Baraka Blog

Growing thoughts

ramblings, recipes and recollections

Latham & Watkins host great business breakfasts.  Today, I was privileged to present at one they hosted with Financial Women Association, a NY based organization.  The panel included Shimi Shah, Lucy Chow and Heather Henyon, representing the colorful women-led business enterprise landscape. The panelists offered their insights on the professional environment, and how it helps or hinders female entrepreneurship.

I shared my thoughts in my area of interest: Arab women entrepreneurs working on Social Enterprise and Social Media Ventures.

The highlight for me was having Muna AlHareb and Nojoud AlBasktaki in the audience.  The two founders of Buksha, a sustainable cultural & volunteer tourism venture that won the Business Acumen for Good competition last Saturday. A few years ago, I spoke about the need for women in the GCC to take on social challenges and address them…

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Women in Computing Workshop

Today I spoke at the NYU Abu Dhabi workshop on Women in Computing in the Arab World. I was struck by the uniformity of challenges the speakers presented.  I was also encouraged to see a room full of role-models to rising women Engineers, Computer Scientists, Professors and Professionals.

Across the Arab world. participants in the Women in Computing workshop reiterated the same challenges.  Barriers to women in technology:

  • family responsibility
  • lack of confidence
  • low role models

“Consumerism in the Arab world plagues society, if you have money to consume it..why produce it? is the mode of operations” said Fatima Abu Salem Associate Professor at AUB.  Fatima’s superb delivery, keen focus on complex challenges and willingness to bring her personal experience made her presentation fabulous and informative.  She addressed issues that at the surface seem small, yet have wide implications.  Issues such as:

  • flexibility in working hours
  • maternity leave..and its impact on tenure
  • women leadership style – seeking community and connection.. not always looking for pure individual gain.
  • bosses don’t think they can rely on women in travel.. “males are bargains, can throw them into cheep hotels.. women need more pampering”
  • finding the right measuring tools for women: “what kind of male literacy are we comparing female literacy against?  don’t just look at quantity.. look at quality..”
  • not just encourage women to get a degree in computing.. look at how we can make it sustainable.
  • Policies.. for women.. we are not men in skirts!

Professor Amir Zeid spoke with passion about his gender research.  “40% female in classrooms in Kuwait, compared to 10% in Carnegie Mellon. The percentages are on the decline from 47 down to 34% that’s not because less women are interested in technology, rather more are interested in Engineering; a program that recently started at the University is a magnet for female students with enrolling 60% women.”

The university mandated a gender segregation program.  Prof. Zeid was forced to teach the same class, one for males and one females.  Prof. Zeid used different examples for his male & female classes, noted differences in knowledge acquisition.  That lead Prof. Zeid to start a study on the effect of gender segregation in the classroom. Findings included:

  • improved performance in both male and female classrooms
  • female in single gender classes out-performed males in other classes. – perception was that males knew better. when removed from class, female performance improved.

Questionnaire on why more females chose computer science in this region..

  • teaching jobs easier..
  • husband wants me to be a teacher
  • work for public sector..

East & West, perceive computer science as masculine..

when asked why they got in:

  • follow suit of mother
  • want to prove myself

Dr. Amany Al-Shawi – women division manager at The National Program of electronics, Communications, and Photonics at KACST

Collaboration between Academic Sector and Private sector:

  • Saudi – virtually non existent. private sector needs to be “told” to collaborate.. like the tax incentives in the USA
  • Lebanon – Very meager, under-developed capacity to contribute to research in the private sector
  • Morocco – mandatory in the undergrad and graduate level for internships, EU fund mandates collaboration w private sector for grants.

Alice Bonhomme-Biais is a software engineer working on crisis response at based in NY.

Did Facebook create the Egypt revolution?

  • it helped with horizontal expansion across social classes
  • it gave us a compounded effect.. lending experiences from Tunisia

FB was used inside the country.. Twitter reached outside the country.  Social Media increased the “emotional density” Hizb elKanabah.. joined through social media.

The innovation panel provided amazing insights into research and development in fuzzy logic, the semantic web, augmented reality, web analytics, crowd sourcing and much more.

I presented on the challenges facing female entrepreneurs investing in technology ventures, and the opportunities to support them:

View more presentations from rchakaki
Key calls to action are included in the slides above.
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bidayat – Building a network of social venture support organizations

For a while we’ve envisioned a network of organizations supporting social entrepreneurs.  The time is now.. it is happening.

On Tuesday, January 31st, we hosted a round-table discussion at the Shelter in Dubai.  The aim was to bring together organizations supporting social entrepreneurs to build a collaborative framework. A roundup of amazing individuals represented their organizations:

Each participant presented his/her organization services, and listened as others did the same.  We discussed ways in which we can deliver impact.  The group agreed to:

Build a network (Social Venture Network) that will…

  1. Define and develop the space
    1. Define the organizations that provide support.. categorize their service offering.. identify missing services..
    2. Collectively reach out to the Media to raise awareness
  2. Foster collaboration
    1. identify the stages of development from an entrepreneur’s perspective
    2. define the organization that can deliver support in the various stages
  3. Define social measurement metrics
    1. create an index of social challenges .. rate by urgency to address ?
    2. create an formula to measure social return on investment.
  4. Identify social entrepreneurs
    1. Campaign to reach them in schools, communities beyond the circles we are currently involved in.
    2. Reach out to Arabic media / web
  5. Mentor social entrepreneurs
    1. share the list of social entrepreneurs working in the field
    2. create one or two success stories in the GCC
  6. Fund social ventures
    1. Create packages for prospect investors who would be interested in investments in social enterprise

Participants are working in groups, and invite collaborators to join to help address the targets above. If you are interested in supporting, please leave a comment on this post with your contact details and services you can offer.

Tune in for updates on our progress in this domain.

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NYUAD Hackathon pics!

The NYUAD Hackathon event last night showed much potential for Arab youth, the winning team being Jordanian, competing with computer science students from across the world programming for social good.

nyuad hackathon

Rama Chakaki, CEO of Baraka Ventures, at the NYUAD Hackathon

To learn more about the event and our role, please view the former blog post.

More pictures are on their way!

Dubai for Acumen’s Social Entrepreneurship Event

Social Entrepreneurship: The Social Impact, an event organized by the Dubai for Acumen was a real inspiration, and the team at Baraka Ventures were very happy to have participated in the work leading up to the event, in planning and in kind sponsorship, and during the event.

Rama Chakaki, CEO of Baraka, moderated the panel of speakers, while Mahmoud Abu Wardeh, General Manager of Baraka, introduced his revolutionary idea of Limbuilder.

The ambiance of change makers was exhilarating and the speakers/ panelists gave very rewarding talks and discussions. The event initiated dialogue around ideas and platforms that motivate social entrepreneurship and development in the region, and was a great medium for collaboration amongst established entrepreneurs, social leaders of the region, and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Our contributions in planning and in kind sponsorship:

  • Connected Dubai for Acumen with numerous social entrepreneurs from the region (speakers and panelists)
  • Helped brainstorm the points for discussion at the panel and instigate the talk
  • Suggested organizations that would like to exhibit and showcase their businesses

For pictures of the event, check out the following link

For more information about the event, the panelists and speakers, and organizers,  check out  Social Entrepreneurship: The Social Impact   on Facebook.

Leadership Bridge Programme updates!

The Leadership Bridge Programme, organized by the YAL Bahrain and 3BL Associates brought together over 50 Bahraini youth representing public and private schools to address challenges within their society.

Rama Chakaki, CEO of Baraka Ventures, who helped the students brainstorm their own social action projects, was ‘amazed by their creativity and imagination,’ as she shared on her facebook wall. ‘Bahrain youth ROCK!!’

The teams of students designed strategies to address the following:

  • supporting the Down’s syndrome community
  • listing issues of water pollution, women’s rights, bullying
  • engaging youth with preserving cultural heritage
  • encouraging interaction with the older generation
  • reviving traditional outdoor games with modern electronic games

Please read through the following articles for more information about the success of the event

2011 NYUAD International Hackathon

The universities in the region are surprising us with a growing interest in their youth’s exposure to entrepreneurship practices, innovation and collaboration through a series of highly creative events, a very promising sign.

The 2011 NYUAD International Hackathon, an event for social good in the Arab world will bring together computer science students with academics and technology experts from the region and beyond between October 27-30, at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus.

A team leader from the academic and technology experts will guide and mentor the students, who will compete through creating mobile and web applications dedicated to social good in the region. A panel of judges which includes Rama Chakaki, cofounder and CEO of Baraka Ventures, will then review these applications. Rama will also speak in an Q&A session about entrepreneurship in the Arab world, Baraka Ventures and other startups for social good.

To learn more about the event or to participate (nominate a student, mentor, lead a team, or apply as a judge or speaker), please visit the following website

Youth Leadership Bridge Program

The Gulf is booming with new social initiatives and programs. There is much opportunity in the region and it is very exciting to be a part of.

Take the 3-day Youth Leadership Bridge Program to be held in Bahrain from 20-22 October, a good example of these types of initiatives.

A group of 50 high school students will be learning about ethical leadership and leading through social impact. Co-organized by 3BL Associates and the Bahrain Chapter of the Young Arab Leaders, the program aims to introduce the students to social enterprise and then help them come up with their own social action project to address local, regional or global social issues.

Our own Rama Chakaki would be speaking about social enterprise and the Baraka ventures. Rama will also help these students brainstorm their own social action projects, engaging and inspiring the young minds.

Great initiative, looking forward to hear the outcomes!

Baraka listed as a useful resource for SMEs

Check out this interesting article on the journey taken a decade ago to launch a venture and Baraka being listed as a resources to help SME owners, amongst several others by The National –


setbacks are there to make you stronger

A brilliant young lady with immense talent sent me a heartfelt email today. She had been active in social work and dropped off the scene after receiving harsh criticism.  The critic, someone in the humanitarian field also turned competitive and broke the young lady’s spirit.  She left behind a promising beginning and settled for work without passion.

Too many entrepreneurs are easily put off by setbacks.. not realizing these setbacks are nothing but fitness training.. with each setback, you acquire a new skill to deal with challenges.. and the more setbacks you have the higher your purpose and calling is in life.. acknowledging setbacks and cheerfully moving past them paves the next step for progress.  Getting stuck on a setback kills your dreams.

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo