19 Jun

A new, bold approach is needed to enhance the region’s rich tradition of giving​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Support from civil society organizations, educational institutions, government and foundations, both in the region and around the world, is a key success factor.

Four years ago, Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education set out to establish the Arab world’s largest privately funded education foundation. The mandate that its founder Abdulla Al Ghurair laid out was focused and ambitious: to help 15,000 under-served, high-achieving Arab youth access high-quality education. Despite the seemingly daunting challenge, the foundation is on course to not only achieve but far exceed its original goal – in large part due to its strategy of learning, innovating and working in partnership.

Philanthropy, like every other sector, can only be effective if it is informed by facts and experience. From the early days, the foundation set out to learn everything it could about the youth we intended to help. The data we gathered from more than 60,000 youth and our consultations with hundreds of organizations in the region and abroad helped shape the foundation’s programs. It also put us in a constant state of learning, often adjusting our approach and sometimes completely changing course to meet the vastly different needs of youth from across the region.

Beyond facts and figures, our greatest learning came from the stories of more than 1,000 young scholars – first-generation university students who did not have anyone to lean on as they navigated the complexities of the higher education system; refugees whose lives and education were disrupted by conflict; and many who battled the stress of achieving their academic dreams while they helped care for their families.

It was only with open communication and close partnership with our university partners that we learned how to support our scholars as they strove to overcome challenges. The foundation’s scholarship model is far from perfect but it has gone a long way to address the barriers underprivileged youth face in higher education and has the potential to become a valuable resource for all those who want to offer life-changing scholarships.

Educational system challenges in the region and the sheer number of young people who needed educational support dictated the necessity of the foundation to seek new solutions. Yet many of the readily available interventions were traditional, time-consuming and financially unfeasible to upscale.

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Author: Maysa Jalbout
Image: amtaleem
Publication date: June 17, 2019

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