1 march 2017
Sihame El Kaouakibi, la grande dame of social entrepreneurship in Flanders, held court at Jardin Public, location of our latest HRdinner. Sihame is a social entrepreneur, author of #Believe, founder of ‘Let’s Go Urban’ and she has a very clear mission: generate as much positive impact as possible by connecting businesses with the new, younger generations and by doing so, allowing as many youngsters as possible to reach their full potential.
During our dinner, Sihame told us all about her #Belief in the newest generation and about the power and importance of social entrepreneurship. Never before has the youngest part of society been more diverse, which goes hand in hand with some very new and very specific challenges (and opportunities!) for HR.
Our guests got an evening of storytelling by an authentic power lady who has become the face of social entrepreneurship in this country.
The Silicon Valley of Social Entrepreneurship
Sihame in one phrase: A serial social entrepreneur, who is building the Silicon Valley of Social Entrepreneurship. She is a young, confident woman from Boom, who grew up in a warm Moroccan family with 7 children.
Sihame is founder of ‘Let’s Go Urban’, an academy that brings together over 1000 youngsters who want to express themselves through their passions (dance, music, acting, entrepreneurship, …) and a network of role models. These role model were able to grow and find inspiration themselves, and now feel that it’s time to give back. The goal? To help as many young people as possible reach their full potential.
Sihame’s battle plan is to develop all kinds of projects, to deliver keynotes and to serve on boards of directors. For two years now, she has been working on POINT URBAN, a startup that aims to close the digital and physical gap between companies and the new, highly diverse generation. A recruitment service that wants potential of every colour and shape to find its way into business.
“Social entrepreneurship is not all about the money, it’s about having an impact and the power to give.”
I have the keys, I need to pass them on
As a child, Sihame ceased every opportunity she was given. In hindsight, she distinguishes 3 crucial factors that allowed her to find her own way, that gave her confidence:
- A stable and caring home
- Believers (people who believe in you and see your potential and talent)
- Her gymnastics group (the importance of extracurricular activities which can be a gate towards social mobility.)
“Simply because Sihame was given these chances, she wants to give back”
An additional and crucial factor in the way to success is education. Antwerp based ‘Let’s Go Urban’, founded in 2009, wants to tackle the biggest challenges of education in an urban context. Youngsters between the ages of 6 and 30 come together in an environment that stimulates and creates chances for teenagers and where they can build a network.
Sihame very consciously chose not to commercialise her vzw Let’s Go Urban with only a small government grant, income through membership fees and revenue from various projects. Because so many coaches, heroes and sheroes are so closely involved in ‘Let’s Go Urban’, she doesn’t need any flyers to get the word out.
At our dinner, we found Sihame is at the start of a new story, a huge leap, a new enterprise that can lead our country away from a potential crisis. It’s the next step after Let’s Go Urban. During their journey at Let’s Go Urban, teenagers are given confidence and the tools to make it. When they enter the real world however, there appear to hidden, invisible walls.
“I hadn’t invested in the other side”
On the one hand, many companies are on the lookout for talented young potential. On the other hand there are loads of talented and passionate young people. And yet, they don’t seem to find one another. Sihame wants to help bring those two parties closer together. Starting from a person’s potential, and by recruiting people based on values, soft skills, flexibility and durability, she wants to help her young crowd at Let’s go Urban with their progression onto the job market.
To help her achieve this goal, Sihame has developed various platforms, for example Wannawork, a website that aims on the one hand to teach young job seekers the skills to apply for jobs. Secondly they want to create a more clear image for companies of the applicant’s talents, passion and values. The website helps companies find the right places to post their job openings so the mismatch can disappear.
The importance of a physical hub
Why stop there? Sihame chose to move beyond just the online platform. She strongly believes in the importance and power of a physical community, where people are colour blind and dream, talk and learn together. A great example is the student restaurant and coffee bar of the new KDG Campus in Antwerp.
Social entrepreneurship is a story of economics
Large companies can learn a lot from the speed and mind set of social enterprises. They have the creativity to tackle social challenges with a small or even non-existent budget and very often, create new business models along the way.
Ingredients to succeed as a social entrepreneur
What do you need in order to succeed as a social entrepreneur?
- People who want to jump into the adventure with you
- An advisory board to supplement the expertise you lack
- A goodwill factor
- Believers who want to help because they see your struggle AND your potential
“Ambition is the new social”
Your solution to tackle social challenges needs to be an ambitious one. Essentially, it’s all about being brave enough to aim high.
As a social entrepreneur, your ultimate goal is to become obsolete. No one can help everyone, though everyone can help someone. This is the starting point from which Sihame teaches youths to learn by trial and error. The concept #behindthescene is an alternative way of coaching, in which the student has become the teacher.
Want to know more about Sihame? Discover all her missions and projects
Finally, we’d love to share this video that shows that we all have more in common than you would expect.