King Khalid Foundation partners with Acumen Fund to promote social entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia

Published March 31st, 2010 - 08:34 GMT

 Social enterprises – businesses that provide goods and services to undeveloped segments of the society – are increasingly recognized as effective tools against poverty. Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid Foundation – a Royal foundation, established in 2001 to make a positive impact in people’s lives by providing innovative solutions to critical social and economic challenges in Saudi Arabia – and Acumen Fund – an international not-for-profit venture fund that invests in enterprises delivering critical goods and services to low-income customers – are partnering to recruit a Saudi national for Acumen Fund’s Fellows Program. Fellows receive an opportunity to work with high impact social entrepreneurs for one year.

The partnership aims to raise the profile of the development sector and promote social entrepreneurship in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In the long run, the partnership hopes to build an entrepreneurial bench of professional talent with strong operational skills, experience in low-income markets, and the moral imagination to build enterprises that meet the needs of low-income customers in Saudi Arabia.

Announcing the partnership at the Third World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists in Doha, Her Royal Highness, Princess Banderi AR Al Faisal, said: “This partnership is a great opportunity for young Saudis to explore social entrepreneurship and gain exposure to a unique experience that could bring a positive change to the country by promoting global best practices in the social sector.” 

Commenting on the partnership, Ankur Shah of Acumen Fund Middle East, said: “Each year, Acumen Fund recruits highly talented and passionate young professionals from across the world to develop leadership capacity and provide high impact management support to one of our social enterprises. We are happy that King Khalid Foundation is sponsoring a Saudi national for our Fellows program and that, in this way, we can support social enterprise in Saudi Arabia.”

“Poor people need work opportunities not dependency. Traditional charity often fails to enable people to solve their problems over the long term,” said Dr. Natasha Matic, Strategy Advisor, King Khalid Foundation. “By building a network of strong leaders with financial and operational skills who will create opportunities that support the social enterprise sector, we will contribute to finding solutions to poverty. Our partnership with the Acumen Fund Fellows Program is a step in the right direction,” she added.

Acumen Fund's year-long fellowship begins every September with eight weeks of intensive and multidisciplinary leadership training in New York City. Topics range from self reflection to negotiation and storytelling training to valuation techniques, marketing and operations. Fellows also meet with business leaders, writers and thinkers and explore issues related to Acumen Fund social investment geographies and sectors.

Following training in New York, Fellows begin their nine-month field placements with Acumen Fund investees. Each Fellow is assigned to a company, where they support senior management in tackling critical business issues - market expansion, business plan refinement, supply chain improvements, or even leading a new business initiative. Over nine months, Fellows learn and apply skills in high impact operational roles at Acumen Fund investees. Halfway through the year, Fellows convene for a mid-year meeting to reconnect, share learnings, and support each other in navigating challenges in the field.  At the end of these field assignments, the Fellows return to New York for three weeks to share experiences and lessons learned with Acumen Fund's community, and to focus on their next steps.

King Khalid Foundation will support the Acumen Fund Fellows Program, recruit potential Saudi Arabian candidates and sponsor one Saudi Arabian national to the 2012 class. Acumen Fund will conduct interviews and make final selections in line with its global criteria.

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