Remarkable reforms have swept the public sector since the launch of Vision 2030, including the launch and improvement of programs related to housing, health, economics, and human capabilities development, among other areas. One important pillar in the realization of the nation’s lofty ambitions is investment in youth. Indeed, more than two thirds of the Saudi population consists of youth and children, who are the foundation of a thriving society and who hold the promise of a bright future.
The Mohammed bin Salman Foundation (Misk) was established in 2011 to create a nurturing environment that hones talents. Misk empowers the country’s youth across diverse fields that include education, entrepreneurship, culture, creative arts, science, and technology. Through innovative programs, vibrant incubators, and valuable partnerships with local and global organizations, the foundation invests in local intellectual capital and develops the community’s capabilities. This, in turn, forms the essence of a knowledge-based society that is forever learning and progressing.
The rewards form as a cascade of economic benefits, enhanced skills, and critical thinking that will come to characterize Saudi individuals and society as a whole. With locals providing solutions to social problems, a positive feedback loop forms wherein challenges spur innovation, and innovation invites further opportunities for growth.
Cultivating a Visionary Mindset to Design Local Solutions
In its effort to support the growth of social innovation, Misk launched Innovation Diwan, a program designed to foster proactive community engagement among Saudi youth. Using a crowdsourcing model, the initiative invited bright minds to develop innovative solutions for challenges that face their community, specifically, solutions that were informed by the lens of the local context. Four challenges were identified and addressed by the formation of over 50 ideas and holistic teams.
The competing teams developed their concepts into detailed initiatives, with the five winning teams receiving support and sponsorships that enable them to create positive public impact. Throughout this rewarding journey, TAM offered its assistance across all of the four main phases of the program which were made up of: 1) Challenge Selection, 2) Idea Submission and Team Formation, 3) Boot Camp and Solution Development, and finally 4) Pitching and Adoption.
In the first phase, TAM collaborated to design a thorough research plan and methodology, focusing on creating surveys, individual interviews, and focus group workshops to collect a list of possible challenges. Based on discussions and the emerging patterns, four key challenges were identified in the areas of health, social responsibility, youth capabilities development, and quality of life.
During phase two, TAM engaged the community, through direct and indirect marketing, in order to encourage their participation in the program. Multiple channels were used to spread awareness and call the youth to action. For example, college students, entrepreneurs, and previous Misk participants were contacted directly through mobile and email communication means, while indirect marketing took the form of social media platforms, Twitter and Instagram.
Digital platforms were designed and launched, with one targeting ideas submission and the other focusing on skills needed to realize these ideas, before the two were connected to create 50+ teams of capable individuals ready to execute a given idea. The ideas themselves were selected according to multiple standards, such as feasibility, clarity, originality, and impact.
On to phase three, where ideas turn to substantial initiatives. The teams participated in two boot camps, one virtual and the other in-person. TAM endeavored to design the content of this training, which included interactive discussions, lectures, workshops, and guidance from mentors and experts. By designing a strong methodology, TAM helped the teams design and deliver innovative solutions. These, in turn, were evaluated against specific criteria, with 15 teams being nominated, and five teams winning the opportunity to connect with sponsors.
For the fourth and final phase, a document was presented to potential sponsors, from private and public sector entities alike. Sponsors deliberated the types of support they could provide to initiatives, whether it be help through offering knowledge and guidance or backing in terms of logistics, marketing, funding, or intellectual property. This way, the winning initiatives could obtain the substantial assistance needed to launch their projects, thereby creating positive public impact.
Overall, the entire program itself brought out the best qualities of Saudi youth and society, highlighting the traits of altruism, innovation, engagement, diligence, competitiveness, and generosity. It paved a way for the youth to expend their energy in prosocial ways, devising solutions to problems that directly concern them and affect their lives and community. It is the hope that the general society felt its concerns heard, and that the youth built confidence in their capabilities and their problem-solving abilities. In fact, participants’ rating of the program (through a distributed survey) was overwhelmingly favorable, for it likely boosted their feelings of mastery and accomplishment. This foretells of an optimistic future for Innovation Diwan and its goal in creating an innovative culture that looks within when facing challenges, and is able to rise up to them, just as Vision 2030 aspires.