Egyptian social entrepreneurship incubator aims to help the neediest

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A year ago the Misr El Kheir foundation launched GESR, an Egyptian incubator for social entrepreneurship, with the goal of improving lives at the bottom of Egypt’s social and economic pyramid.

"The idea developed - over the course of a year - from a regular business incubator to a conglomerate that supports social innovations comprehensively by turning their ideas into products, and then offering [them] to the market through startups," said Radwa Arnous, GESR senior communication officer.

They’re not alone. Egypt’s population is growing, and so too are the challenges of supplying citizens with basic needs and services.

This is where social entrepreneurship institutes that support startups, such as the Nahdet El Mahrousa incubator and global social entrepreneurship network Ashoka, can have an impact and create change.


GESR aims to help those who need it the most.

GESR Lab

Partially supported by the European Union, GESR has three pillars: GESR Lab, the accelerator and The Social Impact Network.

Simply put, GESR Lab is an incubator that offers entrepreneursial training and workshops.

"GESR works on providing financial, technical and tech support for entrepreneurs, along with mentoring, specialized entrepreneurial consulting services and market studies," Arnous said. "This is an addition to the social impact for each project."

GESR Lab offers technical support for startups over a period of three months, in which entrepreneurs look for environmental solutions like like wind power and recycling, address physical disabilities and a host of other social issues. A panel of judges then evaluates their solutions, with a prize of 3,000 to 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($380 to $640 USD) up for grabs.

An accelerator for entrepreneurial projects
 
GESR accelerator also offers a six month accelerator program with financial support that can reach $25,000. Entrpreneurs must have won several competitions prior in order to be eligible.

"Launching the accelerator aims to provide startups with a suitable atmosphere for work and innovation, as well as harness activities and mechanisms to support their plans," Arnous said. "These [activities] in turn support them in the early idea-stages of a project."   

Nearly 180 projects were submitted for GESR's first acceleration round, of which eight were selected. Those projects are currently receiving technical and financial support, and are anticipated to graduate at the end of this year.

The selection of the second batch of applications will be announced later this month.

Startups currently in the acceleration program come from various sectors including energy, education, nutrition, agriculture, health and social services. They are as follows:

  1. Askova: a project that aims to generate electricity from renewable sources, such as wind turbines.

  2. Blue Valley:  An electricity station that uses photovoltaic solar panels to produce clean drinkable water and transmit it to villages.   

  3. Naqaa: A project that aims to discard medical waste.

  4. Interact: An education-support system that makes any platform interactive and allows students and teachers to exchange data and lectures. 

  5. Mogassam: a project that manufactures 3D printers.  

  6. Nas Hope:  A social networking platform that links individuals with NGOs that can help them solve their problems.

  7. Nutrients Recycling: A project that turns organic waste into biogas, fertilizers and animal feed.  

  8. BGD: A project for the biocontrol of mosquitos, especially targeted to villages where mosquitos carry diseases and bites prove fatal. Founder of the project and agriculture professor Mohammed Shams El Din was infected with malaria from a mosquito bite. "The disease is a threat to 700 million people on the globe, and it kills a million child in Africa alone," he said. "The first transmitters of [malaria] are mosquitos."

BGD targets mosquitoes’ respiratory system, is inexpensive and safe for humans. The goal is to eradicate

Shams El Din added that "from here, I concluded the necessity of manufacturing an environmentally-friendly product that penetrates the mosquito's body, specifically the respiratory system. The product is safe and cheap, and it aims to eradicate malaria in poor countries and villages."

GESR social innovation Summit 2015

The GESR Social Innovation Summit 2015 is scheduled for October 20-21 at the GrEEK Campus. The theme is 'technology for impact'.

The event is funded by the research, development and design program of the Misr El Kheir foundation.

Through a series of workshops, roundtables and open discussions, the summit will address investment, performance measurement tools, structure of early-stage social startups and the management of their growth phase, and other topics related to building a social entrepreneurial entity.

The summit is open to entrepreneurs, investors and organizations looking to launch CSR programs. The event will culminate with an award for the best social invention, to be given by Misr El Kheir in partnership with Pepsico.

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