A new, bold approach is needed to enhance the region’s rich tradition of giving
Four years ago, we set out to establish the Arab world’s largest privately funded education foundation. The mandate that its founder Abdulla Al Ghurair laid out was focused and ambitious: to help 15,000 under-served, high-achieving Arab youth access high-quality education. Despite the seemingly daunting challenge, the foundation is on course to not only achieve but far exceed its original goal – in large part due to its strategy of learning, innovating and working in partnership.
Philanthropy, like every other sector, can only be effective if it is informed by facts and experience. From the early days, the foundation set out to learn everything it could about the youth we intended to help. The data we gathered from more than 60,000 youth and our consultations with hundreds of organisations in the region and abroad helped shape the foundation’s programmes. It also put us in a constant state of learning, often adjusting our approach and sometimes completely changing course to meet the vastly different needs of youth from across the region.
Beyond facts and figures, our greatest learning came from the stories of more than 1,000 young scholars – first-generation university students who did not have anyone to lean on as they navigated the complexities of the higher education system; refugees whose lives and education were disrupted by conflict; and many who battled the stress of achieving their academic dreams while they helped care for their families.