Faces of Tomorrow: Dr. Ghadah Alharthi On Nurturing Social Entrepreneurship In Saudi Arabia

BY Ayesha Sohail Shehmir Shaikh / Sep 14 2020 / 12:55 PM

An associate lecturer at Central Saint Martins and former coordinator at independent arts initiative, Edge of Arabia, this Saudi specialist and researcher is on a mission to boost tourism and support social entrepreneurs within the Kingdom

Faces of Tomorrow: Dr. Ghadah Alharthi On Nurturing Social Entrepreneurship In Saudi Arabia

In alignment with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, Dr. Ghadah Alharthi is working to enhance support for social entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia through her research at the University of London. By digging up the most effective strategies deployed by successful social businesses, she is fighting to establish a society durable against economic hardships, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do you think art, and creativity in general, can shed light on integral topics for a better future and a progressive society?

Edge of Arabia and its sister company, Crossway Foundation, showed me how social enterprises add value in the creative industries. This increased my interest in social entrepreneurship which led me to focus on it as a topic for my PhD. During that, I nurtured my interest in art and culture by auditing modules at the University of London, and since 2012, I’ve collaborated as an independent consultant with international consulting companies in matters of cultural and futuristic studies in the MENA region.

The research I’ve worked on sheds light on the future of art, culture and tourism. I collected data on the history of art and heritage in Saudi and conducted studies on art and innovation, and how it links to social development and the role of culture in society.

How do you believe Vision 2030 has shaped the wider community’s thinking?

This is a very dynamic period for Saudi Arabia as Vision 2030 has rejuvenated the country and the economy. The Vision seeks the highest international standards in a framework that meets local and international requirements. The engagement of science and innovation are integral elements in the achievement of it. The government has provided funding and support to several institutions, especially universities and science committees such as the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

How do you believe enhancing institutional support for academics and professionals alike will benefit Saudi in future?

Following my PhD research, my recommendation and long-term aspiration for this sector would be for the Saudi government to establish a centre to develop the eco-system of social entrepreneurship that could offer research and funding opportunities. This will enhance institutional support for social entrepreneurs, which will expand social projects and increase volunteering opportunities, both of which are goals of Vision 2030.

Which strategies have you found to be the most effective in building successful social businesses?

There are three key resources that I believe social entrepreneurs need to actively develop in order to thrive. First, their social network, which is not just a resource in the social entrepreneurship field, but also an important shaper of it. Successful social entrepreneurs proactively establish these in order to implement their projects. It’s essential to be proactive for the survival and sustainability of any social enterprise.

Second, improving their leadership ability and increasing chances of success by being aware of the power of psychological capital, which is hope, self-efficacy, resilience and optimism.

Third, pursue social entrepreneurship formal and informal learning through courses, fellowships and workshops. It would be a huge step for KSA if more educational institutions start offering these classes and lessons.

What is a personal dream you have for yourself or your country?

I’ve always aspired to be a person that has a positive influence and impact on the lives of the individuals that I cross paths with. It’s my personal and professional mission to utilise my skills in contributing to the growth of the communities that I’m in. Most importantly, to help others achieve their dreams, for me, would be very rewarding.

I support Vision 2030, especially in relation to global citizenship and forging the new identity of Saudi Arabia. As Saudi Arabia is the chair of G20 this year, the G20 meetings showed us that the country is ready, more than ever, to lead the way into the future. The chance is now for us to build the new, innovative Saudi Arabia and act as changemakers on a global scale.

From Harper's Bazaar Arabia's September 2020 Issue.