Dr Ghadah Alharthi
A study conducted by Saudi researcher Dr Ghadah Alharthi, recommended establishing a Saudi government centre to develop the ecosystem of social entrepreneurship in the country. Following her PhD research at the University of London, Alharthi suggested enhancing institutional support for social entrepreneurs, which will expand social projects and increasing volunteering opportunities, both of which are goals of Vision 2030.
In her research, Dr Alharthi investigated vital links between social business, international humanitarian organisations, foundations, corporations and governments in the local context. The study aimed to understand the strategies that successful social businesses deploy to build their capacity and deliver impact in a challenging environment and developed recommendations on how to provide institutional support to social entrepreneurs.
Saudi social Entrepreneurs who took part in Dr Alharthi’s study highlighted how their future plans have been shaped by the announcement of the 2030 vision. And, they believe that governments can positively influence the growth and development of social entrepreneurship in three main areas: creating and enforcing the appropriate regulatory framework for the functioning of social enterprises; rewarding successful social entrepreneurs and social enterprises through recognition, procurement and partnership; and, developing and supporting the broader ecosystem for social entrepreneurship.
The researcher drew an example from Malaysia, where the problems facing social entrepreneurs rose from a lack of a legal definition and the difficulty of securing funding. These barriers were overcome when the Malaysian government created the National Social Enterprise Blueprint to support social entrepreneurs through the auspices of the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC). To achieve this, the blueprint identified strategies to support three fundamental building blocks to develop the sector:
1. Social enterprises and social entrepreneurs
2. Larger ecosystem
3. Institutions including public and private players.
Dr Alharthi also mentioned how Hong Kong was a successful example, where the government officially launched the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund in September 2013. The Fund employs different mechanisms to achieve its objectives. The first is creating a funding scheme to provide financial assistance to innovative social entrepreneurs to support their work. The second is to increase awareness, create networks and provide mentorship to improve the capacity of the field in social innovation and entrepreneurship. The third is to support research in areas of social innovation and entrepreneurship.
The Singaporean case was another example mentioned by Dr Alharthi, where social entrepreneurs mostly faced definitional and boundary issues. The government launched the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise, hoping to solve these issues by producing research, raising awareness and offering support to the field. These examples highlight the potential benefit of establishing such centres and funds to accelerate the growth of the social entrepreneurship field in Saudi Arabia.