UAE: Action for impact is the only way forward, says Emirati businessman working for education of refugees

It is crucial to overcome the humanitarian crisis that the world faces today, he added, speaking at the DIHAD Conference and Exhibition on Tuesday


Lamya Tawfik

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Abdulaziz Al Ghurair. - Supplied photo
Abdulaziz Al Ghurair. - Supplied photo

Published: Tue 14 Mar 2023, 3:32 PM

Last updated: Tue 14 Mar 2023, 5:16 PM

Emirati businessman and philanthropist, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair said on Tuesday that having a clear philanthropic vision, being truly involved and sharing success to inspire others is key to shares the formula for successful philanthropy.

Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, co-founder and chairman of Al Ghurair Foundation who established Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund, spoke at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development (DIHAD) Conference and Exhibition about the importance of having a clear philanthropic vision, being involved and sharing success to inspire others.

“Our shared commitment to humanitarian causes demand that we adapt to better serve our community. Our actions must be collective and sustainable to tackle the demanding challenges of today and tomorrow,” he told attendees, adding that ‘action for impact’ is not just a slogan. “It’s the only way forward. The world is calling us for action at a global scale, and it’s our duty to act with urgency and purpose to address this pressing issue of our time,” he said.

Abdul Aziz, who focuses his philanthropy on education, says that it is crucial to overcome the humanitarian crisis that the world faces today. He said that when it is not attainable, it’s not only a tragedy for those who don’t have access to it, and their families, but that it also represents a missed opportunity for the global community to leverage the youth’s talent and creativity.

“In the Middle East and North Africa, we face a great challenge. We have one of the highest unemployment rates, and 16 million people are [either] displaced or refugees. We should not ignore this reality around us. We have a moral imperative to provide high quality education to youth, and we must act together now to make sure that this generation doesn't lose its opportunity,” he said.

He said that when he launched the fund in 2018, he thought the programme would only be needed for three years, but that he had to extend the programme because the refugee crisis continued and got worse. “Our approach has been different in leveraging over double the resources initially invested. That translated in helping in achieving over 300 per cent of our initial goal set in 2018,” he said.

During the session, Abdul Aziz outlined the elements that he views as crucial for successful philanthropy. He started by saying that on the onset, there needs to be a vision and strategy. “What sets apart a successful philanthropist is a clear compelling vision to make sure the efforts are focused, and an explicit goal to offer direction. At the refugee education fund, we are explicit about what, who and where we offer support,” he said.

Organisations need to also decide why it matters and where they want to help, according to Abdul Aziz. “I focus my philanthropy on education because I believe it’s [the] greatest tool for the youth. I focused. I asked about evidence on where I can make the most positive impact,” he said.

Assuring good governance and accountability are the cornerstones of his philanthropic success. “We tie our strategy to goals and targets and promote transparency to make sure there’s sustainable impact. Our partners continuously evaluate intervention to achieve a positive result and our teams check on local progress to make necessary changes as and when needed,” he explained. This transparent strategic approach, he said, raises the bar for impact and holds them accountable for the people they aim to help.

Another important factor is to set the funding and make it official. “As any new endeavour, makig sure that it’s properly established is critical for its long-term success. It’s important to register the organisation with a clear purpose in mind,” he said. Hiring a professional team to manage the philanthropy and regularly connecting with them is also important. “You can’t run it on your own, make sure you’re connected to them and that you continuously meet with them. Give them [the] attention that you give any of the businesses,” he said.

It’s important, he explained, to ask questions to understand the struggles of the team and to see how one can intervene to help. “Set aside some of your time as you would for business ventures. Before you give your funding, you need to give your time to make it successful. I don’t want to just donate money. It’s easy to donate money and hope for the best. I give my time, knowledge, network and influence, when and where I can help to make a difference,” he said, adding that he gives his philanthropy the same degree of thoughtfulness, attention and interest that he gives his business.

Visiting and meeting people who are the beneficiaries of the philanthropy is also an important element he said, reminding the audience that there are real people with real stories and real struggles who are the reason behind what they do. “When you visit, visit with all your presence. Look around, listen, ask questions and engage with the human element of your philanthropy at a grass-root level,” he said, before telling the audience about an incident in Jordan where he visited with a partner institute incognito with his daughter.

There, he met a programme officer who told him how much she benefited from the fund, the impact it had on her life, and how she one day wanted to help others the same way. “The sincerity on her face can’t be read in an annual report,” he said.

Finally, he said it was important to share one’s impact to inspire other philanthropists. “I share this with you because I need you to share the idea that together we can do a better job. It’s about making a bigger impact to achieve better results, for those who are not here in the conference, but need our help,” he said.


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