Innovate for Refugees


‘Innovate for Refugees’: MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab launches global competition to find pioneering solutions to address refugee challenges

  • In partnership with Zain Group and MBC Hope and supported by UNHCR and Jusoor
  • Competition opens on World Refugee Day 20 June ; applications deadline September 1
  • Final ceremony to be held October 3, 2016, prize money on offer exceeds $80,000


June 20, 2016 – Dubai

As the world faces the worst refugee crisis in recent history, the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab (MITEF Pan Arab) is on a mission to seek disruptive and scalable long-term solutions by harnessing the power of technology. In partnership with Zain Group, a leading mobile telecom innovator across the Middle East and Africa, and MBC Hope, the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of MBC, and supported by the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) and Jusoor, MITEF Pan Arab launched today on World Refugee Day, the ‘Innovate for Refugees’ global competition. The aim of the competition is to find and reward tech-driven cutting-edge solutions that address the most acute challenges faced by refugees.

Known for empowering entrepreneurs to develop future-looking solutions to community challenges, MITEF Pan Arab is opening up the ‘Innovate for Refugees’ competition to participants from around the world and is determined to engage and reach out to entrepreneurs, amongst them refugees.

Participants can apply online on from June 20 through September 1.  Four prizes of $20,000 each will be awarded to the most innovative solutions that effectively tackle challenges faced by refugees.

Of the four prizes, two are offered by the main sponsors Zain and MBC Hope and are open to solutions across categories including healthcare, energy, food, shelter and security. The third is marked for an educational solution and offered by Jusoor, an NGO established by Syrian expatriates with a focus on providing opportunities in education and entrepreneurship to Syrian youth.

The fourth prize will be crowd funded and awarded to a solution brought forward by a refugee. The MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab Innovate for Refugees crowdfunding campaign launches on the Generosity by Indiegogo platform today.

Hala Fadel, Founder and Chair of the MITEF Pan Arab, commented, “The combination of three factors make me hopeful about this competition: smartphone penetration among refugees is very high and so is Internet penetration; second, you find refugees with a very high level of education especially in science and technology, finally, the refugee population is very young. Technology, education and youth work well together and will help us unleash solutions for refugees by entrepreneurs worldwide and also from within the refugee community.”

Scott Gegenheimer, CEO of Zain Group said, “We feel privileged to work with MITEF Pan Arab, MBC Hope and the UNHCR in this very relevant initiative, which strikes a deep chord with Zain. The overwhelming majority of refugees are proud, progressive and dignified people who find themselves in terrible circumstances that are beyond their control. Through efforts such as the ‘Innovate for Refugee’ competition, we hope to restore a measure of pride and purpose to many stricken people, and improve their overall living circumstances.”

According to Mohammed Abu Asaker, UNHCR’s Spokesperson: “Over the past five years the rate of displacement has escalated drastically, with the forcibly displaced exceeding 65 million for the first time. The MENA region is the largest producer and host of refugees in the world, while Syria’s war remained the world’s leading cause of displacement and associated suffering.”

Abu Asaker added: “the size, scale and protracted nature of the refugee crisis shows how traditional approaches are no longer sufficient to address the challenges faced by refugees. It is imperative to pursue innovative solutions that enable them to live a dignified life.”

The MITEF Pan Arab has also partnered with several institutions that are assisting refugees in various ways and will be leveraging its networks to raise awareness about the competition amongst refugees. These partners include the Karam Foundation, an NGO focused on building a better future for Syria, and Techfugees, an institution that works on developing tech projects for refugees.

For the judging and winner selection process, MITEF Pan Arab is tapping into its network of over 60 senior business professionals with an understanding of technology and the refugee crisis to assess the submissions of the applicants and evaluate their projects. A final award ceremony to announce the winners will be held on October 3, 2016.

To learn more on the competition’s terms and conditions, interested applicants are advised to visit

About MITEF Pan Arab: Founded in 2005, the MITEF Pan Arab is one of the 28 worldwide chapters of the MIT Enterprise Forum Global, an avid promoter of entrepreneurship and innovation worldwide. The MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab has a proven record in promoting MIT-style entrepreneurship by organizing each year the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition targeting 21 countries of the Arab region and receiving over 80,000 applications.  The competition has led to the creation of over 300 startups, 2000 jobs and $685,000 in seed funding.

About Zain Group: Zain is a leading telecommunications operator across the Middle East and Africa providing mobile voice and data services to over 45.5 million active customers as of 31 March, 2016. With a commercial presence in 8 countries, Zain operates in: Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and South Sudan. In Lebanon, the Group manages ‘touch’ on behalf of the government. In Morocco, Zain has a 15.5% stake in ‘INWI’, through a joint venture. Zain is listed on the Kuwait Stock Exchange (stock ticker: ZAIN). For more, please email or visit:,

About MBC Hope: MBC Group’s Corporate Social Responsibility program, “MBC Hope” (MBC Al Amal), is about taking MBC values beyond the company and into the community. It’s about the empowerment and development of Arab youth, for our future and theirs. MBC Hope continues to develop and implement initiatives that confirm the Group’s ongoing commitment to the development of talent & innovation, education, supporting entrepreneurship, environment and humanitarian causes.

About UNHCR:  UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, established in December 1950, is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people and is often called on to help people displaced within their own countries. The agency, which has a staff of some 9,300 people in more than 120 countries, has helped tens of millions of people. Learn more at and

About Jusoor:  Jusoor was founded in June 2011 as a non­governmental organization with a mission to bring together and engage the global Syrian expatriate community in efforts that will help Syria and its people realize their full potential. The organization currently has over 100,000 individuals in the network from over 50 countries all committed to bettering Syria’s future. Programs have focused on education through a global university scholarship program and the building of schools for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, a career mentorship program securing jobs for displaced Syrians and entrepreneurship program enabling startups and young Syrian entrepreneurs. Jusoor is a nonpolitical organization and its programs are all nondiscriminatory. Jusoor believes and works towards the goal that youth in Syria should have access to profoundly better opportunities in the years to come.

Posted on June 22, 2016 in Jusoor news, Refugees

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