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Outcomes of the INJAZ al-Arab Company Program in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region: An Alumni


Suzanne Lettrick, Ed.M Project Director; Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2011 December 20, 2011

Abstract The goal of this qualitative study is to gain an alumni perspective on ways in which the INJAZ Company Program (CP) experience directly and indirectly affects participants both during and after the program. The argument is that without an understanding of participants perspectives of the Company Programs long-term effects on their own lives, it is difficult to know for sure if INJAZ al-Arab, through its Company Program, is ultimately fulfilling its purpose: To inspire and prepare young Arabs to succeed in a global economy (INJAZ al-Arab, 2011). The intention of this study is to gain an awareness of the strengths of the Company Program as well as to understand next steps to better align the Company Programs actual impact with its intended affects, at least in light of these alumni perspectives. In 2011, The World Economic Forum in collaboration with Booz & Company challenged private sector leaders and policymakers to understand the elements of a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem and identify which of those elements are lacking or immature in the MENA region.... (Saddi, Soueid & Youssef, 2011). This study-- thanks to the voices of its participants-- can provide some insight. Introduction The Problem All eyes are on the MENA region. Though no region of the world made it through 2011 unscathed economically, the MENA region had more obstacles than most to face in 2011 as well as having several gaping holes to plug in the eight years to come. For one, how do you pull over 75 million more jobs out of nowhere by 2020, given that this amount is forty percent more than the jobs provided in 2011 (Saddi, Soueid & Youssef, 2011)? This amount, too, would only leave the largest working youth population on the

planet with a depressing rate of unemployment, around that of todays MENA youth: over 20% in most areas (International Labour Organization, 2011). In the MENA region too, these rates are not just about young people not finding work. First, the 2011 Education for Employment Arab Youth report reveals that very few youth in the MENA region are obtaining the soft or hard skills in school settings needed in order to succeed in the real world (Education for Employment Foundation, 2011). Second, The labour force participation of female youth in MENA, at around 22 percent, is half of that of males in the region, and the lowest in the world (Roudi, 2011). Finding a way to combat unemployment and create future opportunities for employment in the MENA region means working on education and gender equity or mindset issues too. Desperate times calls for desperate measures? Clearly, what is needed are disruptive measures (Christensen, Baumann, Ruggles & Sadtler, 2006). If MENA can figure out how to come up with innovative, game-changer solutions to its complex problems, the rest of the world would gain some serious insight as well. An overlooked option in MENAs past-- but one that is gaining ground in the region--is entrepreneurship. As the World Economic Forum put it: A key to accelerating job creation in the MENA region is fostering an entrepreneurial environment (Saddi, Soueid & Youssef, 2011). One option for fostering youth entrepreneurship INJAZ al-Arab, embodying the Junior Achievement model in the Arab world, educates youth in fourteen MENA countries on entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills. In the 2010-2011 year alone, 232,671 youth took part in several of the INJAZ programs (INJAZ al-Arab annual report, 2011). The crowning program according to

INJAZ, and the one with the greatest chance of alleviating some of the MENA woes that the under-25 youth will face, is the Company Program, also known as the Company Course. In this semester-long (on average) course, high school and university students learn how to start and run their own student businesses while learning entrepreneurship concepts from private sector volunteers. It is the intent of INJAZ al-Arab that the Company Program empowers youth to start their own business ventures and learn financial literacy skills, enabling them to succeed in a global economy (INJAZ al-Arab, 2011). It is also intended that the Company Program affect positive change in the Middle East and North Africa by nurturing a sense of self-motivation, confidence, empowerment, and a mindset among Arab youth that anything is possible, while fostering a passionate spirit of mentorship among business leaders and encouraging them to invest in helping youth make the leap from school to the workplace (INJAZ al-Arab annual report, 2011). Soraya Salti, senior vice-president of MENA for Junior Achievement Worldwide, expressed the disruptive component of INJAZ's work in a phone conversation at Harvard University Graduate School of Education on February 11, 2011: We must create a youth mindset shift from thinking government is responsible to employ me, [making me] a helpless human being...to creating a powerful human being that says my economic destiny is in my own hands; I have to be a proactive learner and a proactive human being. In this same conversation, Salti said INJAZ al-Arab is striving to reach one million students by 2020. If entrepreneurship education via the Company Program is the vehicle through which INJAZ al-Arab will bring about these shifts for so many youth, the question is what factors are needed to foster success in these youth so the MENA nations as well might benefit? Two Theories Opportunity Entrepreneurship

In 2006, Zoltan Acs, Professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, devised a model to determine the forms of entrepreneurship that produce the greatest economic growth for nations. His findings revealed that not all forms of entrepreneurship benefit the economy (Acs, 2006). The ones that do are called opportunity entrepreneurship, which is an active [as opposed to a needs-based] choice to start a new enterprise based on the perception that an unexploited or underexploited business opportunity exists (Acs, 2006, p. 97). These endeavors are also called high impact because opportunity entrepreneurs expect their ventures to produce more highgrowth firms and provide new jobs (p. 101). With this in mind, INJAZ al-Arab should strive to produce young entrepreneurs that benefit the MENA region as well as themselves by ensuring that the Company Program transfers these opportunity entrepreneurship skills to its participants. Entrepreneurship Ecosystem In 2011, the World Economic Forum along with Booz & Company put out a report entitled, Accelerating Entrepreneurship in the Arab World. This report included a model for an ecosystem of support with the goal of fostering a business environment in which entrepreneurs can easily start new companies, spread innovation, and spur economic activity (Saddi, Soueid & Youssef, 2011, abstract). The entrepreneurship ecosystem model presented in this report consists of several two-dimensional circles representing all the elements that entrepreneurs need to thrive nested within each other with a small circle in the very center labeled entrepreneur. The premise here is that context matters to the entrepreneur. The surrounding circles (elements of support) create the nurturing infrastructure, according to this report, enabling an entrepreneur the chance

to thrive. Elements of support in this ecosystem for success include personal enablers, such as education; financial enablers, such as equity investors; business enablers, such as incubators; and environmental enablers, such as media and culture. Interestingly, this ecosystem model of support seems to have the philosophical underpinnings of Urie Bronfenbrenners (1977) Ecological Systems Theory of Development. In Bronfenbrenners model, the individual child is in the middle of several nested layers of two-dimensional rings representing the childs many realms of influence from his or her environment. These realms include family, religion, school, clubs, community, media, culture, and society. Bronfenbrenner-- similar it seems, to the originators of the World Economic Forum model-- believed that context matters to the individual. In Bronfenbrenners model, though, these external forces dont necessarily have an aligned goal to ensure the childs success, which is needed in the World Economic Model. Bronfenbrenners theory was that these forces in some way would affect the child, either for good, for bad, or for neutral purposes. In accordance with these ecosystem ideologies, INJAZ al-Arab should fully rein in the power of these external elements of influence to ensure positive, empowering affects on young entrepreneurs. But is this all it would take? And is INJAZ --through the Company Program-doing for MENA youth all that is needed in order to build successful young entrepreneurs who can create solutions to the problems facing the MENA region today? If not, what else is needed? That is what this study is primed to discover. Participant Composition Participant number and home countries

Sixty-one alumni of the INJAZ Al-Arab Company Program were interviewed for this study. (See Fig. 1, Appendix #2: Number of participants from each country.) The participants are from nine countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Out of these nine countries, the majority (5) are Gulf Coast countries: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and Bahrain. Lebanon and Jordan are the only non-Gulf Coast countries included in this study. Participants from Palestine, or the occupied Palestinian Territories, were also included, as were participants from Egypt, the only country in this study that is located in North Africa. Study participants yielded the highest numbers in Jordan (10) and Palestine (10) and the fewest numbers in Kuwait (2), Saudi Arabia (5), and Qatar (5). Age The age breakdown of participants highlights the fact that most of the participants (64%) were of high school age (ages 16-18), while 36% were of university age or older (ages 19-24). (See Fig. 2: Ages of participants.) Sex Females comprised the majority of the participants (62%), while males aggregated 38%. (See Fig. 3: Sex of participants.) Tertiary enrollment rates Interestingly, the average tertiary rate of enrollment for all youth in these nine countries is only 29% (Tertiary education, 2011; Palestine: Tertiary rates, 2008), yet 100% of this studys participants plan to attend, do attend, or have graduated from some form of tertiary education. The reason for the large discrepancy between the regional

average and this studys participants tertiary enrollment average was not addressed in this study. Number of years out of the Company Program Most participants (28) have been out of the program for one year only. These numbers decline the longer that alumni have been out of the program. (See Fig. 4: Years out of Company Program.) For example, only two alumni in this study have been out of the program for four years. Admittance into the Company Program Most of the participants of the Company Program featured in this study were not given a choice as to whether they wanted to take part in the Company Program. They were included by default, as a result of being in a school or university class that took part. Student company role The majority of study participants (50.8%) were CEOs of their CP student companies. (See Fig. 5: Student company employee positions.) When comparing the entire group of study participants who were CP department employees with the group of participants who were CEOs, VPs, or managers, an even greater percentage (83.6%) highlights the separation between the higher ups and the number of students included in the employee-only group (13%). (See Fig. 6: Student company manager/VP/CEO v. employee.) Student company focus A total of 43 different student companies (companies created during the Company Program) were developed between the 61 alumni participants during their Company Program experiences. The majority of participants (34%) created companies that

provided eco-friendly products to the public, followed by 11% that created recycling service companies, and 11% each for two groups of companies that provided more efficient products (not specifically eco-friendly) with either one purpose or multiple purposes in mind. (See Fig. 7: Focus of CP student companies.) Participant selection and data organizing protocol Participant selection Each of the sixty-one participants was selected by a staff member in his or her countrys INJAZ office after the staff member received a request for their ten best Company Program graduates. This tactic of relying on the home offices to provide a list of ten best alumni was taken after an initial approach of sending mass emails to most alumni in a couple of the featured countries failed to provide any response, except for one student from Kuwait. Each of the INJAZ home offices in the nine countries represented submitted their list of ten best and then all ninety of these youth were requested separately, via email, to participate in the study. This time, the level of response was significantly higher (See Fig. 1.) I interviewed most of the interviewees in English, but an Arabic-speaking interviewer (and staff member of INJAZ Al-Arab) interviewed the Arabic-speaking participants (most of whom were from Jordan and Saudi Arabia). Time and protocol of phone interviews All interviews took place one at a time over the phone from the INJAZ Al-Arab office in Amman, Jordan during the months of July and August 2011. Each participant was placed on speakerphone while the interview was recorded using the Voice Memos Application on an iPhone 4S. Interviews averaged approximately 60 minutes, with a few interviews reaching two hours and a few being only as long as 30 minutes.

Open-ended questions The majority of the open-ended questions devised for this study were crafted to reveal each participants personal understanding of the effect, if any, of the Company Program on them as well as the personal transformations, if any, that resulted due to their involvement in the program. The questions also focused on their advice for future CP participants, youth entrepreneurs in their countries, and INJAZ in general. For this latter group, the focus was on identifying ways to improve the Company Program based on their own experiences in the program. Other questions were focused on learning more about each students background and current situations as youth in determining if there were other factors that might have led to their overall success with the program and in entrepreneurship in general. INJAZ al-Arab approved the questions initially before the interviews began followed by another iteration after several of the member nations presented their critique. (See Appendix #1 for the final list of questions used in this study.) The intent was not to lead the study participants toward specific answers, but for them to come up with any answer that was accurate for them. It is important to note that the interviews were conducted as conversations, where primary questions were asked, but where respondents could be given different follow up questions if it seemed he or she had an interesting story to tell pertaining to his or her development. Similarly, given the number of interview questions and the limited amount of interview time, and given this openness to anecdotes, some students were not asked every question, though all participants were asked most questions (See Appendix #1). Data organization


After the interviews were conducted, their audio recordings were transcribed verbatim (participant answers, but not always interviewers responses) into textual form on paper by several transcribers, most of whom were volunteers or interns from the United States or the Middle East. The interviews conducted in Arabic were translated into English before being transcribed. When all interviews were transcribed, almost 1,000 pages of the resulting data were organized into an excel sheet under headings that were generated by the data found within the entirety of each transcript. The resulting patterns in all transcriptions were quantified and analyzed as findings in this study. Several student quotations are also included. Participant and country names have been included-at the request of INJAZ al-Arab--when quotations were given. This study produced findings based on the grouping of countries. This study does not, for the most part, separate findings per each country. Instead, it is a MENA-wide tally. A follow up report revealing individual country patterns could be drawn at a later date. Primary Finding #1: The INJAZ Company Program seems to awaken within participants a consciousness regarding their future direction All of the participants provided insight into how the Company Program helped them to develop a clearer vision for their future. Being proactive about ones future direction seems counter to the prevailing trend in the MENA region, which this study will address later. As Gaelle Feghali, 17, from Lebanon put it: Sometimes I feel that [my friends] are less concerned about their future because people who havent been through the experience of INJAZ dont even think about what they want to [do for] work. People I met who entered the INJAZ Company Program seem more aware of what life might offer them. They are more aware about the future, about work.


The Company Program experience seemed to affect the participants vision for their futures in two main ways: educational focus and goals for entrepreneurial activity. (See Fig. 8: Clearer future vision.) Determined or changed major in university due to Company Program experience Thirty four percent of respondents mentioned that they were able to decide for the first time on a university major that aligned with their interests. Participants said this change was directly related to participating in the Company Program. Many youth said they came upon this realization due to their efforts within a certain student company department, say the marketing or finance department. Others identified more specific situations--solving a company problem, communicating with their teammates, engaging with the public--that helped them see their strengths. Gaelle Feghali, 17, from Lebanon said, I knew that I liked business, but I wasnt sure if I was good at it or if I wanted to study business. But after this experience, I was sure that I wanted to build my whole career on this major. Going from not knowing to knowing seemed to be a dramatic leap for many. Palestinian Tamara Wari, 18, said, Yes, I didnt know what I wanted, but now I really want to study information technology. Thirty-one percent of alumni identified other ways that their focus on education improved. (See Fig. 9: Ways focus on education increased due to CP.) These findings point to an increase in student pro-activeness regarding the many forms that education can take. For example, 32% of this group felt that they are now better at learning independently due to their engagement in the Company Program. Another 21% felt that they are more focused now on ways to improve themselves in general. Decided to become an Entrepreneur because of INJAZ Company Program


Several groups of alumni are now interested in pursuing and/or refining a career in entrepreneurship. Thirty-three percent of this group said that their Company Program experience gave them their first impulse to start their own company. As Mohammed Sadeq Al-Salman, 17, from Kuwait attested, At first, I didnt want to do any business in my life. I just wanted to be a doctor. When INJAZ came into my life, I thought to myself, I want a business. Thirty percent of the participants here mentioned that they wanted to start a business before the Company Program, but of these, 23% said that the experience helped them gain a clearer vision for their future business. (See Fig. 8: Clearer future vision.) It seems as though a shift is taking place in the minds of these Company Program alumni when you look at the difference in the numbers between those alumni who are running businesses now (only 29.7%) to those alumni who plan on running their own business in the future (80%). (See Fig. 10: Own a business now AND Fig. 11: Will own a business in the future.) An even greater difference is revealed when you look at the country averages regarding non-participating Company Program youth between 18-24 years old who have thought about starting their own business in the future: Bahrain (17%), Egypt (26%), Jordan (17%), Kuwait (24%), Lebanon (38%), Palestinian Territories (24%), Qatar (50%), Saudi Arabia (16%) and UAE (22%) (Silatech & Gallup, 2011). All of the CP participants in this study attributed their experience in the Company Program to promoting within them the desire to start their own company in the future. Primary Finding #2: The Company Program seems to draw out soft skills in participants An interesting finding appeared regarding the ways participants felt they grew or developed due to their time in the Company Program. All alumni identified individual


skills that grew stronger or that they discovered they possessed as a result of being in the program. (See Fig. 12: Top twenty skills improved via Company Program.) When the top twenty of these skills were identified, 60% of them were revealed to belong in what is called the soft skills category. These skills are ones that are sometimes referred to as people skills. They are not easy to quantify and are sometimes best described as intangibles (Zeigler, 2010). Included in the top twenty list of overall skills alumni felt they developed are the following twelve soft skills: leadership (80%), people skills (80%), teamwork skills (72%), problem solving skills (57%), confidence (54%), communication skills (49%), public speaking skills (44%), innovation/creativity (38%), time management skills (38%), responsibility (38%), determination (30%), and resourcefulness (18%). Palestinian Nada Hasweh, 17, said, [The Company Program] actually really helped me because I got to know I had lots of hidden skills. Reem AlKhalid, 17, from United Arab Emirates, said something similar: I was really shocked because I didnt know I could handle all this amount of stress and keep myself together and keep my team together, so I think this was the first thing I learned from INJAZ. The interviewer did not provide a list of traits to the alumni during the interviews to check off, so to speak; alumni came up with these traits on their own. (See Fig. 13: Soft skills improved during Company Program to review the full list of soft skills (35) alumni felt they developed as an effect of the Company Program.) A final note for this section is that many of these soft skills labeled as such in the business world are interestingly also lauded as the premier 21st Century Skills by educators and leaders today (The Partnership for Twenty First Century Skills, 2007).


Primary Finding #3: The Company Program seems to develop occupational skills as well within its participants In the top twenty list of skills that alumni felt the Company Program experience improved or developed within them (See fig. 12: Top twenty skills improved via Company Program), forty percent of these skills are labeled occupational skills (also known as hard skills). These skills are ones that are technical or administrative procedures related to the organizations core business (Zeigler, 2010). The eight occupational skills featured in this list of top twenty overall skills are sales (59%), marketing (43%), networking (43%), business management (31%), finance (28%), professionalism (25%), entrepreneurship (21%), and team management (20%). (See Fig. 14: Occupational skills improved during Company Program, to review the complete list of occupational skills (30) that alumni felt they developed throughout the course of the CP.) (Note: some of these skills, such as networking and professionalism also appear on some lists as soft skills. For the purpose of this study, they will remain on the occupational skills list.) The skills represented (Figs. 12-14) are those conscious to participants during the interview. The lower percentages given for skills on the right side of the graphs (Figs. 1214) do not indicate that these skills were developed to any specific or lesser degree. They were the skills that students talked about less frequently than skills that ended up on the left side of these charts. A different type of study would need to be conducted to ascertain to what extent each skill was truly embodied by each participant. This study does show, though, that all alumni felt that their experience in the Company Program developed skills within them.


Primary finding # 4: Practice via immersive engagement and social interaction seem to be the mechanisms for developing these skills When alumni explained the components of the Company Program that helped them develop these skills, most participants gave one or two main answers: practice engaging with their student company and team and/or other people mirroring to them that they have these skills. Practice via immersive engagement The answers highlighting practice were abundant. Egyptian Adam el-Sherif, 23, who now runs his own business said, I practiced the leadership, practiced to have a vision, and practiced to achieve this vision. Palestinian Tamara Wari, 18, said something similar: You have to practice in order to know what it means; I didnt know I could work so hard until so much pressure was on me. Farah Abou Kharroub, 18, from Lebanon experienced the same process: As a [representative of] INJAZ Company [Program] I had to deliver a speech in front of the CEOs of the bank. It was a bit of a challenge and it developed my skills. Gaelle Feghali, 17, from Lebanon who was the CEO of her student company the year before said, I became more skillful and I knew how to talk to each person and I knew how to delegate. It was a learning experience and with time I became better at certain things I wasnt before. Engagement with others Several students also commented on how other members of their company team mirrored to them that they have certain skills. Team members were able to witness a particular company member in action and shared what they noticed with that company member. The participant, after hearing about the observed skill, would comment on


having this skill, as though he or she were beginning to identify with the skill. Noura AlKhetheiri, from Saudi Arabia, explained it this way: According to the CEO, who gave me that position I have good communication skills and I like to deal with people. I am able to get deals and discounts. I dont know how to explain it. That is what the CEO told me, that they picked me because I have good communication skills and we need that in the company. Hadeer Sadagah, 17, from Saudi Arabia seemed to go through the same process. She said, It also might have been my presentation skills. I was told that my communications skills were good. Instead of the Company Program volunteers teaching or transferring these skills to CP participants, it seems that practice via an immersive component and social engagement innate to the Company Program experience actually burgeoned these skills within participants as a by product of that experience. It makes sense then, if this is the case, that the more a CP student engages with others and practices these skills in an immersive environment, the higher the chance for developing these skills. Given the large percentage of company leaders (i.e., CEOs, managers, and VPs) in this study sample, it could be assumed that this group would engage with their student companies and teams more than a lower level or passive employee. A follow up study determining whether or not less involved team members experienced a lower level of skill development would be interesting. Eighty-two percent of respondents addressed the importance of providing practical training-- which includes the immersive entrepreneurship training that the Company Program provides--as part of a complete education. Many felt that the strictly theoretical learning model they encountered in the formal school and university settings was not enough. Shawq Masri, 16, one of the youngest participants in this study from


Ramallah, said, When we wanted to apply what we learned at school we couldnt. The way we were taught in INJAZ was totally different, because we were asked to actually apply what we learned. At school we memorize, at INJAZ we learned through application. Palestinian Wad Taweel, 21, is going to graduate school in Boston next year due to receiving a full scholarship for her efforts in the INJAZ program. She said, I think that the focus on practical experience is just as important as lectures and even more important. Another respondent, Abdulsalam Shaker, 23, from Jordan, brought up the importance of making mistakes in this practice-based model of learning: I believe that with the skills you can do anything; [but] you need to apply what you have learned, otherwise it is like not learning anything. When you apply [the information], you learn from your mistakes; hence, [you] learn better. INJAZ seems to excel in providing this practical form of learning which births the prized hard and soft skills that youth in these countries do not seem to obtain in their formal, theory-weighted school settings (Education for Employment Foundation, 2011). Primary finding #5: The Company Program seems to develop a specific business mindset within participants The fifth primary pattern regarding how CP graduates did or would conduct their own business emerged from the interviews and consisted of a bundling of four specific traits or mindsets. (See Fig. 15: Specific business mindset engaged.) Business mindset #1: Benefit the nation or region Fifty-six percent of participants intended to benefit their nation or the entire MENA region with their service or product. These businesses would be considered high impact since the entrepreneurs expect [these] ventures to produce more high-growth


firms and provide more new jobs (Acs, 2006).) Sixty-two percent of the participants in this category wanted to create change throughout their entire nation. Sami Yousef Damisi, 24, a serial entrepreneur in Jordan said: We wanted to implement new technologies that would develop our country. Faisal Al-Nahhas, 17, from the West Bank heralded that his chemical company will be a different sort of company, a new feel to this country, and I will be helping the economy of the country. Even youth living in the more affluent Gulf Countries shared this view. Aisha Jassim Al-Sultan, 19, said, Qatar is a growing country now. [I will] become a business entrepreneur to help develop our economy, to help in the growth of the country. Thirty-eight percent of these nation-region business developers said they see the importance of looking beyond their own country, particularly if it is one that possesses a weak market, such as Jordan or Lebanon. Business mindset #2: Fill a gap or need in society Fifty-four percent of the study participants focused on how their business does or would fill a gap or need in society. It seems the types of entrepreneurs that the Company Program breeds are seen as social entrepreneurs (Martin & Osberg, 2007). Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to societys most pressing social problems (Ashoka, 2006). The needs in society that alumni were working to alleviate or intending to remedy fell into several categories, including environment, poverty, health care, education, and care for the elderly. Business mindset #3: Hire others Thirty-nine percent of participants brought up plans to hire several employees, which would include providing employment to marginalized people, such as


impoverished women, Bedouin people, and university students. Gaelle Feghali, 17, from Lebanon said, One thing that INJAZ taught me, or I found out because of INJAZ, [is] that we can make our own job opportunities. I can open my own business, and I can make new job opportunities for others. Adam el-Sherif, 23, from Egypt employs six people other than himself. He said, We are doing a small school to teach the local people of the desert how to work in tourism, the basics of tourism, how to retain their own image, [and] how to communicate with tourists. Feras Hamtini, 22, from Jordan, has found a way through his company to provide employment to impoverished women: They used to work unorganized. So we went there and taught them how to work; [taught them about] quality control, quality assurance, and if you have an order, what to ask about. We started working [with them] and we sold more than 1,600 items. Now the ladies have their own workshop. They opened a workshop and they started working like professionals. Two women in Saudi Arabia, as well, created a company with their INJAZ teammates that provided a way for photographers in the country to sell their artwork on line. Business mindset #4: Create businesses based on intrinsic passion Thirty-four percent of the study participants seemed to learn through the Company Program that it is important to focus on creating businesses about which they are passionate. Many saw in passion a key to commitment and future success. Rehab Khaled El-Dalil, 21, from Egypt said, Mixing work and what you love is more important because if you work [at] something you don't love, youre going to kill yourself. So you need to have something that will motivate you to keep going. Palestinian Nada Hasweh, 17, shared her experience: Because I loved the environment, I wasnt forced. I really loved going to meetings with big businesses. I really loved going to the street to try to convince [people], because it was something I really cared about, this idea. So its always important that you believe in what youre doing. In the MENA region in general,


as revealed later in this study, being passionate about what you do (possessed by many Company Program alumni) is not always at the forefront when a person determines what he or she will do in the future. In this regard, this fourth business mindset is quite unique. An idea for a future study is to examine how Company Program alumni obtained these specific business mindsets, since that topic was not addressed in the interviews. Primary finding #6: The Company Program experience seems to breed other tangible benefits for its participants Thirty-four percent of the study participants identified several, perhaps more tangible, benefits that they obtained via the Company Program. (See Fig. 16: Other Benefits of INJAZ Company Program.) These benefits include important connections in order to increase their future successes (43%), a newfound ability to inspire and guide others regarding entrepreneurship (29%), the ability to engage in the real world (24%), as well as invitations to entrepreneurship events (14%), internship opportunities (10%), and funding sources (10%) for their current businesses. Primary Finding #7: The Company Program efforts also reveal societal mindsetroadblocks that seem to stymie youth success Ironically, it is the positive effects of the Company Program and how INJAZ asks CP students to push through their traditional boundaries and work in the real world that have perhaps revealed several regional mindsets that actually seem to hinder MENA youth from reaching their Company Program-inspired goals. (See Fig. 17: Societal Mindsets that impede youth progress in MENA region.) Societal Mindset and Roadblock #1: There seems to be an underlying mindset regarding fearing failure, mistakes, and therefore entrepreneurship


Though, clearly, Company Program alumni have a more proactive outlook on their futures particularly regarding entrepreneurship, forty-eight percent of study participants brought up instances and anecdotes inferring that failure and making mistakes are to be avoided at all costs. Participants from all countries represented in this study, except for Kuwait, and to a lesser extent Egypt, elicited information, which directed attention to this point. One way this mindset shows up is in the number of participants who seem to feel that they must spend years learning skills in someone elses place of employment before they can start their own business. For example, when medical student Mohamed Al-Awadhi, 18, from Bahrain was asked if he was going to open his own medical clinic [referenced previously in his interview] in the future, he said, [My brother and sister] really like the idea and were just waiting to get known in Bahrain, to work in a hospital for years and then, when we get some kind of name and some kind of reputation, then we might open our clinic. Though the interest was there, this youth wanted to put years into building his reputation before he might open the clinic. Thinking was similar for Feras Hamtini, 22, Jordan. He said: I need to go to the market and start working to know more because I dont want to go run my company and make a big mistake and just ruin everything; so I have to be careful. In the business world theres no, Oh, my darling! Oh, its okay. No. You make a mistake; youre dead. Your company is out. Game over. Farah Abou Kharroub, 18, in Lebanon wanted to learn all the mistakes under someone elses watch, before starting her own business: After I know all the mistakes, and have all the experience, I can have my own company and be a leader in it. The fear of messing up was prevalent, as Hadeer Sadagah, 17, in Saudi Arabia put it when she shared what her most pressing concerns are: not succeeding, failure, [and] the fear of letting people down.


In a few countries, study participants directed the origins of this mindset at society in general. Farah Abdou, 22, Jordan mentioned that what is most difficult are the financial issues when starting [a company] and the challenges that one has to face because of the beliefs of the society, since not many believe in entrepreneurship. Company Program alumni must push through this mindset in order to create success for themselves. Abdou summarized this by saying: Yes, you challenge difficulties, you challenge society, and you challenge even your parents because you become a part of something big that our society is not used to. Societal Mindset and Roadblock #2: There seems to be an underlying mindset that women should not have full freedom to engage in the real world Forty-six participants, men and women, talked about hurdles--though they did not generally call them this as suchthat women face in the real world. Study participants from all countries expressed information inferring that women in the MENA region do not have full freedom to engage in the real world. Lebanese participants, more than the others though, yielded only the slightest attention to this topic. Family members (whether the parents or the husband of a woman) seem to have decision-making powers over a womans direction in life. Khadija Al-Shurooqi, age not recorded, from Bahrain talked about how a husband determines whether his wife will work or not: Young women will look for a job after University. When they get married, some of them will stop working and some of them will continue to work. Some men like their wives to work; other men dont like their wives to work. Oday Al-Amayrh, 23, a production company owner in Jordan talked about difficulties in finding young women to act out roles for his scripts. He said, Many dont do it, because their parents dont allow it, even though the young


women would be paid for their work. In UAE, 16-year-old Minwa Al-Abdools father had to be convinced to let her join the Company Program. I really had a hard time with my father to convince him about INJAZ, because you know in the Middle East its hard for girls to work; for Muslim girls its really hard. I had a hard time convincing him, but now I think hes okay with it. Women seem to face difficulties in certain environments that could be prohibitive to their ability to become employed. Dina M. Sherif, 18, from Egypt mentioned that girls cant go some places without the boys, or without having a man with [them]. In the production phase the manager [of our student company] was a boy, because hes going to go out to workshops. If were going to a place like workshops, the girls wont be able to go or communicate well with the men there. In Saudi Arabia, Sarah al-Amoudi, 19, mentioned that the girls on her team did not get to pitch their business plans with their male teammates since they were not allowed to go on stage [during the competition]. The boys would talk about going on stage while we couldnt. For other girls, [the Ministry of Education] would not allow them to be on TV because [the girls] didnt want to cover their faces. A final arena in which it seems that women are not fully free to engage is in an open expression of their intelligence. Eighteen-year-old Francine Loza, an Egyptian who was recently accepted into Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the top universities in the world, mentioned that a lot of girls dont go to the best universities in the world. I actually have one of my best friends mom who said [to me], Now you are not going to find anyone to marry you, because you need to find someone who is smarter than you and you wont. I think it should not be backwards, however it is a reality of our society, which I am a part of. I cant pretend it is not true. Still, Company Program alumni do make the effort to push through these mindsets at times. In Saudi Arabia, Sarah Al-Amoudi, 19, said she wants to start a transportation company because of the rule that does not allow women to drive. We cant drive


because of our tradition, so it is difficult for women to commute. She wants to start a company that will transport women to work and to other places. Farah Abdou, a 22-yearold alumnus in Jordan, was highly optimistic about the future for women in MENA. She said: Although there are fewer female entrepreneurs in Jordan than male entrepreneurs, I believe if the female sets her mind to do something, she will do it. I believe that females have a great ability to achieve what they want, more than males, maybe. Societal Mindset and Roadblock #3: There seems to be an underlying societal mindset that sends the message that youth are too young to do much outside of get an education Thirty-one percent of study participants indicated that a mindset presides inferring there is such a thing as too young. Company Program students engaged in business with the general public, but sometimes the people they interacted with did not seem to know how to work with young people. Manwella Abu Chaaya, 18, from Lebanon told how suppliers were not taking us seriously, because we were young. Samer Dahrouge, 22, in Lebanon agreed, pitting the wisdom of experienced entrepreneurs against the naivet of youth: It is difficult for them to be convinced of my point of view, because they have been in the business for so long and some of my ideas may seem ridiculous to them. A Palestinian student Malak Khabbas, 17, remarked that, Maybe society will not accept the fact that we are so young, while Reem Al-Khalid, 17, a UAE participant, gave more detailed information into this hurdle, and into her plan to counteract it: Unfortunately, since we are still under 18, we cant open a [business] account, and we dont have a license. Its kind of hard for us. So we said that as soon as we graduate we are going to start our own business and open an account. It is difficult to tell, here, if young people themselves project this mindset onto others due to their own lack of


confidence or if they have internalized this mindset from some external source. A separate study here would be helpful. Societal Mindset and Roadblock #4: There seems to be an underlying societal mindset that educational direction and future work should be determined by how students are tracked, and should not be based on their interests or passions in life Twenty-six percent of study participants provided anecdotes highlighting a trend in the MENA region that funnels young people passively into futures determined by their scores on a senior year test in high school, by their grades in high school, and by their parents, but not generally on what they were passionate about. Mohamed Al-Awadhi, 18, a Bahraini student who saw this trend as negative due to his experience in the Company Program, mentioned that many of his friends got into fields that they dont like because they didnt get that wakeup call. Many friends of mine got into fields that they dont care for just because thats what they got accepted in; they didnt really work hard to get in fields that they love. So getting into a program like INJAZ or any kind of program that helps you focus on the future is really beneficial to any student. Gaelle Feghali, 17, from Lebanon shared her thoughts regarding this passive student quality. She said, Before INJAZ I didnt used to think about anything. I would just go to school waiting to graduate and see what happens. Since graduating from the Company Program, she became more proactive about her life, and chose to study business as a result. Several students mentioned the tracking mechanism of the Tawjihi exam that students take during their last year of high school as a main factor in determining a young persons life direction. Malak Khabbas, 17, from the northern West Bank exclaimed that, this [Tawjihi] examination will determine your future. Amal Jaroor, 16, from UAE indicated that you have an option for your life with high exam scores, but without them,


options seem to vanish: When you get a high score, you can choose what job you want, but if you graduate with a low score you wont have choices. Some respondents mentioned that this exam could also keep you out of college. Palestinian Hadeel Abdullah, 18, said she learned that you couldnt go to college with less than a 90 in your exams. Abdullah went on to add that parents, too, determine what their children will do. She said, In some regions parents force their kids to study things they want them to study, go to a certain school or do engineering. Some people force their children. Ayat Mohammad Amr, 17, from Jordan talked about how her parents desire for her to be a doctor has caused her to become confused about what she really wants to do: As a little kid, my dad said, You have to be a doctor, doctor, doctor, doctor. So one day I stayed alone and asked myself, Doctor? Do I want to be a doctor? Can I be a doctor? I chose engineering, then maybe doctor again. Im still confused. Doctor or engineering? But my dad inspires my motivation, because he didnt complete school; he wanted me to complete his dream, his one. When he was little, he wanted to be a doctor, but he cant [now]. So now he wants me to be. Okay, first I said no. I want to be an engineer, an electronics engineer. He didnt say anything. But I feel hes sad, upset. But he didnt order me. Reem Al-Khalid,17, from UAE mentioned her interest in changing this paradigm: You know we have to do something I think, because some girls are getting this chance thrown out because of their parents. Even when they want to specialize in something, major in something in university, or she wants to be a waiter, her parents say, No you have to be a doctor. Whats the point of being a doctor if you dont want to be? Palestinian Tamara Wari, 18, added that grades in high school also determine a youths future: Most of us went to the literature stream, because of our grades. Higher grades went to the scientific stream and lower grades went to the literature stream. This specific funneling process seemed to take place even if students with higher grades truly wanted to go into the literature stream instead. An inferred message from


these respondents seemed to be that if youre smart you study medicine and engineering; if youre not "smart, you focus on other fields, regardless of interest. As Wari put it, The scientific stream, everyone says, is for more clever people. Study participants from all MENA regions commented on the prevalence of students going into medical schools and engineering programs, but many saw the potential maxing out of positions that could occur in these fields as a result. Shawq Masri, 16, highlighted this point: It is a shame that young people in Nablus only want to study medicine or engineering. Young people dont know that there are so many opportunities out there. Nablus is filled with doctors and engineers. She zeroed in on the problem brewing with this overflow of recently graduated doctors and engineers: Some young people would be so good and are on honor lists in universities, yet when they graduate they have nothing to do and they become unemployed. Sarah Abou Al-Aiwi, 17, from Lebanon highlighted this point too, but then focused on how the Company Program opened for her another window of opportunity: In Lebanon were always scared that there are too many doctors, too many engineers. Every single job or major has loads of people doing it. After being a part of the Company Program I realized how, [maybe] not easy, but how possible it is to make your own company. Many participants seemed to have had this same revelation due to the Company Program, as can be seen by the large number of participants who focused on business majors and similar in university, or shifted their university major (mentioned earlier), as a result. (See Fig. 18: Intended or Exact University Majors by Grouping. This chart also confirms the general fixation on a medicine or engineering focus.) (See also Fig. 19: Intended or Exact University Majors, ungrouped.) Though turned on to business and other fields of interest in the Company Program, some study participants were still not willing to change their


previously fixed direction in life. Buthaina Zaid, 17, from UAE inferred that her previously set goals hindered her from choosing a career that she might have enjoyed more: I think I became more interested in business [because of INJAZ], but unfortunately I already have my goals. Primary Finding #8: An entrepreneurship ecosystem of support is required in order for alumni to make it as successful entrepreneurs The study strongly suggests that a more robust entrepreneurship ecosystem of support is required in order for Company Program alumni to succeed at a career in entrepreneurship. Student Company Status After Company Program The first indication that stronger support is needed, came from data regarding the status of student companies once the Company Program ended. (See Fig. 20: Student company status after CP.) The data shows that sixty-nine percent of student companies closed their doors once the program had ended. Only 20% of those student companies are still running. The data shows that, out of the students who closed their businesses, only three percent of these students were just not interested in running them anymore. The data also shows significant reasons why the other study participants closed shop. (See Fig. 21: Reasons student companies closed.) The majority answer given by fifty-five percent of these 42 students was that their efforts in school and university took priority. All of the students in this bracket mentioned their difficulties with the time crunch as they focused on their studies, prepared for the Tawjihi or IB exam, and/or moved away from their teammates to attend university. It seems by this that an either/or mentality exists that precludes many students from continuing their companies. The mentality is this: either I


focus on school (which doesnt seem to yield time for entrepreneurship) or I dont succeed. A lack of time within the school or university setting is one indicator that a robust ecosystem of support for youth entrepreneurs doesnt yet exist, at least in the academic environment. The second highest aggregate percentage (26%) for the closure of the student companiesand one that also feeds into this finding--was due to lack of support. This lack of support showed up in several ways. Ironically, the highest source for lack of support came from INJAZ itself. In 12% of these cases, study participants shared that their INJAZ country office gave CP students a directive to close their companies at the end of the Company Program, saying that these were the terms of the Competition. Other signs of less than ideal support were revealed in CP students answers indicating lack of funding (5%), governmental law/s prohibiting students from owning businesses (3%), licensing issues (3%), and country problems (3%) that make it difficult for youth to build firm company foundations. Participants own recommendations An explicit indication that CP students needed more support was found in their own recommendations. (See Fig. 22: Alumni recommendations to improve Company Program.) The top two recommendations alumni gave to improve the Company Program experience for others were 1) increase access to proper adult support (77%) and 2) provide solid post-Company Program support (66%). Forms of proper adult support Alumni had many suggestions for what makes certain adult support desirable. These ideas came from their experiences with volunteers and other adult supporters who in many cases were very supportive, but at other times, were not so supportive. (See


Fig. 23: Desirable traits of adult supporters.) This groups top five qualities for desirable supporter traits are as follows: 1. (77%) A strong adult supporter must above all be a good guide and source of knowledgeable advice. Study participants mentioned many topics in which they wanted adult guidance: how to deal with employees; how to make a business plan; how to determine the best prices; how to make a winning company; how to persuade others; how to choose the right product; how to work with suppliers; and how to present their ideas to others. They also wanted someone to critique their products or services and share with youth their general life wisdom, business wisdom, and long-term business planning knowledge. 2. (57%) An adult supporter must commit to them. Alumni gave specific indicators to tell if an adult was dedicated. He or she would check in with the team regularly, consistently attend meetings, work with the student team from the start through to the completion of the Company Program, mentor them on a regular (weekly) basis, show up, communicate with the team, and make no false promises. 3. (36%) A strong supporter would also champion youth. To alumni this could take the form of encouraging students to do new things, to turn an idea into a company, to stay motivated, to keep their company running, and to go to the INJAZ competition. Alumni talked about how adult supporters should take youth seriously and believe in them and their ideas, as well as give them moral support when they become discouraged. 4. (30%) It seems obvious from finding #1 in this section, but students also felt a solid advocate would have experience and knowledge in business. Several of the


students wanted to work with adults who own or who work for big companies, but more general than this they said they want adults who have solid practical experience in the world of business. 5. (19%) Advocates of CP students must also know about and understand the Company Program process. Alumni want advocates during the Company Program who know CP expectations and who can guide them through these parameters from the start of the program to the final competition/s. Also in fifth place with 19%, alumni said that solid adult supporters should provide them with connections for funding, internships opportunities so they can gain more experience, and connections with other business people from whom they could learn. Forms of recommended Post Company Program support Alumni also had many suggestions for ways that INJAZ could support youth when the Company Program ended. (See Fig. 24: Forms of Post Company Program Support.) Here are the top three suggestions in this category: 1. Funding (43%) Alumni particularly wanted connections to investors who believe that youth can make a difference. Alumni were open to direct funding from INJAZ or connections to other potential sources of funding. 2. Guidance (38%) This study showed that participants liked having autonomy and feeling a sense of ownership to their student businesses, but this did not diminish their request for guidance after the Company Program was over. Alumni in this category said that they would like mentoring from INJAZ as they work to


build their own businesses in the real world. Thirty-eight percent of alumni also want connections from INJAZ for incubator opportunities, locations in which to run their businesses, good employees, special pricing in newspapers and other forms of media, as well as real world learning experiences with business leaders. 3. A comprehensive ecosystem of support-- Thirty-five percent of the post-CP support group advocates explicitly recognized the need for an INJAZ-led ecosystem in which youth entrepreneurs are nurtured. This group expressed their desire for INJAZ to take ownership of and have a sense of accountability regarding CP alumni interested in entrepreneurship in order to ensure their success after the Company Program. They mentioned specific ways that INJAZ could do this: allow students to continue with their CP student companies when the program ends, provide advanced professional training (as in a second round of CP) for promising companies, give their blessing for alumni to produce something in the real world, provide them with private sector mentors, provide booths at INJAZ events so graduates could promote themselves, create incubators like Meydan in Jordan, and at the very least, respond to alumni correspondence. Evidence of outside sources of support A final indicator of study participants need for a strong entrepreneurship ecosystem of support stems from the support that CP students gain (or dont) from sources outside of their Company Program team and volunteer network. (See Fig. 25: Sources of support outside of INJAZ proper.) One quarter of the study participants provided glimpses into inspiring moments when outside (non-Company Program) sources


championed them and their endeavors. They also talked about situations wherein they did not feel so supported by outside sources. Both scenarios seemed to affect these alumni, and their confidence, in some important way. With this knowledge, it is important to determine the outside sources that affect Company Program participants as these individuals and institutions outside of the distinct Company Program community do seem to have a role in either building the confidence of entrepreneurial youth or in tearing it down. These sources include family members-- particularly parents (33%), Schools-particularly teachers and principals (27%), real world contractors (13%), non-INJAZ friends (7%), non-Company Program INJAZ staff (7%), government members (7%), and INJAZ judges (7%). Family members as role models in entrepreneurship An interesting fact yielded in this study is that 57% of study participants have at least one family member who owns his or her own business (though only one family member entrepreneur in this grouping was a woman!). (See Fig. 26: Family members own a business.) It is not clear if there is some connection between the fact that many of these study participants were CEOs and leaders of their CP student companies and the fact that they had entrepreneurs as role models (potentially) within their own families. This is another area ripe for future study. Going back to the aforementioned societal mindset regarding the fear of entrepreneurship and its potential negative influence on entrepreneurship in the MENA region, might the opposite also be true? Might a youth who is raised within an ecosystem extolling entrepreneurship grow into an adult who relishes it? The alumni perspectives presented here seem to point in that direction, though a future study on this topic could confirm it.


Utilizing the Company Program Competition as a way to leverage greater support for young entrepreneurs Competition protocol toward enhancing more support In total, most study participants thoroughly enjoyed their CP competition experience. Many of them described the drama of the day-- especially when presenting their products or services to the public and to the judges, and when answering the judges questions--as highly stressful yet rewarding and full of opportunities for personal growth, even within that small window of time. Twenty-one percent of study participants, though, shared ways that this experience could be even more supportive of young entrepreneurcompetitors. (See Fig. 27: Recommendations for the CP competition.) The top two suggestions are presented here. 1. Forty-six percent of this group felt that INJAZ could work on improving fairness for all competitors. They gave several concrete examples for how to do this: a. INJAZ representatives should visit student companies before any competition to make sure students are playing by the rules when creating their companies. b. Be transparent and communicative about competition and judging protocols. c. Standardize Company Program protocols across nations (i.e., number of months spent on company.) d. Make sure volunteers/mentors know that students (not the adults) must do the work before and during the competition.


e. Offer professional presentation skills to all teams, especially students who come from public schools, since participants have noticed that public school students resources pre-competition are scarcer than private school participants resources. 2. Second place (23%) was tied between two recommendations: give incentives such as award money or university scholarship money to winning teams and create a network for team members across cities and nations to get to know each other both before and after the competition. Participants would like this network to facilitate communications between youth entrepreneurs regarding their difficulties, their achievements and their potential ability to work together in the future. Judges and judging protocol to better support youth Included within the study participant recommendations for the competition itself are indications that the CP judges can also contribute to a stronger ecosystem of support for these youth. (See Fig. 28: Ways to improve CP competition judge support.) Here are the top four concrete ways whereby judges can do this, as per the alumni perspectives: 1. Utilize the judging forum as an open learning forum so participants can ask the judges questions and hear their answers in order to know how to improve their businesses. Alumni wanted this to be an open forum so they could learn from other teams mistakes as well. 2. Judges should match the competition participant demographic. Some study respondents said they prefer when INJAZ judges understand and speak their language (Arabic) and are citizens of the nation or region in which the competition is held.


3. Improve fairness -- Interviewees felt that all judges for all competitions need to use standard INJAZ competition score sheets and rubrics as well as have a solid understanding regarding INJAZs rules for student company products and services. 4. Finally, the study participants felt that judges could champion youth entrepreneurs more by speaking to them in dignity-building, encouraging ways during the competition. Discussion Returning now to the introduction where focus was given to the recognition of two types of ecosystems that form the backbone of support for a young person making his or way in this world, and for the purposes of this study, the world of youth and entrepreneurship. The first, Bronfenbrenners 1977 Ecological Systems Theory or Model of Human Development, lays the philosophical underpinnings for the second theory that was promoted just this year by the World Economic Forum and Booz & Company (Saddi, Soueid & Youssef, 2011). In both, context is key. The individual, in each model, is placed in the middle of the ecological system of rings that, in a perfect world, are wellknit, supportive of the individual in the middle, and positively aligned with the other rings of the system. This study confirms that this ecosystem ideology is imperative in order for a young entrepreneur to thrive in the MENA region today. The alumni voices present a convincing picture. It was the ecosystem of their company teammates, volunteers, and clientele through which they engaged that spawned the several skills important for the world of work today. It was the ecosystem of the Company Program itself, somehow, that


birthed within the alumni several of the business mindsets, according to Acs (2006), that are key to invigorating their nations economies. It was ecosystem of the private sector that provided role models and real world examples showing many of the youth in this study another option for the direction their lives could take. Some Company Program alumni have used these impressions to go into a major that they love instead of one merely because society deems it prestigious. Some of the alumni have used these impressions to reach beyond the tradition of fear and start their own company. And some have used these role model impressions to return the favor by guiding others (i.e., their parents, their friends, the new Company Program cohorts) in the ways of entrepreneurship and life to which their mentors have guided them. This study also confirms that the ecosystem of support for young entrepreneurs in the MENA region is not yet robust enough to say it is doing good work (Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi, & Damon, 2001). Alignment between domains here is key. A professional realm is healthiest when the values of the culture are in line with those of the domain, when the expectations of stakeholders match those of the field, and when the domain and field are themselves in sync. When these conditions exist, individual practitioners [for this studys purposes, the young entrepreneurs] are free to operate at their best, morale is high, and the professional realm flourishes. We term this a situation of authentic alignment (Gardner, H., Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Damon, W., 2001). So, yes, context does matter, Bronfenbrenner and The World Economic Forum people are right, but what makes context truly effective is when the values and expectations of all components of the system align. This study brings up several areas in the ecosystem of support for young entrepreneurs that are not yet aligned. One of these is the notion in society that entrepreneurship is something to avoid. Clearly INJAZ values entrepreneurship, but MENA society at large seems somewhat out of alignment with this value. Additionally, youth in this study voiced that they value more post-Company


Program support. The act of cutting off support after the Company Program is not aligned with this value, but INJAZ could shift tracks and align with the value by offering start up help to CP alumni. Alumni say they want to run their own business some day, but only 30% of the alumni in the study are currently doing so. If the educational system aligned with the value of creating a culture of entrepreneurship by integrating entrepreneurship education into its general curriculum, perhaps the ecosystem would be more robust than it is today. Perhaps then alumni would not need to close their student companies due to schoolwork taking priority, but would work in entrepreneurial ways as part of the school day. But does authentic alignment require that one domain in the ecosystem chase every other domains values? As Alice Woodwark said in the book True North: If youre just chasing the rabbit around the course, youre not running toward anything meaningful (George, 2007). This tension, too, creates a weakening in the good work that the ecosystem of support for youth entrepreneurs could do. So what to do? This study proposes a solution. It brings us back to our two models of ecosystems, Bronfenbrenners and The World Economic Model, and adds a new piece to the ecosystem archetype. Or perhaps it is not a new piece per se, since the individual IS represented at the center of both sets of ecosystems. More accurately, it is a refocusing on the central part of the eco-system, that of the individual, that of the young entrepreneur. Context, as this study attests, is crucial for a young persons development; but, one of the large holes not addressed in the primary advocacy for entrepreneurship education literature is the importance-- to this entire ecosystem of support --of the young persons discovery of his or her authentic self. Part of the real magic of what the Company Program seems to offer these youth, in addition to adding itself to their


ecosystem of support, is a conduit through which young people can become conscious of their true values, their true passions, and their true goals. Since, without self-awareness, it is easy to get caught up in chasing external symbols of success rather than becoming the person you want to be (George, 2007). If the ecosystem of support were to truly align to benefit the youth at the center, it would have to align with the values coming from the center, the values--made ever more conscious--of the MENA youth. Conclusion With a clearer vision for their futures, more real world skills, unique business mindsets that benefit others as well as their nations, and other, tangible, benefitsthe INJAZ alumni seem to feel that their Company Program experience has given them a leg up in several valuable ways. INJAZ al-Arab, via the Company Program, could continue to move in this direction (since the alumni have voiced that it is doing meaningful work). But to ensure even greater success, INJAZ al-Arab should: 1. Build a more robust entrepreneurship ecosystem of aligned support from all domains and sectors (as mentioned by alumni above). This eco-system would support youth entrepreneurs even after their Company Program experience and would be founded on an education reform policy that embeds and integrates entrepreneurship education into all MENA educational systems. 2. Expose all young men and young women at the center of the ecosystem to even greater opportunities and times of reflection so they can discover and champion their own authentic values, passions, and goals. Conflicts for INJAZ al-Arab that arise from this study


The primary conflict for creating a superior Company Program that fully empowers youth entrepreneurs in the future seems to rest heavily on the daunting task of knitting together a more durable, comprehensive, and robust ecosystem of support for young entrepreneurs in the MENA region while at the same time working to redirect or bring to public consciousness the powerful societal mindsets, revealed in this study, that oftentimes seem to act, however unconsciously, as prohibitive agents counteracting this mission of advocacy. This study argues that this tension, if not curtailed, and this ecosystem of support, if not strengthened, have the potential to work against each other in ways that could significantly undermine the INJAZ al-Arab mission and goals of empowering hundreds of thousands of MENA youth to forge meaningful, proactive, and productive lives. Validity/Limitations There were several limitations to this study, including language barriers, the lack of a control group, and the lack of a truly random sampling. Ideas for future research that this study suggests This study suggests a couple other ideas for future research, apart from the ones that were included in the body of this paper. An important and interesting set of steps would involve longitudinal neurological and behavioral studies on Company Program participants and alumni to truly understand what occurs in the brain, if anything, when a student engages fully in the Company Program and then applies his or her knowledge in the real world over time. How do the immersive and social aspects of this program, on a neurological level, draw out the skills that alumni mentioned? Are these skills retained over time? If so, how does this retention occur? It would also be interesting to explore the


topic of societal mindsets to determine the biological mechanism that allows a group of people who are culturally connected, to adhere so strongly to the same mindsets which at times can actually induce, it is assumed, unintended negative effects on aspects of the community at large. Finally, another study focusing on a different type of CP participants, such as those who dropped out, or those who were not deemed the best, would help confirm whether the findings in this study could in fact be universally applied to all types of CP participants. Study Recommendations The results of this study portend four primary recommendations. Since entrepreneurship seems to be the force which mobilizes humans ability to take action (Berglund and Holmgren, 2006), these recommendations are devised to clear obstacles on the young entrepreneurs road to success and build stronger networks so more movement can occur. All four recommendations are equally important and would ideally be done in tandem. 1. Strive to remove societal mindset barriers that hinder young women Ensure that more private sector women become INJAZ board members, volunteers, judges, guest speakers, and start up advocates. Women must enter the INJAZ entrepreneurship ecosystem in stronger force! Disrupt the current social mindset with various and copious forms of media showing Arab women of all ages and styles setting their own goals and stepping over societal barriers to reach them. Educate society about the economic and social benefits reaped by all when women are empowered.


Educate families, Ministries of Education, community leaders, and private and public sector workers regarding the negative effect on individuals, society, and the economy when women are restricted.

Encourage young women to believe that they can do what they want.

2. Strive to remove societal mindset barriers that hinder MENA youth in general Encourage youth to connect with their true passion, and pursue it. Encourage youth to be proactive about their futures by introducing them to many options via job shadowing, guest speakers, internships, mentoring, and INJAZ programs, such as the Company Program. Educate parents about career options and other beneficial opportunities available to young people today. Give examples in the media of youth creating interesting and proactive lives for themselves. Deconstruct the tracking system in high schools. Conduct a longitudinal study to better understand what happens to society when youth who cant do well on the Tawjihi exam are not ostracized from good education/work options. Advocate for youth a multiple-pathways model of education and work. Educate society about the benefits on the economy of not pushing all students to become doctors and engineers. Educate society, parents included, on the importance of letting young people make their own decisions about career, marriage, and education.


Advocate a system of career and guidance counselors in high schools and universities so young people have access to accurate information before making important life decisions.

Continue to stay in touch with Company Program alumni so they have a support network if and when they need it.

Help young people change their own negative mindset about what it is that they, as young people, can or cannot do.

Talk with young people within the Company Program and without it to always have your finger on the pulse of the youth. Know about their issues from their perspective.

3. Build a robust, consistent, and youth-centered entrepreneurship ecosystem Claim ownership of developing a successful ecosystem. Someone has to be responsible for bringing the network together and helping this ecosystem emerge. Ferret out all areas where INJAZ actually undermines their own efforts to promote the development of youth-run companies. Encourage all INJAZ alumni to volunteer as Company Program assistant mentors. Champion and educate private sector individuals (women included!) to invest in alumni ventures. Create a hub that unifies and integrates the young entrepreneurs experience with that of the private sector, the public sector, and the education sector.


The ecosystem must be youth-entrepreneur-centered. Create a comprehensive on-line resource center so youth interested in entrepreneurship can learn from any MENA location.

Provide a specialized network of well-trained, highly experienced private sector advocates to guide youth entrepreneurs on a consistent basis. Retirees could be perfect for this task, since they probably have more time on their hands and a ton of experience that the youth said they want.

Create and provide an incubator program for interested and capable graduates of the Company Program.

Develop an assessment system to improve accountability and to gauge true success or areas where shifts need to occur for alignment to reemerge.

Champion youth as entrepreneurs. Encourage graduates of incubators to mentor CP students and start up ventures. Develop a culture of mentoring!

Provide a network of seed funding in tandem with mentoring for youth ventures.

Be open to others who have something to contribute. Assist youth entrepreneurs to develop valid ventures. Develop a culture of providing venture capital to youth. Scaffold support for youth so they can each learn from where they are in the entrepreneurship process and so they can be encouraged to push through hurdles that traditionally would stop them.


Ban the gatekeeper mindset and encourage the advocate mindset for all youth.

4. Permeate and integrate immersive youth entrepreneurship education on a greater scale Reform Education Policy: Embed and integrate entrepreneurship education within every cell of the MENA educational systems. Encourage the MENA region to create an entrepreneurship education policy. Encourage entrepreneurial thinking in the school/university setting and in society. Examples in the media would be useful here. Create policies that will lower governmental barriers to youth entrepreneurs. Advocate for the marriage of practice-based to theory-based learning in schools and universities. Promote young entrepreneurs as societal heroes via many forms of the media. Educate society to the benefits of risk-taking, failure, making mistakes, and experimentation, as well as how to move through these experiences in a positive, growth-oriented manner. Expand the reach of the Company Program and subsequent start up services to untapped youth. Lengthen the amount of time a student engages in the Company Program. Educate teachers and principals on the benefits of entrepreneurship education for their students. It is as important as regular education!


Educate teachers so they know how to encourage their students to engage in entrepreneurial thinking and behaviors.

Appendix APPENDIX #1: Participant Interview Protocol Primary INJAZ Company Program Alumni Interview Questions Name: Country: Age: INJAZ Company Program year: Country of birth: INJAZ student company name: Your title in that company: Description of company product/service: Is it still in operation? If not, why? What are you doing now? (i.e., work, school) What are your plans for the future (next 1-5 years)? If you dont own your own business currently, do you plan on starting one at some point in your life? If so, give details as to what this business might be. Do you own a company now? If yes: Current company name: Start date/year: Your title: Clientele demographic: Geographic zone: Website: Number of employees: Number of INJAZ employees: Employee demographics: Description of company service/product: How did you determine the type of post-INJAZ business you would start? What are your current motivators for staying in business? What is the best part about owning a business? What are you most anxious about regarding owning your own business? If you do not have your own business now, do you plan to start your own in the future? If not, why? If you will start a business one day, tell about it. What would be your primary funding sources in order of degree in case you want to start your business in the future (i.e., government, banks, private firm, individual, client)? What are your long-term plans (5-10 years)? As a result of your participation in the Company program: Have you developed or further developed your educational goals? If so, in what ways?


Have you developed or further developed any career goals? If so, in what ways? Do you feel you are more interested in owning your own business? Explain. In what ways have you developed personally by participating in the Company Program? In what areas do you feel you need more improvement? Is this something that INJAZ did or should incorporate into its Company Program? Did the Company Program provide you with skills/information that you did not get in school/university? If so, explain: What factors caused you to participate in the INJAZ Company Program? Did the INJAZ Company Program experience contribute to your decision to start your own business after INJAZ? If yes, how? If not, why? What INJAZ Company Program skills would you rely on if you wanted to start your own business? As a potential entrepreneur, what skills would you have liked to have learned through INJAZ, but didnt? What was the most difficult part of the INJAZ company program for you? What was the best part about the INJAZ company program? Do you think you would be where you are today if you didnt go through the INJAZ program? Why/why not? Do you keep in touch with any INJAZ staff, volunteer, students for any kind of support? Explain: How could INJAZ benefit you now? What advice would you give young people regarding participating in the INJAZ Company Program? Advice for starting their own company? What advice would you give INJAZ- (your country) as they determine how to improve the Company Program for young people?


APPENDIX #2 Graphs and Charts Fig 1. Number of participants from each country


Fig. 2: Ages of participants

Fig. 3: Sex of participants


Fig. 4: Years out of Company Program

Fig. 5: Student company employee positions


Fig. 6: Student company manager/VP/CEO v. employee


Fig. 7: Focus of CP student companies


Fig. 8: Clearer future vision


Fig. 9: Ways focus on Education increased due to CP


Fig. 10: Own a business now


Fig. 11: Will own a business in the future


Fig. 12: Top twenty skills improved via Company Program


Fig. 13: Soft skills improved during Company Program


Fig. 14: Occupational skills improved during Company Program


Fig. 15: Specific business mindset engaged


Fig. 16: Other Benefits of INJAZ Company Program


Fig. 17: Societal Mindsets that impede youth progress in MENA region


Fig. 18: Intended or Exact University Majors by Grouping


Fig. 19: Intended or Exact University Majors, ungrouped


Fig. 20: Student company status after CP


Fig. 21: Reasons student companies closed


Fig. 22: Alumni recommendations to improve Company Program


Fig. 23: Desirable traits of adult supporters


Fig. 24: Forms of Post Company Program Support

Fig. 25: Sources of support outside of INJAZ proper


Fig. 26: Family members own a business


Fig. 27: Recommendations for the CP competition


Fig. 28: Ways to improve CP competition judge support

APPENDIX #3: Acknowledgements This study would not have been possible without the generous funding from Citi Foundation and the support and guidance of over one hundred people in the MENA region and beyond. In particular, these individuals deserve special thanks and acknowledgment for their support and guidance throughout this project: Paul Dyer (study supervisor), Professor Fernando Reimers (Harvard Graduate School of Education), Soraya Salti (Regional Director and Junior Achievement Senior Vice President MENA), and Ghadeer Zalatimo (INJAZ Al-Arab, supervisor). I would also like to express sincere gratitude for the tireless efforts of four dedicated research interns: Dania Al-Amad (transcriptions, data compilations), Matt DeMaio (primary transcriber, data compilations, and analysis assistance), Joan Domingo (data compilations and transcriptions), and Meghan White (primary transcriber, data compilations, and analysis assistance). I am 73

deeply thankful for Lana Dukhgan (translations and transcriptions) and Lama Zawawi (interviews in Arabic) for taking time away from their regular work to contribute to this study. This study has benefited in many ways from the general assistance of several other individuals: Zeina Annab, Lina Badran, Krix Berberian, Feras Hamtini, Farah Ismail, Meghan Ohmart, Anne Schukat, Mattie Wheeler, the sixty-one Company Program alumni featured in this study, the staff of INJAZ al-Arab, and the INJAZ staff members in the nine MENA member nations featured in this project. Finally, I am deeply grateful to Glen Sherman who supported me on many levels while I worked on this project for several months away from home. References Acs, Z.J. (2006). How is entrepreneurship good for economic growth? Innovations, (winter), 97-107. Ashoka (2006). What is a social entrepreneur? Retrieved from http://www.ashoka.org/social_entrepreneur Berglund, K. & Holmgren, C. (2006). At the intersection of entrepreneurship education policy and practice: On conflicts, tensions, and closures. The 14th Nordic Conference on Small Business Research. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American Psychologist, 32(7), 513531. Christensen, C.M., Baumann, H., Ruggles, R., & Sadtler, T.M. (2006). Disruptive innovation for social change. Harvard Business Review, (December), 2-8. Education for Employment Foundation. (2011). Education for employment: Realizing Arab Youth Potential.Retrieved from http://www.efefoundation.org/downloads/e4eIFCBook_A4_Online_Complete.pdf Gardner, H., Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Damon, W. (2001). Good work: When ethics and excellence meet. New York: Basic Books. George, B. (2007). True north: Discovering your authentic leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. INJAZ al-Arab. (2011). About us. Retrieved from


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