The UAE can be a hub for social innovation

Positive economic outcomes have had a huge role to play

By Samira Khan

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Published: Tue 24 May 2022, 10:37 PM

Trust has been in the air throughout conversations at Davos. From its relationship to purpose and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) outcomes to the deepening connections amongst changemakers on the sidelines. It is clear that this binding life force, both simultaneously light and heavy, will sustain us through unbearable crises, enhance resilience, and enable us to continue to build a sustainable future for all beings.

Specifically, Edelman Trust Barometer 2022 was released and shows that UAE residents’ trust in government, health authorities, media, and UAE businesses is improving.

Positive economic outcomes have had a huge role to play. However, at the same rate, in the past five months, trust has decreased among the general population in China and the Middle East countries.

Meanwhile, trust has increased in Western democracies, partly due to their collective response in Ukraine. This underscores the need for deliberate efforts to understand stakeholder or citizen sentiment in a real-time way. It also makes the case to channel national resources towards key collective cross-section on some key societal challenges.

Consistency, competence, integrity, and humility have all been linked to trust. The UAE is a vibrant regional hub. Despite this, the ease of doing business has room to improve. The more we can use platforms and processes to drive trust amongst the business community, the more we stand to gain in strengthening ecosystems - including in the UAE. Shared values, social impact and sustainability are ways to open doors to aligned visions that build connection and trust - starting with urgent challenges.

Another key lever will be enlightened leadership. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak has confirmed that the theme of Emirati Women’s Day 2022, held in August, will be “Inspiring Reality.. Sustainable Future” - inspiring and catalyzing various initiatives. She’s just one example of a shining light.

Specifically, food security in the UAE is an urgent topic where there’s a call for businesses to do and invest more, and UAE Food Tech Valley can be that conduit. Aid is not a sustainable response to hunger; localisation is necessary. And resilient agri-food chains are a part of the ecosystem that should be further developed. Given the global scope of the challenge, the area also represents a profitable long-term opportunity, attracting greater global capital to the UAE - if the model is sound and scales well.

Global ecosystem-level social innovation starts with ways to pilot / test, share data, and learn to attract greater resources. It’ll be interesting to see over the next couple of days what concrete actions emerge to build trust by committing resources to the foundational global technological capacity that’s absolutely necessary. Accelerating big tech’s response across global markets is the key to a sustainable and equitable future.

At the same rate, to leapfrog on trust, the UAE must be able to position itself as front and centre - or, as a hub for social innovation with global, disruptive impact.

Samira Khan has worked in tech for impact spaces at both Salesforce and Microsoft

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