. He decided to go and explore what was going on. This was the moment that changed his life. , Quoted from Alaa “It was a turning point in my life; this was the opportunity I had been searching for, the missing part which balanced my life”. What he discovered there was an awesome student activity called iEARN. iEARN is an international organization working with school students all over the globe networking and developing their skills as well as giving them the opportunity to make community service projects helping their communities.
Alaa was influenced by different role models who were part of iEARN at that time. He found his peers at the school doing amazing work. They managed to be in leadership positions at iEARN, traveling abroad many times to represent Egypt and being excellent students academically. Alaa said “These role models were much better than me in different aspects, I decided to see where I was standing at that time, where the others were standing, and how I could fill this gap” adding to his point “I had to be honest with myself and see my weaknesses and start working on it”.
The first project Alaa worked on with iEARN called “Different culture, One world”. The project was about selecting a country in each continent and talk about its culture then orienting his colleague students about the different cultures of the world we are living in. Alaa, along with his friends, worked hard on this project and managed to win the 2nd best project in the local iEARN competition between the schools all over Egypt. The following year 2005, Alaa was nominated to be the assistant team leader for a project called “A better life without illiteracy”. They got the 1st place among all the projects presented by the different schools at that time. The following year, Alaa became the team leader of iEARN activity in his school, Orman Secondary School for Boys. Although Alaa was working on different projects and attending conferences, he still succeeded to get 99.27% in high school and joined the Faculty of Medicine - Cairo University.
Even after joining Faculty of Medicine, Alaa managed to balance between his study and iEARN activities. He also started joining and working with many other activities inside his faculty. Alaa said, “These accumulated experiences and skills helped me later to build EYouth”.
Alaa was always keen to payback what he learnt during his journey, he wanted to establish an organization that empowers and enables youth, through different training about how can they start their own sustainable social enterprises to help their community. In 2010, Alaa travelled to USA in an exchange program called SUSI (Study in the United States Institutes) funded by US Department of State to study religious Pluralism for five weeks, and once he returned, he became an alumnus. During his stay in USA, he applied to be the Local Youth Representative of iEARN Egypt and he won that place and did a great work in iEARN Egypt and international. He was the head of the Egyptian delegation to iEARN International Conference and Youth Summit in Taiwan 2011. He did some presentations there as well.
In December 2010, the state department announced an international competition for the state alumni all over the globe to compete through. The competition was called Alumni Engagement Innovation fund. Alaa gathered a team around the idea of EYouth “Engaging and Empowering Egyptian Youth” and submitted it. EYouth is an initiative started by a highly motivated group of Egyptian Youth to instill best practices in decision-making and social entrepreneurship among Young Egyptians who will be the future leaders. EYouth competed with 700 projects submitted by state alumni all over the globe. EYouth passed the initial filtration stage of the competition and EYouth team’s hope increased; they narrowed down the number to 137. By May 2011, the results of the competition was announced and EYouth was one of the 38 projects selected from all over the world to get the fund.
Quoted from Alaa “Any idea has four different steps until it becomes a sustainable organization; Ideation, Piloting, Expansion and Organizational Transformation”, EYouth after getting the fund, was in the piloting phase, as they were testing the idea and move to the expansion level or it needs to be revised and updated. In December 2011, they started piloting the idea with a survey filled out by around 1400 youth from all over Egypt. They asked questions about social entrepreneurship, and with the answers they build the curriculum and designed the programs. Quoted from Alaa “We were keen to use a scientific method to design our curriculum”.
In September 2012, EYouth held its first youth summit for 144 participants from 26 Egyptian governorates. The participants age ranged from 15 to 21 years old. The EYouth team balanced between males and females ratio, as well as school and university participants. They didn’t conduct interviews to choose the participants, they only spent time to create a good application form and a ranking system. Quoted from Alaa “If you have a good application system, you can deduct good applicants”; adding to his point “We insisted to have a diversity of participants because we need to simulate the community we are living in so EYouth idea can prove its success. An Entrepreneur has to learn how to work with diverse groups of people from different backgrounds and social level. They will not be working only with highly qualified smart people, because the community only has a few of those”.
The summit was organized by 56 members from EYouth who build a camp in three days for this summit. The 144 participants have been divided into 18 teams, with 8 members each and two EYouth supporting members (facilitator and coordinator). They stayed in a closed camp for seven full days, attending core sessions and workshops on different topics (Social Entrepreneurship, Ethics, Leaderships skills, Communication skills, Project Planning, Project execution, etc…). The day was designed to start with the core session in the morning, and workshops at night to apply what they have learnt. By the end of the camp, EYouth succeeded to have 18 complete business plans, which included the vision, the budget, and funding. Only 4 projects to start implementing their ideas, the 4 projects were a very diverse projects between tourism, agriculture and handmade crafts.
One of the projects, though not receiving any funding, worked on their own and implemented their idea. The business focuses on offering services and organizing educational trips. This project is Ana Awla Behalawehta. They succeeded and are currently one of the most successful & sustainable projects that organize local trips in Egypt for a very reasonable price, while delivering different workshops during the trip. You can picture it as a cultural trip with ongoing classes.
In the last day of the summit, the best of the 18 projects presented their work in a conference hall at the “Educational City” in Egypt. More than 200 youth and some of their parents who were taking part of EYouth camp attended. Quoted from Alaa “It was an unforgettable, remarkable experience, parents were crying as they saw their kids standing on stage, presenting their projectsand seeing that they have passion to change their community”, adding to his point “The sound of clapping during this day is still in my ears, the whole conference room was shaking with the power from the sound of encouragement”.
Two months after the summit, a simple survey was conducted to see how EYouth summit experience affected the participants. Participants managed either to implement their sustainable projects, or to be in a leadership position in a reputed organization, and some of them have travelled to continue their study abroad on fully funded scholarships.
March 2013, The closing ceremony of EYouth (which was as well at the end of the piloting phase) was hosted by the BUE (British University in Egypt) where around 400 participants attended this closing to listen to the EYouth experience as well as the projects resulted from it. Also, it was an opportunity to announce that EYouth will continue…The DREAM carries on!
During the piloting phase, EYouth worked as an initiative under the legal umbrella of an Egyptian NGO called E-era (Egyptian Education and Resources Association).
November 2013, EYouth started the expansion phase by starting the idea of EYouth Cup. EYouth Cup is a training program that takes place inside each governorate to teach youth the concepts of social entrepreneurship and to help them turn their ideas into applicable proposals. In order to do so, EYouth needed a large number of qualified members. EYouth organized two camps in Assiut to build a group of qualified members who can lead the work inside their governorates. At that time, people were divided into three main categories; instructors, facilitators and ambassadors. These groups of youth were the nucleus to the sustainability of EYouth and building EYouth community in each governorate. The 1st camp started with a budget less than $500 but due to the good leadership of Ibrahim Mahgoub and Mustafa Abdellatif, they managed to partner with local organizations and some self-fundraising. During the camp, they provided training for 3 days for around 80 candidates in . The camp was divided into three parts. The first part was teaching a selected group of participants how to train on EYouth curriculum. The second part was building an EYouth ambassadors community who will be responsible for organizing any upcoming events. The third was creating a group of facilitators who will be helping the instructors in the classes. Another camp was needed to increase the number of the acting members and to raise the quality. It was held in Assuit in February 2014 where 120 participants were trained and the camp was led by Mustafa Abdellatif, the current executive director of EYouth. Quoted from Alaa “We developed our own curriculum, trainers, facilitators and ambassadors, we don’t depend on any external partners -which is one of our strengths-, Assuit camp I and II were an example of the pure meaning of sustainability; how could we manage to implement two big camps with a very limited budget and resources”.
Continuing working on the expansion plan, they organized training programs in 14 Egyptian governorates in only 4 months, starting from February 2014 until June 2014. They trained more than 1200 youth. They trained youth on social entrepreneurship and how to develop complete competing proposals for their projects’ ideas. Within only 4 months, they have succeeded to have 156 completed proposals. Within each governorate, they selected the most promising and sustainable projects to join a huge conference that took place on August 7th, 2014 called EYouth Cup Grand Competition. The event was sponsored by the Egyptian Ministry of Youth and Sports. The event was attended by more than 950 youth from all over Egypt, there were 70 projects presented in the event and 21 of them were funded. The fund varies between $500 - $2300.
EYouth was rewarded again with another grant by US Department of State after the successful season I. The money was used to start EYouth Season III and to fund the projects of Season II.
In September 2014, EYouth held its second Summit for 200 participants. These became the members of EYouth organization later on. After EYouth Summit 2014, they trained more than 950 candidates from all over Egypt. Around 100 proposals resulted from season III. Only 22 projects’ proposals were selected to enter EYouth incubation period, started July 2015. Quoted from Alaa “We discovered most of the projects that we funded in season one, weren’t able to continue; because of lack of experience, knowledge and skills. so we thought of an idea that would bring sustainability to these projects, which is organizing a 6 months incubation program, and by the end of the incubation, we will be able to fund the most active teams who are willing to continuing working on their projects”.
EYouth Season IV started with a capacity building for around 120 EYouthians in Ras Elbar Campus in September 2015 to develop a new strategy of work. They developed a new customized program called “Basic Social and Entrepreneurship Skills”. Only active participants will be selected to join the EYouth entrepreneurship school for 7 full days where they will learn more about how to start sustainable project. Then, the most promising projects will be nominated to join the EYouth incubation program after whichthe most promising and sustainable projects will be funded.
The expansion period was a tremendous experience for all EYouthians who were part of it. It was full of hard times and joyful moments. EYouth is maturing and they are starting different programs and organizing many trainings and camps. So far, EYouth organized around 12 camps in different locations.
Organizational Transformation phase:
Quoting from Alaa “Building an organization is not easy, it takes at least 5 years of hard work and dedication. To make the transformation from an initiative to an officially registered organization will not be an easy process at all”. They have taken serious steps towards transferring EYouth to an organization. July 2014, a camp was organized for the 110 volunteers who were running EYouth activities at that time, to explain how the transformation could possibly happen smoothly and without any conflicts. Later on, in late January 2015, EYouth 1st organizational meeting took place and the EYouth Constitution was voted upon. Around 100 EYouthians attended and voted on the constitution. Also, the 1st elected EYouth managerial board was chosen. It was such an unforgettable moment.
The biggest project EYouth is planning to conduct is “EYouth International Entrepreneurship Camp” in Egypt. Participants from all over the world are welcomed to attend. Quoted from Alaa “We are always copying ideas and franchising it in Egypt. We always hear that the headquarters is located abroad and we are only implementing their activities and following their strategy. During the international camp, we will have the chance to present EYouth and invite others to use the same models in their countries. We are dreaming of a EYouth Italian branch, a Germany branch, etc… They will follow our strategy and develop their communities”.
EYouth successful story wasn’t only known in Egypt, but it has been known in several countries. The EYouth team has been rewarded many times from international organizations for their work, starting with a conference in Feb. 2012 in Minnesota, USA that focused on the development field, EYouth was invited to take part of the conference and they had the chance to present their idea. In late 2012, a team of 6 EYouthians, took part in IVLP program as a reward for the hard work they did in EYouth. Then in September 2013, Alaa was invited for the “Think, Lead, Plan” Conference at Rabat, Morocco; where he had the chance again to present the EYouth idea among different Arab nationalities. Mustafa Abdellatif, EYouth executive director, presented EYouth in Germany with a delegation from the Egyptian Ministry of Youth and Sports. Mohamed Omar, EYouth co-founder has been invited to take part in one of the biggest conference wich is happens on a yearly basis called AMENDS to give a speech about EYouth. Finally, EYouth deserved to win the 1st place in Bader international competition in Bahrain. By winning this, EYouth was announced the best sustainable youth initiative in the Middle East, Alaa had the chance to speak at TEDx Nahda University about EYouth success story, Ahmed Omar Afifi Co-founder at EYouth had as well the chance to speak at TEDx@The Nile about the succses story of EYouth.
EYouth is a tremendous initiative. It has transformed youth life, created more than 200 successful & sustainable projects and trained more than 5000 candidates from all over Egypt. Quoted by Alaa “I am not worried about EYouth even if I am not there by myself in its projects, because I trust in the people who are working hard on daily basis with passion and shared goals to achieve EYouth vision”.
EYouth Vision: A generation of FUTURE Leaders and Social Entrepreneurs changing the FACE of Egypt and the WORLD. EYouth Mission: Being an incubator for all the youth in Egypt and the Middle East; extracting the best out of them turning them into true leaders and social entrepreneurs. Eyouth slogan “Beyond Potential”, everyone has his/her own strengths, he/she is talented in doing something; EYouth is always helping those who don’t see their power and skills to find it, to success and to lead a better life.