The following is a guest post below from the co-founders of an organization taking on the world of volunteering in the Middle East. C3 is a social enterprise located in Dubai that enables emerging entrepreneurs in Middle East to become active agents of positive social change leveraging business professionals volunteering their skills.

Corporate Volunteering looks different around the world. For example, in Slovakia’s post-communist culture, you may find the term “service learning” more effective than the word “volunteering.” In China, nonprofits are not nonprofits as we understand them in North America. Every culture has its nuances and if there’s one in particular that has piqued our fascination, it’s the Middle East.

Did you know?

  • Helping others is one of the Five Pillars of Islam: traditionally, it has always been accomplished by way of Zakat, a payment made annually by each individual for charitable and religious purposes.
  • While volunteering is gaining interest among young professionals in the Middle East, the problem for many of these would-be volunteers is finding organizations that can harness their skills. There is one organization providing such opportunities to youth while leveraging their goodwill to support social entrepreneurs in the MENA region.

Ready to learn more?

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By Medea Nocentini and Anna-Liisa Goggs

With global employee engagement levels hovering around 13%, the ongoing need for meaningful and sustained HR strategies is a critical management imperative to maintain productivity and retention. The issue is even more critical in the Middle East, where 35% of employees are actively disengaged. Countries, industries, and companies vary across the region, of course, but the number gives some context to the challenges an HR or CSR manager faces when tackling employee engagement issues.

Reasons for the disengagement are numerous, but the unique factors at play make this market very different from North America and Europe. For any firm seeking to engage in corporate volunteering, two challenges are worth highlighting:

  1. The transient nature of the expatriate workforce (at least in GCC countries) has resulted in a low interest in employee engagement whether it is training, career development, team building, or internal communications.
  2. Most of the volunteering opportunities that traditional charities offer don’t leverage the skills and experience of young Arab professionals, leading to limited impact on their community or direct benefits on their career development.

The Social Enterprise Solution

At C3 (Consult and Coach for a Cause) we see a tremendous interest from individual professionals willing to donate their skills and time to budding social entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, there is little interest (with a few noteworthy examples) from corporate organizations to use programs like ours to maximize the impact of their CSR initiative while providing effective career development opportunities to their employees.

Why? Corporate organizations in the region have yet to appreciate social enterprises’ impact on the community, while their HR departments have yet to experience the benefits of skills-based volunteering programs, such as training budget savings, increased employee engagement and retention, and more effective potential leaders.

Why Take an Interest Now?

Social enterprises are on the rise and need support from the business community. While the Schwab Foundation counts only 35 top social entrepreneurs in the Middle East, we know from our work that emerging entrepreneurs are becoming more socially minded: business plan competitions throughout the region count a surprising 20-30 percent of social enterprises. Additionally, some of the estimated 19-23 million (formal and informal) MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises) in MENA, comprising 80-90 percent of total businesses in most MENA countries may be social businesses, but not promoting themselves as such. This may be due to the fact that existing regulatory framework in the Middle East does not have a specific form or license for social enterprise, so most register with for-profit licenses while there is still an overall misunderstanding of the sector.

Next Steps

To get skills-based volunteering to the critical mass we see in the United States, local management needs to recognize the importance of actively engaged employees and help develop skills based volunteering programs. Professionals need to be reassured that they have the skills to help solve social and environmental issues. And we need to create a healthy pipeline of social entrepreneurs, to be able to run large-scale programs that can be meaningful for corporate organizations with sizable workforces. Once this happens, C3 can use its established programs to help for-profit companies directly impact the social enterprise sector for the better.

Insights or Experience?

Have you worked in the social sector in the Middle East? Do you have insights, experience, or resources that may assist C3 as they work to advance the field? We’d love for you to share! Contact Realized Worth or C3 directly or share on the RW or C3 Facebook pages.

Realized Worth will be co-hosting an Impact 2030 Leadership Forum in Dubai in mid-March. For more information or if you’re interested in attending, please reach out to contact@impact2030.com.


Realized Worth designs and implements corporate volunteer programs for Fortune 500 companies around the world. Ready to talk about advancing your program? Reach out to us at contact@realizedworth.com or (855) 926-4678. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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