Expo 2020 Dubai unveils social entrepreneurs helping communities

Palestine-based start-up Amal Work empowers construction workers by improving workers’ access to suitable employment

Expo 2020 Dubai unveils social entrepreneurs helping communities around the world [representational image]
Expo 2020 Dubai unveils social entrepreneurs helping communities around the world [representational image]

An Australian organisation providing work opportunities for refugees; a dementia breakthrough from Malta; and an environmentally-sustainable Indian packaging company are among 23 new social innovators helping to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges as part of Expo 2020’s global innovation and partnership programme – Expo Live.

Expo 2020 will offer a platform to its “Expo Live Global Innovators”, including many from Arab nations such as the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon.

It will provide them with the opportunity to showcase their solutions on a global stage, encouraging collaboration, ideation, and inspiring further positive change.

The Expo Live Innovation Impact Grant Programme (IIGP) began in 2016, and has since expanded from 29 Global Innovators in 22 countries to 142 grantees across 76 countries, with each offered funding of up to $100,000 (AED367,000), as well as expert advice and the opportunity to share their ideas with a global audience.

Cycle Five grantees were selected from a pool of more than 4,000 applicants from 170 countries.

Some of these global challenges, including rising levels of unemployment, inequality, and poor access to quality healthcare, have been exacerbated by the current global health crisis.

Commenting on the initiative, the senior vice president for Expo Live, Yousuf Luiz Caires, said: “Through Expo Live, Expo 2020 is demonstrating its commitment to driving solutions that will positively affect global communities and future generations, supporting social impact start-ups across the world.

“All projects supported by Expo Live so far – from improving access to mental health platforms in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or the UK, to innovative recycling technology in China – remain committed to improving people’s lives during the global health crisis.

“The latest cohort of Global Innovators will carry on this tradition, inspiring others to find solutions to challenges in their own communities, and playing a significant role in helping shape a better world.”

Global Innovators joining the IIGP include:

  • Australia-based Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB), which helps refugees and displaced people move internationally for work, leveraging their own professional skills to secure their futures.
  • Malta-based BrainTrip, created by lifelong brain enthusiasts with backgrounds in cognitive science, neuroscience and medicine, offers an affordable, easy-to-use and mobile EEG-based (electroencephalogram) method to diagnose dementia – a major breakthrough in rapid screening and early detection of the debilitating disease.
  • GICMED, whose tele-medicine platform and smartphone digital microscopy system allows women in rural areas of Cameroon to be screened and diagnosed for breast and cervical cancers.

More than half the Global Innovators in Cycle Five are also led by women, highlighting Expo Live’s commitment to female-led entrepreneurship and building on the major contribution of women in the delivery of Expo 2020. To date, 35% of all Global Innovators – 49 out of 142 in the IIGP – are led by female entrepreneurs.

They include India-based Ecoware, whose range of 30-plus compostable, 100% natural and biodegradable packaging products addresses two significant environmental problems in India – air and plastic pollution.

Amal Work, a Palestine-based start-up, empowers construction workers through its online platform aimed at improving workers’ access to suitable employment opportunities with their safety and dignity preserved.

The co-founder of Amal Work, Rowan Alawi, said: “Our relationship with Expo 2020 stretches back to July 2019, when we were extremely proud to be selected – from an initial pool of more than 4,000 applications – for our app that continues to change the lives of construction workers across Palestine.

“In March, we came to Dubai to pitch our idea to a grant evaluation committee made up of industry experts and key stakeholders. That pitch was successful, and now, with Expo Live’s support, we are able to further commercialise and develop our platform, helping our workforce to access the right opportunities, at the right time.”

Projects under the Expo Live programme look for solutions across 14 different sectors. These include innovators that help to address the challenges set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 17 global goals designed to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Expo 2020, the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, will run from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022.  

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