Capturing valuable moments from my experience in Active Citizen Summit #ACS

May 5, 2014 in Entrepreneurship, General, In the Media by Krystel Khalil

acs logoBy being in contact with aspiring entrepreneurs and managing targeted programs in the field of entrepreneurship, throughout my experience in Berytech, a leading incubator and business development center based in Beirut, I had the chance to represent Lebanon in Active Citizen Summit, ACS, during March 2014. It was a 22-day program held in Chicago and completed in Washington DC that brought together young professionals active in the entrepreneurship scene from across the Middle East and North Africa, to be part of a unique experience.

The program aimed at engaging participants in active discussions and workshops around challenges facing our region in entrepreneurship, and the variety of opportunities to explore, synergies to build and initiatives to develop, through our exchange of expertise.

One key part of the program was the internship in target associations in Chicago. This was in line with our scope of projects and activities and it presented a practical platform to explore different environments and mindsets, while exchanging various cultural opinions. Hands-on trainings, meetings with strategic innovation structures and networking events enriched our knowledge with international flavor of concepts and ideas, while expanding our professional networks. The part of the program in DC focused on pushing us to put our ideas into action and pitch them in front of key audience and experts from the State department who gave us their feedback, willing to support our initiatives.

If I were to summarize the value of this program, I would repeat a quote, that I heard during my internship in Chicago Urban League: “What You Do Proves What You Believe In”; and I strongly believe that the value of the ACS experience lies in the people I met, including organizers, participants, professionals but mostly new friends. Each one of them had a unique character, combining energetic, calm, witty, funny, serious and visionary members and that created a special team and great vibes. We all came from different countries, cultures and backgrounds but we shared the same values, energy and willingness to make a difference in our societies. Great initiatives were shared with the goal of empowering women, social entrepreneurs, youth, education, health and environment. And this was the kick start to a potential regional and international collaboration, presenting sustainable plans for the future.

Also remarkable were the people we met; curious and interested in our region and initiatives, and believers in the talents of our countries, they showed openness for collaboration and willingness to help us build synergies and to explore our region as a marketplace.

This experience was really beneficial and will surely support our initiatives, opening up more networks and opportunities for entrepreneurs.

I would also like to add some reflections noted, worth to highlight and develop:

  • One interesting aspect of innovation relies on targeting a niche, building a community around it and empowering it.
  • Keeping a cross culture spirit is a great driver for creativity and development focusing on collaboration between various stakeholders, industries, partners and individuals.
  • Openness, tolerance and flexibility are keys to collaboration, helping us cope with changes and development.
  • Collaboration models between startups and big industry players and corporates are very interesting and present a potential market to develop, startups being the fresh blood for big companies.
  • It’s great to ask for feedback and brainstorm with people from different backgrounds and cultures. Sometimes, differences in opinions and cultures and criticism, can be the most constructive tool to develop fruitful ideas.
  • Diaspora networks are very useful to activate and develop, for startups and SMEs looking to access international markets.
  • Social entrepreneurship is much more than a marketing trend, legal status or fiscal issues, it’s mostly a new generation of mission driven businesses and this is way we should envision the future of our economy and promote this culture.
  • Knowledge about emerging sectors, statistics, industries and trends is necessary to promote through education to inspire youngster about the new opportunities to explore.

On a separate note, I would like to shed a light on the key role of MEDIA in our region and the change that can result with their support. We got the chance to show a better image of our countries in person throughout this program but we’re a sample of lots of passionate individuals in our region. I invite the media to give more attention and spot the light more often on the talents of our countries; this can create many opportunities and lead to a change in the Middle East.

Finally I would like to thank Nancy Stephan, cultural affairs specialist and alumni coordinator at the American Embassy in Lebanon, the US State department and ACYPL for this valuable opportunity and I strongly encourage individuals to follow updates of similar programs and apply.

krystel khalil

@krystelkhalil