Cultivating Entrepreneurship in the Arab Spring

LearnServe Egypt Program Director Laura Sicola
The Huffington Post
Since early 2010, wheels were turning to launch LearnServe Egypt in Cairo in the summer of 2011, a flagship program bringing American and Egyptian university students together for a six-week “boot camp” of entrepreneurship, innovation, intercultural understanding and social impact to help promote Egyptian social and economic development. Unsurprisingly, when the revolution began on January 25th, many people asked if the program would be canceled. Our response was an unequivocal, “No way!” After all, what sign could be clearer evidence that our instincts were right? Young Egyptians were literally screaming for economic opportunity and a chance to create their own futures. The time for LearnServe Egypt was NOW.

(A bit of background: LearnServe Egypt is the brainchild of Kathy Kemper of the Institute for Education and Chris Caine of Mercator XXI, and anyone who knows them knows that when they decide to do something, they pull out all the stops. So when they asked me to join them as program director, I was eager to see where we could take it.)

In March 2011, we recruited 12 participants: six Americans from Johns Hopkins, American, Lafayette and the University of Pennsylvania, and six Egyptians from four universities around Cairo, with majors ranging from business and public policy to engineering and journalism. What united them was a desire to help rebuild the Egyptian economy in the Arab Spring through socially responsible business ventures.

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