Social entrepreneurship has huge potential in Oman

Business Friday 01/April/2016 18:19 PM
By: Times News Service
Social entrepreneurship has huge potential in Oman

Muscat: Social entrepreneurship has huge potential in Oman, as the country is seeking to boost the role of the private sector in the economy, speakers at the meeting “Business for Social Change” organised by the British Council on Wednesday said.
The meeting hosted British, as well as Omani social entrepreneurs, and was aimed at exchanging ideas about how to start a social business and the challenges faced in the process.
Khalid Al Haribi, deputy chief executive officer of Operations at Riyada, said social entrepreneurship is the answer to today’s economic situation. “This is exactly the right time for social entrepreneurship to flourish. There is great potential in social entrepreneurship for bridging the gap by making sure that we are encouraging enterprises to think about sustainability,” he stated.
“I totally believe that the answer to today’s economic situation is to look into the past, how our forefathers faced economic difficulties. A step forward is sometimes taking a step back,” he said.
Al Haribi said he hopes that social entrepreneurship in Oman will flourish also in regions outside Muscat, by using knowledge of how Omanis in the past used Omani heritage to create economic diversity. He explained that old techniques, such as the construction of falaj (irrigation) systems, making clothes out of recycled materials and creating community lending facilities can now inspire social businesses to make sustainable products and services.
“We need to bridge our historic knowledge by creating solutions for issues today,” he said.
An example of such an initiative is students in Dakhiliya and Dhahira regions coming up with a way to protect their communities from flooding. He said the students are studying what the forefathers said about using wadis (valleys).
Nasra Al Adawi, partner at Tawasul/Global Connection Centre, agreed that social entrepreneurship is growing in Oman. She said there are already social enterprises active in Oman and more are coming up. “There are a lot of opportunities in Oman, for example in the environmental field, such as can and paper recycling. There is an opportunity to create recycling facilities here, instead of taking it abroad,” she said.
Maryam Al Aamri, founder of Youth Vision, an organisation which designs youth empowerment programmes, said Omani youth are showing an increasing interest in starting a social business.
“The youth want to make a change. They want to help people and solve problems,” she said.
However, the challenge is to shift these ideas to a viable business. “A lot of youth have many ideas but they cannot modify them to become a business,” she said. She added that there is a need for models that helps them do so.
Role models are important to make Omani youth aware of the benefits of social businesses.
Creating a good story is essential for ‘selling’ an idea and making a viable business.
Al Adawi said the concept of a social business is very new to Oman. “Not a lot of people are aware, so you really have to build credibility.” She said role models are very important for Omani youth in encouraging them to start a social enterprise, instead of going for a conventional job. She added that it is very important for social entrepreneurs to be clear about their aims and business model. Students in schools and universities are already taught about the benefits of social businesses, according to Al Adawi.
Al Haribi told the audience that the first thing that social entrepreneurs should do is to create a good story, instead of simply creating a service.
“People are buying into stories. You’re not [simply] recycling, but you’re saving the environmental areas in Oman. The way we shape our stories, is what makes or breaks the next generation of social entrepreneurs,” he said.