- Social Media
- Active Citizenship
- Good Giving
- Corporate Responsibility
- Be Fearless
Fellows Friday is a weekly series on the TED Blog that profiles one TED Fellow each week. We have asked the Fellows to answer our question below to share their knowledge and advice with other social entrepreneurs, innovators, and changemakers who are coming up with big ideas that can change the world.
First an immunologist, then a healthcare journalist and now a writer focusing on the Arab region, Shereen El Feki also serves on the UN's Global Commission on HIV and the Law. In addition to studying social change in the Arab region, Shereen works on development with a women's university in Saudi Arabia.
Stephanie: There are many aspiring social entrepreneurs out there who are trying to take their passion and ideas to the next level. What is one piece of advice you would give to them based on your own experiences and successes?
Shereen: Because I work in the field of health and social welfare, I come in contact with a lot of social entrepreneurs in the Arab region. Social entrepreneurship has not been very well understood in the Arab world because it's not really private sector, and it's not a traditional charity or an NGO, so what is it exactly? It's been very hard for social entrepreneurs in the region to position themselves. That being said, there's actually a very lively social entrepreneurship scene in the Arab region which has emerged over the last couple of years.
The advice I would give is probably best understood in the context of the challenges that social entrepreneurs in the Arab world face: among them, enormous amounts of government red tape, lack of technical support and lack of access to legal advice. And one of the biggest problems is that young people are not encouraged to take risks in their professional lives.
So my advice to them (easier said than done, I admit) is don't be afraid to take risks. There is pressure from society in general, and family in particular, to conform, to follow well-worn paths. But there is an emerging group of people like you who are taking risks, who are doing what many people say is impossible. It's a badge of honor to be taking that plunge, although it may not seem so in mid-flight.
That being said, I would also urge a combination of both patience and pragmatism, because there are no quick returns in social entrepreneurship in the Arab region. So you need to be in it for the long haul. Calibrate your ambition to reality, and find satisfaction in small successes over the long term.