Innovation and social business - Maysoon Barber
I have gained strong experience of working in Education and Culture since my role as a Head of Communications at the Sorbonne Abu Dhabi University. Following my mission of starting the Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi and working there for more than 7 years, I joined the Fatima bint Hazza Cultural Foundation as Executive Director. Since then, I have restructured the cultural foundation and defined a yearly strategy to develop cultural initiatives in three areas - Art, Literature, and Community Engagement (Humanitarian).
In 2019, I decided to increase our focus on our third pillar 'Community Engagement' by responding to different humanitarian needs such as children who live in extreme poverty and struggle to get access to education in the world.
The major of innovation and social business
I applied for the Innovation and Social Business program to gain experience and tap into the world of social business where everyone in the value chain contributes to the advancement of society. I also wanted to understand more about emerging economies, and discover how technology can bring innovation into their lives.
During the program, many of the discussions resonated with my ongoing projects. At that time, I had signed MOUs with different government entities and NGOs to initiate social projects related to access to education and displacement. I was also in discussion with Libraries without borders to implement and lead a project in the Middle East. That’s when I realized that Innovation and Social Business at HEC Paris would offer me key skills to learn how to inject innovation into the organization business model in a social context.
I feel there is transformative power in shifting from identifying needs and gaps, to appreciating resources and strengths. Through my recent experience in social fields, I have found that there are hidden sources in people, time, knowledge and expertise that are still untapped. Such a discovery drives positive change and opens the door to innovation. I am currently in the planning phase of a project that studies the living conditions of a demographic group in a refugee camp in the Middle East. The goal is to define their education and psychosocial support needs in order to provide innovative educational resources. I am convinced that the HEC Paris Executive Certificate in Innovation and Social Business will answer my questions and help me to achieve my goals.
Gaining exposure to two emerging countries - South Africa and India - in a very short period of time and understanding the contrasting levels of poverty in different areas was a rewarding experience. It was also enriching to learn how social issues and challenges are tackled by various innovative business solutions.
The combination of feedback from local workers as well as the insights from HEC Paris Professors have helped me define the problems and needs, and identify scalable solutions. I am now even more convinced that small changes can transform the livelihoods of many people.
A combination of different factors contributed to the effectiveness of the program. We had very interactive discussions thanks to the diverse group of participants coming from different backgrounds such as NGOs, insurance and luxury companies. Also, the curation of the program in both South Africa and India was very well planned. Lecturers included entrepreneurs from the healthcare, finance, banking, education, and employment services sectors, which allowed us to cover the full spectrum of the markets in both countries. Moreover, we worked with startups in South Africa and India on real cases that addressed key issues, before assessing scalable and innovative solutions.
Looking to the future
I have recently completed the HEC Paris Executive certificate in Innovation and Social Business and I have developed a deep understanding of the current social issues and discussed innovative business models in different cultural contexts.
My contribution through my role today remains modest and I would like to take this fight to a new level by launching an impact investing fund with a focus on issues that I came across: education, housing and clean water. Throughout my career, I have developed credibility among a wide network from governmental entities to banks, which I believe will contribute to get the first investment traction.