The Journey Continues – from Seattle to Cairo with Innovate4Good@Microsoft

Editor’s note: This is Akhtar’s second post from Egypt, you can read his first post “The butterfly effect – everyone was a hero in Cairo” here.

By Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs, Microsoft.

Sherine Soliman Ibrahim is a slightly built woman and a powerhouse. She was the first woman who stood for election for her village board and now is a champion of women’s rights. She lives in the village of Kay in Upper Egypt.

Shadda Hatem is a 20 year old architecture student who was living an ordinary, normal life until the 17th of February 2011 revolution in Libya. This was a life changing event for her and one that motivated her to take a stand and play her part in improving her community by launching a nonprofit with her friends “Together for the Future”.

Manal Elattir is from Morocco and is the founder of Anarouz Social Enterprise for Profit, an organization that promotes women empowerment and entrepreneurship through market access and technology.

Mostofa Nageeb is from Egypt. He was been physically disabled since birth and is wheelchair bound. He considers himself lucky since his parents always treated him as a normal child. He has created, Egypt’s first online directory where patients can search for doctors and book their appointments in minutes.

These are just four of the over 120 young change makers who gathered in Cairo from Morocco to Oman to be part of the second Innovate4Good@Microsoft conversation. The energy in the room was electric and we got started by having the participants share their opinions on issues that were at the top of their minds. One brave young woman defended her lone position on why there should be no quotas for women to enter into politics. The issues that many young people in both North America and the Middle East seem to be grappling with is how do they find their voice and do it in a manner where differing opinions can co-exist. Of course the issues of jobs, economic opportunities, and educational growth were important to everyone.


A small selection of photos from the Innovate4Good @Microsoft in Cairo.  Please visit the Microsoft Egypt Citizenship Facebook page to see more photos and content from the event..

The afternoon in Cairo was spent in a series of team building exercises which ranged from walking as a group in a line balancing a soccer ball squeezed between one’s body and the person in the front without dropping it for a certain distance; to carrying a wooden log upright which is tied with ropes held by each team member without tipping it over. It was very interesting to see how quickly the teams figured out that what seemed easy to do actually was hard and required coordination and teamwork.

The most interesting part of the day was when they came back and started discussing some of the lessons they had learnt and how they would apply those lessons to their work. Some key concepts that they discussed under team work were: unity, flexibility, leadership, acceptance, harmony, togetherness, balance, synergy, listening, interpreting and uniting. Under innovation, the concepts that they worked on were: creation, beyond imagination, challenge, innovate, creativity, confidence, vision. Tomorrow they will put these lessons into practice by coming up with solutions to issues that they have started discussing.

As I spent the day observing, participating and discussing, I thought to myself that while on the surface that everything looked different between this conversation and the one in in Seattle, the issues are remarkably similar. Yet we know from experience that once these leaders start to interact with each other, some of the complexities will rise to the surface and it will be interesting to see how they deal with them.

Several of the participants came up to me telling me how grateful they were for getting this opportunity to participate. One of them came from Kurdistan in northern Iraq and he told me he gave up an opportunity to speak at TEDX there, but he is having so much fun that he is glad he came. He has made so many new friends and has been motivated with new ideas, that he cannot wait for tomorrow when he will get to put some of his new found ideas into practice. Me too!

Follow the conversation from Cairo on Twitter with #innovateforgood.

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