By Laura Manent


In a society where having a bank account becomes a necessity when it comes to paying your taxes or getting a job, two friends transformed quite a utopia into an actual service born on 11 February 2014 in France.

Ryad Boulanouar, a technician, and Hugues Le Bret, working in finance, partnered to create an alternative banking service destined to the more than 2.5 million indebted French citizens who have been banned from holding a bank account.

Feel free to use this image, just link to www.SeniorLiving.Org This photo I expressed the current trend in the US. Tighten you belt. I am spending a lot of time with my pigs.

The so called “Nickel account” can be opened in any of the 1062 tobacco shops partnering with Nickel in a few minutes. What you need : an identity card, 20 euros and proof of address.

This account allows to withdraw cash almost for free everywhere in France and abroad, and you can make deposits directly in your local tobacco shop. Nickel does not allow any deficit, constitution of savings, and does not grant loans. However, the big difference is that you are not subject to any income conditions for the opening of your Nickel account!

This is where the big innovation is: anyone banned from holding a real bank account because of existing debt can open a Nickel account for around 20 euros per year, and will thus be provided with an international Mastercard to pay for transactions and withdraw cash, and a Bank Identification Code, necessary to do so many things, specifically make transactions online.

Even the tobacconists get something out of this partnership: they earn 3 euros overtime someone opens an account, as well as when they deposit or withdraw cash.

Flickr/CC/Pictures of money
Flickr/CC/Pictures of money

This account looks like a little revolution in a world where any financial difficulty can lead to an exclusion of society. As Hugues Le Bret said in an interview, 25% of the owners of a Nickel account have no job or regular revenues.

But by providing a simple, low-cost banking alternative, Boulanouar and Le Bret attracted not only those excluded from the traditional banking system but also clients with medium incomes in need of control over their resources and people needing a simple account for common costs. Because with a Nickel account, you get informed in real time about what is going on with your finances. You cannot risk indebtedness. You cannot be banned.

The enterprise just created an account for young people between 12 and 18 and now projects to open one dedicated to very small companies.

Nickel is definitely changing the way we perceive the banking system.


Flickr/CC/Statsministerens kontor

By Minji Hong

To this day, gender inequality continues to plague the world with women still being at a disadvantage in many sectors of society. They constitute half of the world’s population, work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, whilst only earning 10 percent of the income. The Middle East and North Africa are no exceptions to this trend. In fact, research shows that in 2014, the region is furthest behind from the rest of the world in terms of the Global Gender Gap Index with its highest score below the regional averages for the other regions according to the World Economic Forum. But these female activists and social entrepreneurs are working to pave the way for women to break free from the shackles of traditionally male-dominant societies and realize their dormant potential. In the process, they themselves have become living manifestations of women’s empowerment.


Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan), Website, Blog, Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter

“I want to serve the people and I want every girl, every child, to be educated…”

You might think she is an average 18-year-old by the looks of her father’s tweet about being proud of her GCSE results. But of course, she is quite the opposite. Malala first gained worldwide prominence on October 2012 when the Taliban attempted to end her life for her heroic activism against the Islamic militants’ repression of female rights. It was the culmination of her advocacy for education for girls in Pakistan that began in 2009 as she wrote a blog for the BBC. Since then, she has earned countless titles, namely, Youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, Runner-up of Time’s “Person of the Year” in 2012, one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People In The World” in 2013, and in 2015, an asteroid was named after her! Now, Malala is also known as a co-founder of Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization geared towards empowering girls through education, initiating projects such as the opening of schools for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon and Jordan.

Flickr/CC/Statsministerens kontor
Flickr/CC/Statsministerens kontor


Maysoun Odeh Gangat (Palestine), Website, Facebook, Twitter

“NISAA FM is all about inspiration and empowerment. Inspiration is very important in our society. Through airwaves we can share our experience and knowledge, and support women to realize themselves.”

Maysoun is the President of NISAA Radio Broadcasting Company and the founder and director of Radio NISAA FM, a women’s radio station based in Ramallah, Palestine. It is the first of its kind to be launched in the Middle East, run mostly by women, which aims to provide a platform to give voice to Palestinian women, as well as men, on issues that have an effect on their lives. Even the station’s name was specifically chosen as the word for women in Arabic. The discussions on the radio range from relatively innocuous questions like whether a man should help out more in the home, to more sensitive issues, such as honor killing and the culture of polygamy. To Gangat, the radio station, established in 2009,  is a way to break stereotypes of Arab women in a patriarchal society where women are still deemed as the subordinate gender. Starting with the honor she received from the Palestinian Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gangat went on to achieve many recognitions for her innovative social entrepreneurship, namely being awarded as one of Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs of the Year 2015.


Haifaa al-Mansour (Saudi Arabia), Filmography, Facebook, Twitter

“I have a passion of telling stories, and I know that the stories of women in Saudi are untold.”


Haifaa al-Mansour is a film director with a unique background. She is from Saudi Arabia and the first female filmmaker in a country where public cinemas have been banned since the 1980s. After graduating from the film school at the University of Sydney, Haifaa received international recognition with the premiere of her documentary film “Women Without Shadows,” centered around the restrictive segregated lives of Arab women in Persian Gulf. Soon after in 2012, she made her feature film debut, “Wadjda,” which also revolves around a young Saudi girl dreaming of owning and riding a green bicycle. It entered for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards in 2014. Although at first, it was not intended for the 41-year-old filmmaker to focus her work on women’s issues, she found them too pressing an issue to address, and they continue to be the recurring theme in her films.

Flickr/CC/ Festival de Cine Africano de Córdoba
Festival de Cine Africano de Córdoba


Aysha Al Mudahka (Qatar), Website, Twitter, LinkedIn

“My whole career is about contributing to Qatar’s societal improvement. I want to make a difference to the people of Qatar. My position at QBIC is not only a job; it’s a cause.”

Aysha Al Mudahka is more than the CEO of Qatar Business Incubation Center, a national organization aimed to provide a long-term support system for startups in Qatar. She is also a young female Qatari social entrepreneur with an extensive leadership experience in the field. Aysha rose to prominence by co-founding the Roudha Center with the aim to foster innovative entrepreneurship among women. Her commitment to women’s empowerment essentially began at the Qatar Finance and Business Academy in 2009, where she oversaw the development of various programs such as “Women in Business.” In 2014, she represented QBIC and the State of Qatar during Women’s Entrepreneurship Day at the UN Headquarters in New York. Her efforts do not stop here. As one of the board members at INJAZ Qatar, Her contributions extend to her advocacy for youth development as a means to combat high youth unemployment in the Middle East, passion for which she cultivated through her study abroad experience at The Wharton School.


Maria Umar (Pakistan), Website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

“The glass ceiling is the ability to visualize getting to the top but not reaching there. In Pakistan for female entrepreneurs, you can neither see what it looks like nor aspire to be something you cannot imagine.”

Maria’s trials as one of the pioneers of a so-called female entrepreneurial revolution are indeed internationally recognized as she continues to manifest her passion for women’s empowerment in her exhaustive efforts to create work opportunities for Pakistani women. Her journey began when she was fired from her teaching position at a private school where she had worked for 3 years before giving birth to her child. Today, she is known as the founder and president of The Women’s Digital League, a company founded in 2009 that strives to train Pakistani women in remote areas of the country in various micro IT tasks, such as social media management. The issue in Pakistan is that not many women get to put the education they received into use in the job market. Now, the company has extended its area of focus to the world and to the other gender by renaming the company to The Digital League, whilst the Women’s Digital League remains an integral project of the company.


Lubna Olayan (Saudi Arabia), Website,


“You need two hands to clap. It is a natural progression and a natural fit of the building of a society.”

Trinity College, Dublin wasn’t wrong when it awarded the 60-year-old Saudi businesswoman an honorary law degree in 2011 for being a “role model for women in the Middle East.” Indeed, selected as one of Forbes’ top 100 most powerful women in the world in 2015, Lubna is famous for, in 2004, being the first woman in Saudi Arabia to give an opening keynote address at a major conference in the country. She is the CEO of the Olayan Financing Company (OFC), one of the largest investors in local and regional stock markets under Olayan Group, a family-run company founded in 1947. Her efforts to empower women began in 1983 when she joined the family business at a time where very few Saudi women had corporate positions. She set a striking path for other Saudi women when she became the first woman to be elected to a board position in the country in 2004. Moreover, she created the Olayan National Women’s Action for Recruitment and Development (ONWARD) the same year with an ambitious goal to have a total of 1000 female employees on board by 2016 in all 30 of the OFC’s companies. Her impressive achievements as a trailblazer at the trenches in the combat for women’s empowerment do not stop here. She was also previously an analyst at J.P. Morgan and is currently a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum.


Flickr/CC/ EU/ECHO/Jonathan Hyams

By Loyce Witherspoon

Following the outbreak of 2014 Ebola in Liberia, there have been increasing difficulties in ensuring the provision of education for the country’s youth. According to a report on the Assessment of the effect of Ebola on education in Liberia conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), schools in Liberia were ordered to close in July 2014 and remained closed until February 2015. While schools were formally closed, the majority of youth did not receive any alternative methods of learning.


What started off as a small initiative, printing worksheets for children in her community, founder Brenda Brewer Moore saw the opportunity to extend her help to other counties in Liberia. Thus in response to the disparity between education provision and supply of education, the Kids’ Educational Engagement Project (KEEP) grew out of concern to help provide a community-based approach to post-conflict educational attainment. With the support of many organisations and institutions, including members of the Board of Commissioners, KEEP was able to reach over 3,000 children in 17 communities in Montserrado County.

Amongst other methods, KEEP has managed to gain the financial resources necessary to keep children critically engaged free of charge through crowdfunding. As a practice, crowdfunding emerged in 2008 following the financial crisis and has since grown to become a multi-billion dollar industry, funding ventures globally from multiple individual contributors via the internet. Thus far, the KEEP has raised $8100, equivalent to 685746.00 Liberian dollars at the current exchange rate, surpassing their original goal of $5000 in just 13 months.

Flickr/CC/UNMEER/Martine Perret
Flickr/CC/UNMEER/Martine Perret

With the support of volunteers, NGOs and organisations, the KEEP develop play spaces for  children, provide educational supplies including stationary, support after school tutorial initiatives, promote and enable more fun and holistic learning opportunities, as well as provide Tuition Support to outstanding gifted children from impoverished families. As part of their newest initiative, the KEEP aims to provide equipped, modern reading and computer rooms that will afford these children the opportunity to improve their reading skills and vocabulary as a broader effort to digitise education. How they plan to do this is by reaching out to Liberians in the diaspora to take part in rebuilding their country, one project at a time.

If you would like to find out more information or contribute to the KEEP, please reach them via their social media platforms.

GoFundMe profile:





Flickr/CC/Maya-Anaïs Yataghène

By Minji Hong


Look around you and you’ll realize that every single discernible object had been born from someone’s ingenious mind and wrought by someone’s dexterous hands. Your quirky phone case, the magnets on your fridge, the website you were just surfing, the patterns on your favorite sweater, the traffic lights you come across each day on your way to school/ work. These objects have been designed to serve different purposes, either for a particular function, for pure esthetics, or both! What is certain is that these objects shape our day-to-day lives from how we dress to how we access the internet to read this very article you are reading right now. And so why not use this already enormous base of consumers and scope of impact to design with a social impact to really reach out to a wider audience and maximize the influence with the messages we want to voice?

Flickr/CC/Salih IGDE
Flickr/CC/Salih IGDE

This was the guiding principle behind the theme of “Social Beings,” for the fourth annual Beirut Design Week at the heart of Lebanon in June 2015. As the director of this internationally acclaimed project, Doreen Toutikian affirms the role of design as, “a tool for innovation in social change and business development,” which reinforces the event’s focus to provide a comprehensive platform comprised of various exhibitions, conferences, workshops and open studios as a means to foster the growth of creative communities and design entrepreneurship, facilitate intercultural exchange of skills and experiences, support design as an academic field, and last but not least, developing the importance of designing for social impact.

Beirut Design Week was launched in 2012 as the first of the now 5 design weeks in the Middle East and North Africa Region by the MENA Design Research Center, a non-profit organization founded in 2011 geared towards creating social impact and strengthening the role and appreciation for Design in the region. The platform continues to be the largest event of its kind in the region, welcoming more than 25,000 visitors, inviting 50 professionals, and hosting more than 150 events in about a 100 locations around the city, as well as introducing many startup design entrepreneurs to the market.

Flickr/CC/Francisco Antunes
Flickr/CC/Francisco Antunes

Not only does the event unite people from all over the world to celebrate the creative innovation that design brings to change the world, but also brings to light Lebanon’s rich culture despite the instability prevalent in the region. It has paved a successful path for subsequent additions to the series of design weeks in the region, such as the Bahrain International Design Week, Saudi Design Week, and similar events in Dubai and Cairo.


The 2015 edition of this event featured an international conference in which academics and professionals prominent in the many diverse field of design, such as IBM, Parsons New York, and Instituto Europeo di Design, created an intellectual discourse around the role of design as its use in business and technology to make advancements in society for the better.

As director Toutikian concludes, “Design thinking is about prototyping; it’s about finding problems and streamlining the process of finding solutions. All solutions have an expiration date, so it’s important to focus on the process rather than the destination.”



Q&A with Gina Levy on UCT Upstarts:
Creating a Culture of Innovation on Campus

By Zarreen Kamalie

Gina Levy is one of the social innovators behind UCT Upstarts, the University of Cape Town’s Social Innovation Challenge. UCT Upstarts is a 20-week program designed to encourage social entrepreneurship on campus, with multidisciplinary teams of students getting together to create something to change the face of not only South Africa, but also potentially Africa.

Gina is an accomplished social entrepreneur based in Cape Town and is the founder of South African based company, ‘Supernews’. In this interview, she discusses her role within UCT Upstarts and its potential in shaping a new Africa and a culture towards social innovation.

Photo by Zarreen Kamalie: Social entrepreneur Gina Levy
Photo by Zarreen Kamalie: Social entrepreneur Gina Levy introducing the guest speaker for the day at a conference called How to Ensure Your Business is Sustainable, 29th July 2015


Social Missions: Tell me about UCT upstarts , how you were approached, your role within the initiative, and how it operates:

Gina Levy: UCT Upstarts has been nurtured out of many ideas and platforms. It is, firstly, a joint initiative between my platform called SuperStage and the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which runs out of the Graduate School of Business, under UCT, and the Vice-Chancellor’s office. So theidea is that we wanted to create a culture of innovation and social entrepreneurship starting on campus because the context in SA is that there is huge unemployment among the youth. There are all these problems and not enough solutions. We thought, ‘what if we could come up with these solutions?” What if they [the students] could create jobs and then they could start to influence an innovative economy? We figured the only way we could do that was if we started this culture of entrepreneurship on campus. We wanted to keep it quite broad because we wanted many different individuals with different skill sets to come in and imagine something that could be in the line of health, or renewable energy. We wanted to include many different students from different faculties to come and participate. Part of the criteria is that students have to create teams, of 2 to 6 people and they need to be multidisciplinary. So, they need to have students, for example, from the law faculty, for example, partnering with students from the commerce or the arts faculty. So you’re getting a lot of lateral thinking, where people are just cross-pollinating ideas. This way they get to learn about each other’s skill sets and they can all contribute to a bigger business model or idea, bringing their skill sets to the table.

SM: So, the brief ‘Imagine a New Africa’, what is its relevance to you and young people today? You mentioned people who want to become problem-solvers, but don’t necessarily know of the correct avenues because there isn’t necessarily this culture towards innovation just yet. How do you think, the brief ‘Imagine a New Africa’ has gotten the ball rolling?

GL: It’s very much focused on social entrepreneurship, and what that means is that its purpose married with profit. In other words, we don’t want to advocate that this is a moneymaking entrepreneurial experience. We want to say, you can be an entrepreneur but you can also create social impact. As things stand, people come to university, and they go on to become professionals and they go into the corporate world and the cycle continues. But if there are no jobs, what are they going to do? So if they could actually create start-ups on campus before they leave, well then, they have all the potential in the world to develop new businesses and new ideas. I believe that students very much want to make a difference, or at least the one’s who have gravitated towards UCT Upstarts. A lot of students have come back to us and said they never thought of themselves as innovative. They never thought that they would’ve followed an entrepreneurial path, and strangely enough they’ve been in this context where they’re exposed to people from the outside inspiring them, coming and story telling and showing them how to problem solve and suddenly they’re saying, ‘wow maybe I can problem solve’.

SM: As for the scope, I understand this is the Vice-Chancellor’s Social Innovation Challenge, is there a potential plan to take this to other universities and possibly high schools around South Africa?

GL: I think we wanted to use this year as a kind of pilot, just to see how it worked in the context of UCT because our bigger vision is to boost social innovation in South Africa. By extension, we’d have to take it to other universities. So I’d say yes, that is definitely part of the bigger picture, to scale it. We’re still working on how that model is going to work and then beyond that, into Africa so that people start looking at Africa and go, ‘wow, this is an innovative continent’. Where we start looking at ourselves and not see this victim that needs aid, and we can actually make a difference to the broader international community.

SM: The innovators and entrepreneurs that you’ve had come present so far, what drew you to reach out to them? Is there a particular quality, or a driving force behind them, that prompted you to select those as the ones to inspire students within UCT Upstarts?

There are two answers to that, I would suggest that you interview some of the Upstarters and find out why they were drawn to our platform. Secondly, from our perspective, we literally presented ourselves within the context I’ve just spoken about and I think there is a big drive towards entrepreneurship. People were drawn to something that they weren’t already getting at university. So, for example, the pop-up classes as we call them are information, content, experiences, and access to individuals you’re not going to get in your lecture room. The other day someone said to me, “this is like a free course in entrepreneurship”, and I think that’s quite amazing feedback. When people were signing up, I said, it’s the best value you’re going to get for paying nothing. Our currency is opportunity, and if they realise that then why wouldn’t they gravitate towards something that’s going to enhance their life experience and where they’re getting something that could set them up for life potentially? So I would hope that that would be a draw card and that this presented itself as a different avenue to explore and to express their desire to give back, while also being sustainable.

SM: What are your expectations by the end of this program?

GL: It’s going to be interesting, it’s very much a work in progress. It’s organic and it’s hard to kind of be 100% sure or to predict. But what I would hope is that, firstly, we’ve developed this growing movement so this culture of social entrepreneurship and innovation on campus, such that people start to talk about it and start to attend the pop-up classes more and more because they see the value. That it’s not something that feels inaccessible to them. So that they can actually start developing networks peer-to-peer, and with people beyond the university grounds who can actually help them with their ideas. And hopefully in and amongst that there are actually teams that go on to become fully fledged start-ups, who then start to employ people who are able, through their ideas, to make a difference in the lives of others through their innovations. One of the most important things is that we’re not just hoping to develop business people or people who are only good at certain things. We’re trying to create a holistic individual, who becomes a leader and a role model. I think that will be attractive and inspirational, if students start seeing peers being able to make something of themselves in, actually, a relatively short amount of time. As opposed to potentially succeeding, and doing really well and then going ‘right, I’m ready to be more philanthropic’ at the age of 70. It’s almost doing everything at the same time, along the way, and actually being able to do it much sooner than you think.


I would like to thank Gina Levy for agreeing to this interview, and wish all the participants in UCT Upstarts good luck! UCT Upstarts is currently running at the University of Cape Town, with pop-up classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 1pm in the Leslie Social Sciences Building on Upper Campus.

For more information, visit or check out their YouTube page UCT Upstarts.

Flickr/CC/Marco Raaphorst

How One Digital Language Platform Is Employing Syrian Refugees  

By Minji Hong

So, you decide one evening to head out to a bar with a friend to spend some time together, and just have a chat on what you’ve both been up to these days over a few drinks. Now, replace the bar within the comforts of your home, the friend with a Syrian refugee physically living across the ocean, and the drinks with the Internet, which virtually allows you two to talk to each other through the computer screen in front of you. Most importantly, imagine the whole chat was in Arabic. This is exactly the kind of scenario NaTakallam, which literally translates to “we speak” in Arabic, is trying to write as a new digital language platform, by pairing Arabic language learners with Syrians currently displaced in Lebanon to facilitate conversation-based interactions online, which benefits both you and the underprivileged.

Driven by their mission to promote “a different kind of Arabic learning,” this startup was recently launched in July by three graduates of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, namely, Aline Sara, Anthony Guerbidjian and Reza Rahnema, all of whom originally hail from the Middle East. It is a relatively fast-growing company with currently home to 80 students, 15 conversation partners, with an overwhelming number of new sign-ups (500!).

Based on their belief that immersion is the best approach to learning a language, and in response to the growing popularity of the Arabic language worldwide, and to feed the rising demand for learning its diverse range of colloquial forms, as well as the precarious situation the some 1.2 million Syrian refugees find themselves in Lebanon with an incredibly unstable job security that for the most part take a toll on their health, NaTakallam is a one-stop solution.

If you are learning Arabic, you’d pay about $15 per session, seventy percent of which goes directly towards contributing to the livelihood of your very own Syrian conversation partners in Lebanon. Moreover, these sessions are unique in that you get an interactive approach to learning colloquial Arabic with a native speaker whilst gaining insight into the real struggles these refugees are confronted with in their daily lives, getting a whole different perspective from the information the media feeds you. Not to mention, the duration, time, and the format are flexibly tailored to your availability and needs!

NaTakallam financially and psychologically supports the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. By establishing a partnership with the SAWA for Development and Aid, a Lebanese non-profit organization it provides these refugees with paid job opportunities as “conversation buddies,” while fostering a relatively secure and safe, but most importantly casual and amicable environment, for these refugees to find solace from their realities in constant turmoil in building an interactive friendship and a bridge between different cultures.

Stay tuned to hear more from NaTakallam: Website, Twitter, Facebook


Flickr/CC/Michael Stern

By Laura Manent

Being a student can imply loads of different challenges… and one of them is trying to eat healthily when you live alone! Going to the supermarket, looking most of the time for something quite easy to prepare because you have three essays to write and you are already tired, and because you get desperate when you realize most of the healthy things don’t really match your budget…

It can be hard to eat good and healthy products everyday. In France, only 6% of young people between 12 and 30 eat at least 5 fruits or vegetables per day.


Flickr/CC/Vox Efx
Flickr/CC/Vox Efx

Some students realized this and decided to take action and help us exchange junk food for organic vegetables and fruits.

Here is a list of cities where different initiatives came to life with an eco-responsible approach :


  1. Paris

At Sciences Po Paris, for example, a students association named PAVéS aiming to promote a new consumerism, new ways of thinking and living with an ecological and sustainable approach, conceived an amazing project : Sciences Potiron.

Every Monday, Patrick Boumard, an organic farmer producing near Paris, comes to Sciences Po with a few baskets full of seasonable fruits and vegetables to distribute them in the courtyard of the school.

Students get to sign up for a 6 week cycle and pay to  the association the amount then given to Patrick Boumard, so that every Monday they can receive either a 2.5kg basket for 5 euros, a 5kg one for 10 euros, or a 7.5kg for 15 euros!


  1. Lyon, Grenoble

One nice initiative was conceived by a student’s insurance company, the SMERRA. Realizing that there was no outlet helping students access fresh, seasonal, organic products for low prices, the insurance company decided to partner with local producers.

To promote sustainable and responsible consumerism, the SMERRA proposes to its students a basket full of seasonal fruits and vegetables for 5 euros in Lyon and Grenoble.

They only need to buy the basket online and come get it filled every week at the local agency!


  1. Bordeaux

In Bordeaux, different university campuses also propose fruits and vegetables to their students for 5 euros. They need to order them a week before at any partner campus and come get it at the same place.

Every basket comes with a few recipes designed by a nutritionist and adapted to the different fruits and vegetables included! The health care service at the University of Bordeaux also offers free cooking workshops every week with a nutritionist in order to teach students how to cook and eat better.



Strasbourg, Clermont Ferrand, Toulouse, Marseille, Poitiers… Today, many actors in different cities promote good nutrition,  sustainable consumerism, and want to help students with limited means take care of their health. No more excuses for the lack of fruits and vegetables in your student kitchen.

Eat better, think better, study better ! 


Flickr/CC/Josh Hallett

By Beatrice Loh

When you think of South Korea, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the music or the tv series. The “Hallyu Wave” combines the glitzy world of Korean Pop (Kpop) and drama serials has catapulted the country to fame, with Kpop garnering fans from all over the earth. However, less known is South Korea’s blooming startup scene. According to Korea’s Small and Medium Business Administration, the number of startups in the country soared to roughly 30,000 as of January this year, up from a mere 2,000 at the beginning of the millennium. President Park Geun-hye has vowed to provide financial incentive for entrepreneurs, earmarking $92 billion to support small and mid-sized businesses, including startups.

Amongst the startups quickly gaining success are several that focus on social issues. In 2011, the Korean government introduced a plan to support social enterprises through preferred contracts, expanded funding channels and exclusive business management programs specifically for social enterprises. As of November 2014, there are 1,165 certified social enterprises in South Korea. The government aims to promote more than 3,000 certified social enterprises by 2017.

Here are 7 social startups to look out for in South Korea:

  1. Delight

A pioneer in the realm of social enterprises in South Korea, Delight is a manufacturer and distributor of hearing aids at low prices. The goal of the company is to “make a world where there is no one who cannot listen because one has no money”.

Delight created a solution by cutting costs and using technology and a lean distribution model. Delight hearing aids are designed to fit Asian physical characteristics and are distributed solely through its branch stores nationwide, thus enabling the company to provide quality products at affordable prices.

  1. Crevisse

An impact-investment and incubation company, Crevisse invests in companies in industries ranging from education to the environment. The company encourages the growth of the social enterprise sector by providing financial and mentorship opportunities for new startups.

The focus of Crevisse on entrepreneurship is to make the world more beautiful by going beyond our limits. The company challenges itself to stand against notions of inequality and injustice and targets global business expansion of their projects.

  1. D3jubilee

D3jubilee is a startup that aimed at harnesses business entrepreneurship and the use of financial resources as leverage toward the creation of a better society and help the environment. The company plays a similar role to providing venture capital but also emphasises the building of a community of entrepreneurs and like-minded investors who are committed to the creation of companies with economic, social and environmental considerations. It is also committed to spurring social innovation through mutual inspiration and collaboration.

  1. Bapul

Considering the intense education system in South Korea, Bapul is an innovative app that has been created to help students with mathematics. Bapul is a social question and answer (Q&A) platform that enables users to ask and answer study questions. A student working on a tough question can take a photo using a smartphone or tablet and write out their approach to solving the problem. Within an average of 21 minutes, a response will be given with the correct answer and explanation.

By bringing 1:1 tutoring to the smartphone, Bapul is lowering educational inequality for students who cannot afford expensive tuition. Currently 300,000 middle school and high school students in South Korea use the app to aid their studies.

  1. Blind

The emotional of working adults is often overlooked in the social startup sector. Blind is a startup trying to make life in corporate Korea easier by providing an anonymous social network for corporate workers. A user is verified by using their company email but then he or she is free to create an anonymous avatar through which they are free to talk without worrying about traditional hierarchical rules and statuses.

Blind gives employees a safe space to discuss firm-wide issues, get communal advice and build awareness for certain causes that you are championing in the workplace. It gives workers a chance to commiserate and is a way of relieving stress.

  1. HUiNNO

Combining powerful tools that help individuals understand their health with wearable technology, HUiNNO is a startup that is making waves in the health industry. The mission of the company is to deliver smart products and apps that will help individuals monitor their bodies as they work, play or sleep. With HUiNNO’s instantaneous, non-invasive and continuous monitoring, users can check and manage all essential vitals with extreme accuracy.

HUiNNO’s main product, CIRCLO, is a new innovative that can measure blood pressure instantly, accurately and continuously help to manage health without traditional cuffs. The product hit the shelves for sale to the public this year.

  1. ZipBop

ZipBop focuses on an issue often overlooked both by new companies and large conglomerates – social cohesion. Society has become increasingly fragmented over the decades of economic development and traditional community has been dismantled.

ZipBop is an online platform that allows people to plan meetups over meals based on interests and themes. Users can look for meetings and expand their social network by going for dinner with like-minded individuals. This startup  hopes to recreate the sense of community amongst Koreans by linking up individuals that would otherwise have no opportunity to meet.



By Minji Hong

What do you consider when choosing which airline to book your flight to your next holiday destination? The airfare? The in-flight meals? The in-flight entertainment? Well, how about their eco-consciousness? Did you know that airlines too can adopt their operations based on principles of environment-friendliness as well as ethics? Notably, these 5 airlines based in the Middle East have set up and led various charitable projects and foundations in order to contribute to pressing causes in the region and beyond.

Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.)


The second largest airline of the U.A.E. based in Abu Dhabi began its operations throughout the globe in 2003, and quickly rose to prominence, recently claiming the title as World’s sixth best airline in 2015. Moreover, on February 2015, the airline was nationally recognized as the “Best Sustainability Communication Program” and “Sustainability Manager of the year” at the U.A.E. Sustainability Awards. Indeed, according to James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer for Etihad, it has “a commitment to putting sustainability at the core of its business.” The airline company is praised for its innovative “Together” strategy used to manage corporate responsibility, whereby the company strives to grow, work, give, and become greener together. Through this method, Etihad Airways aims to firstly incorporate a process of “Emiratization,” by strategically increasing the proportion of Emirati nationals in the workforce, through supporting various projects and companies such as the Al Ain Contact Center, the first company in the country to be operated solely by Emirati women. Then, it promises to commit to the professional development and well-being of their employees by, for instance, working with the Higher College of Technology in Abu Dhabi to provide a support system for U.A.E. nationals to improve their proficiency in English. Etihad is also committed to providing humanitarian assistance across the globe by supporting many local initiatives as well as conflicts abroad, such as the Syrian situation by working with the U.A.E. Red Crescent to donate blankets and other necessities to the refugees. Last but not least, the airline has proven to have reduced about 24 percent of carbon emissions since 2006 by launching and leading several initiatives to improve fuel efficiency, for example.


Qatar Airways (Qatar)

Flickr/CC/Aero Icarus
Flickr/CC/Aero Icarus

With its headquarters in Doha, not only is Qatar Airways the Airline of the Year in 2015, but it is also leading the aviation industry through its influential environmental and social projects. First of all, the airline aims to enhance fuel efficiency by adopting a fuel optimization program, which involves implementing innovative methods to reduce carbon emissions. However, Qatar Airways’ key influence lies in its support in social, especially educational causes. In 2013, the airline pledged its collaborative work with the “Educate a Child” initiative to spread awareness of child education by taking advantage of the airline’s global reception as a communication platform. Moreover, the airline supports a non-profit organization geared towards improving the lives of children with brain tumors, and in 2008 was also invested the relief work towards the victims of the earthquake that hit the Sichuan province in China.


Royal Jordanian (Jordan)

Flickr/CC/Aero Icarus
Flickr/CC/Aero Icarus

Based in Amman, Royal Jordanian is an airline that is particularly active in launching and implementing various up-to-date initiatives to support social causes and by engaging in partnerships with influential organizations. For example, in light of the October as the month of breast cancer awareness month, in addition to introducing gift items promoting the breast awareness campaign that ensues the airline’s social corporate responsibility role as a supporter of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation, it hosted a “Think Pink” day at its headquarters. Also, the airline commits to an annual campaign for Ramadan by integrating it into its corporate social responsibility and enhance interaction with the local community, which concludes with an iftar for the underprivileged, and a delivery of boxes of aid to the estranged. The environment is also a great concern and of great importance to the corporate responsibility of the airline. Indeed, the airline’s Environmental Management Plan that includes policies to recycle, is one of the most responsible in the aviation industry.


Emirates (Dubai, U.A.E.)

Flickr/CC/Robert Orr
Flickr/CC/Robert Orr

Since its inception in 1985, Emirates is the largest airline in the U.A.E. and has been competing for the best service in the air. Its contributions to social causes also soar to match its high level of quality of service . These efforts culminated with a creation of a foundation managed under the airline dedicated towards humanitarian, philanthropic aid and services especially for underprivileged children all over the world. In addition to providing a platform for its global base of passengers across the world to donate funds, Emirates has launched and given support to several projects over the years geared towards specific issues, such as the IIMPACT Girls Education Project in India as well as different conservation projects in Dubai and in Australia to show its commitment to sustainability.


Flickr/CC/Sean MacEntee

Take Your Books Out 

By Zarreen Kamalie


Social entrepreneurship and social innovation can be quite tricky to work out on your own, particularly when you do not have the appropriate knowledge of how to break into the market or accumulate social networks. This is why it is often a good idea to study social entrepreneurship and/or innovation at a tertiary level institution.  

Studying social entrepreneurship allows you to not only generate the appropriate skills and understanding of the ins and outs of the social economy, but to meet others in the same position. You will be able to create and sustain networks, with a range from those in the same boat as you to those with years of experience.

As for studying social entrepreneurship in Africa, or on Africa at an institution outside of the continent, you can familiarise yourself with the social economy of this ever expansive and opportunity laced continent. Social entrepreneurship in Africa has often been cited as the key to ending poverty, with its innovative ideas and socially conscious approach. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has also praised African philosophy and the concept of “Ubuntu”, roughly translated as ‘interconnectedness” as the core of a shared goal by those driven by social entrepreneurship.  

Taking all this into consideration, you should check out these 7 university courses at these renowned institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa, and around the world geared towards programs based on or in Africa.

  1.    University of Cape Town: Graduate School of Business – South Africa

Located near Cape Town’s bustling tourist hotspot, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the Graduate School of Business (GSB) under the University of Cape Town is committed to transformation and equality in every aspect.

Having established the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the Bertha Foundation, the GSB has recognised the importance of social innovation and inclusive models of business in the health and development of South Africa’s emerging economy. The Bertha Centre is currently advertising MBA and PhD scholarship opportunities for students who are working on innovative and market-based solutions to social and environmental challenges in emerging markets, in particular in Africa.

Along with initiatives like the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development and the Social Innovation Speaker Series, Cape Town’s GSB also has activities like the Net Impact Chapter, all of which contribute to the School’s societal relevance. Social innovation is also a prominent theme in the Lean Institute Africa.

The Lean Institute focuses mostly on the development of products, processes, initiatives, or organizations that: create social value through both means and ends, and reconfigure institutionalized rules, values, beliefs, or relational patterns.

With emerging economies as especially fertile places to explore these themes, due to their complexity, uncertainty, and inequality, emerging economies are often at the forefront of incubating practices that challenge current social paradigms.

For more information, and to apply, click here.

  1. University of Pretoria: Gordon Institute of Business Science – South Africa

Deeply embedded near Africa’s financial and commercial hub, Johannesburg, the Gordon Institute of Business Science is the business school of the University of Pretoria. Among this lively setting, you will experience all that the continent has to offer and where your place is in it.

The Social Entrepreneurship Programme (SEP) at the institute is a rigorous, accredited management course aimed at social entrepreneurs, leaders and managers of social initiatives, as well as business, CSI, and government executives looking to get more involved in the emerging social entrepreneurship field.

Over the course of nine months, you will experience more than 20 days of intensive workshops and courses, and gain an understanding of frameworks for innovative and creative approaches to change; a deeper understanding of strategy, leadership, and systems thinking; foundational business skills in finance, operations and project management; practical application of theory in each area of training, and guidance from some of South Africa’s best faculty, as well as experienced practitioners.

The assignments are linked to each delegate’s own initiative such that once you graduate, you will have the profile of skills, tools, and resources needed to build and run an effective social enterprise

For more information, click here.

  1. University of Johannesburg: Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy – South Africa

A progressive institution with a lot of history, the University of Johannesburg continues its trend of innovation and moving forward by establishing the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy (CSESE) in 2010. The centre provides exciting research, and aims to educate and promote social entrepreneurship and the social economy through various programs, partnerships, and initiatives.

The CSESE adopted the “new growth path” as laid out by the South African government. Their key objective is to blur the lines between business, government and nonprofit, improve performance by adopting tool and knowledge from all sectors and disciplines. The CSESE also aims to provide social entrepreneurs or social enterprises with access to the resources necessary to maximise, sustain, and scale social impact. In essence, they embody all features that one looks for in a successful social entrepreneur.

You will also have the opportunity to engage with and network with universities and similar institutions or centres globally, and possibly enter into joint ventures with these institutions to better your own entrepreneurship or enterprise.

For more information, click here.

  1. Kenya Methodist University: School of Business and Economics – Kenya

Social entrepreneurship in Kenya is quickly digging its heels in the ground to stay. With numerous institutions and programs geared toward the Kenyan economy, it is important to note that Kenya’s own School of Business and Economics at the Kenya Methodist University is making its own mark.

The School of Business and Economics is the most the dynamic and the biggest arm of the university, with a network of departments in all the five campuses of across the country.

The Nairobi campus, however, hosts the Social Entrepreneurship and Market Development unit, which includes visits to schools in the local rural areas.

While the institution may not be specifically geared toward social entrepreneurship, Kenya itself offers a great point of market penetration for emerging social entrepreneurs. Kenya currently boasts the most developed microfinance sectors in Africa, though with a shortage of microfinance products.

Click here to see more of the social enterprise scene in Kenya, of which you will be exposed to when studying in this beautiful country.

  1. The Amani Institute – Nairobi, Kenya

Unlike the other institutions on this list, the Amani Institute is not part of a university but rather is a specialised institution geared towards entrepreneurship and impact-based programs that are globally based.

However, their Post Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation Management sure caught our attention. With twenty available spots in either Kenya or Brazil, this program is personalized and field-based, bringing together a diverse group of 40 like-minded individuals from around the world, all passionate about building the professional & personal skills to lead change and create positive impact.

The program combines skill-building courses facilitated by global practitioners around the topics of Leadership, Management, Creativity & Problem-solving, and Communication with a hands-on experience of making change in an organization you care about.

For more information, click here.


Universities outside of Africa with Africa-centred Social Entrepreneurship Programs

  1.    Baylor University: Social Entrepreneurship in Africa – Texas, USA

The Social Entrepreneurship in Africa program is a 15-day summer study abroad programwhereby you will visit and experience the stunning country, Rwanda.

It is an opportunity for you to examine the use of entrepreneurial skills to craft innovative responses to social problems in Rwanda and how micro lending practices stimulate economic activity and alleviate poverty. Students will be introduced to microfinance as an important effort in the war against poverty. This will also serve as an excellent forum for students to learn about current challenges and debates in the world of microfinance.

The program explores “why” and “how” microfinance operations have come to provide financial services to poor and low-income people on a sustainable basis. The best advice and practices of successful practitioners and institutions around the world are brought together.

The format of the program consists of two major components pursued sequentially. The first component requires 10 hours of preparatory classroom instruction at Baylor. This component of the class will be comprised of faculty and student-led discussions concerning assigned articles and readings, as well as presentations by guest speakers who are directly involved in microfinance in Africa.

The second component, a 15-day trip to Africa, will commence after Spring semester final exams conclude in May. During this section of the program, students and sponsors will travel to Africa to experience first-hand the approach and effects of micro financing.

For more information, click here.

  1. University of British Columbia: Sauder School of Business’ Sauder Social Entrepreneurship in Kenya – Vancouver, Canada

By establishing and maintaining connections between Kenyan and Canadian institutions, the Sauder business school has formulated a program in which both Kenyan and Canadian students are brought together to engage and teach one another about the different dimensions of social entrepreneurship.

The Sauder Social Entrepreneurship program is a five-week course that brings together students from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, and Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya, to teach young people how to develop business plans.

The students from both institutions mentor young people in Kenya, namely in Kibera and Mathare, and in turn develop their own ideas and improve their skills through extensive workshops. They also provide guidance in their search for funding and launching their new businesses. Here, students learn about other cultures, how businesses are created and grow in developing nations, and the role of education, mentorship and volunteerism on economic development.

For more information, click here.

  1. Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania, USA.

After almost 15 years, the Wharton Social Entrepreneurship has established itself as a global field research program that examines the use of social impact business models to address societal challenges. Echoing the common sentiments that entrepreneurship can be a powerful tool in solving social problems around the world and that entrepreneurs can build businesses that simultaneously earn income and tackle social problems in novel and effective ways.

The emphasis is on teaching that social entrepreneurship fuels a sense of self-sustainability, and not dependence. Students also have a chance to engage with various communities, particularly in Africa, through the university-based impact hubs.

The Africa Seed Program is one such impact hub. Impact Hubs are part innovation lab, part business incubator, part community center and part of a global network. Click here, for more information on what the Wharton Social Entrepreneurship Program has to offer for its students and recipients.



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