Islamabad: Social entrepreneurs are increasingly taking center-stage for their innovative approach to tackle issues being faced by their communities and the society at large. Pakistan is no exception to this trend. Social entrepreneurs are increasingly getting attention of key stakeholders including investors, education and skill related institutions as an alternative to the more costly and less efficient development sector organizations. Recognizing the importance of startups in providing innovative solutions, Epiphany, in partnership with Unchartered (previously unreasonable institute) held a 5 day acceleration program for early-stage social entrepreneurs from across the country. These start-ups were selected through a competitive process from amongst a pool of 70.
“We are delighted to have been able to launch this prestigious, time-tested curriculum with Unchartered for the first time in Pakistan. Through our own expertise and that of our mentors and supporters, as well as the global outlook of the program, we believe that our Epiphany Lab entrepreneurs will be able to create extensive social impact in Pakistan,” said Samar Hasan, Co-founder of Epiphany.
The acceleration program organized at the National Incubation Center Islamabad from October 24 to 28, provided the participating entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills necessary for converting their ideas into the intended products/services. The program also introduced the participants to leading voices from within the sector bringing together experts from across Pakistan and abroad in both face to face and online sessions. These experts/mentors not only shared their own experiences of having established similar initiatives, but provided invaluable feedback to individual startups to bring their ideas in line with the international standards.
Epiphany also organized a panel discussion with leading experts, “Social Entrepreneurship Landscape in Pakistan”, including Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, Deputy Executive Director, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Zeenia Masood, Head of Programs – Society, British Council; Sadia Malik, Founder, Inaara Impact Ventures; Noman Azhar, Head of Branchless Banking, JS Bank and Samina Faisal, Founder, ForiFix.
Drawing on the link between social entrepreneurship and women empowerment, Dr Vaqar Ahmad stated: “The public sector needs to support social enterprises (SEs) by giving a legal definition to these entities, providing financial support through provincial development budgets, and fulfilling organizational development needs of potential women entrepreneurs and start-ups through capacity building. The budget also needs to address the case of multiple taxation faced by SEs after the devolution of revenue administration in Pakistan. Likewise, the Federal Board of Revenue will have to consult women-led SEs and devise a tax regime that values social impact. Finally, Public Procurement Regulatory Authority will also need to help women-led SEs through a preferred procurement mechanism.”
“Social entrepreneurs are increasingly leading the cause of social progress in the 21st century. This Lab will equip budding social entrepreneurs with the skill to convert their ideas into practical models of indigenous development,” said Shah Saud Sahibzada, Co-founder/CEO of Epiphany.
With their assistance the start-ups gained a flux of knowledge and had a chance of organizing their ideas for start-ups, before launching in the real world.