A journey to greater social impact: Behind the scenes at El Rehla’s retreat
An Egyptian company is giving entrepreneurs the time and space to connect, reflect and grow their social impact – helping to develop a pipeline of impact entrepreneurs on their journey towards investment. Our DICE Young Storymaker Rehab Ismail reports.
A four-day, offbeat camping experience and an ultimate city break in Egypt, bringing together dozens of entrepreneurs, community leaders and owners of mission-driven businesses, for a connective experience.
A gateway to listen closely to the calls from their inner voices, the community, and nature.
This was the purpose of the “Leading with Purpose” Impact Retreat organised in Sharm El Naga, Hurghada city, in the Red Sea Governorate in April 2019 by Egypt’s El Rehla and UK business support organisation, The Impact Collective.
The two partners were awarded a grant by the British Council in 2019 as part of its Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies (DICE) programme. DICE aims to foster the development of UK social business and their partners in five key emerging economies: South Africa, Egypt, Brazil, Indonesia, and Pakistan and has a £2m fund to tackle unemployment and unequal economic growth in these countries.
El Rehla (whose name translates as ‘the journey’) and The Impact Collective used their grant to support 50 leaders working in Egyptian innovative and social enterprises, through their impact retreat. Afterwards, they invited more than 80 people interested in social innovation to join training workshops. Both the retreat and workshops aimed to combine business values with inspiring social missions. This has developed the capacities of a pipeline of impact entrepreneurs on their journey to be ready for impact investment.
El Rehla designs and produces team building retreats that bring together diverse groups of members, businessmen and corporate teams for a connective, insightful and habit-changing experience.
Since it started in 2013, it has organised 54 retreats serving more than 2,300 beneficiaries from creative industries, corporates, donor organisations, factories, and NGOs.
'We help them to ask the questions that they don't ask themselves every day. We inspire them to change their daily routine and think about the world'
Abdelkader Ahmed, managing partner at El Rehla, says when people get together, “something good happens, so we are keen to facilitate that through transformative journeys, to get people to change what they do every day to be more powerful and impactful towards their communities.” El Rehla’s retreats help build collaboration through creating empathy between people and overcoming egos or psychological challenges.
“We help them to ask the questions that they don't ask themselves every day. We inspire them to change their daily routine and think about the world,” Ahmed adds.
The retreats involve various activities, from business innovation to physical fitness to artistic expression. But the sole objective of the gathering, says Dalia Saed, learning experience director at El Rehla, is to reach deeper networking levels. “We need them to see deeper levels of each other, so after the camp, they could do business together to help their communities and impact society.”
Adapting the model during Covid-19
Egypt reported its first coronavirus case in mid-February. On 25 March the government introduced a two-week curfew (which has since been extended); gatherings at any public facilities are not allowed. Many corporates are working remotely and all schools and universities are operating online.
El Rehla is currently focusing on the growth of the network and enhancing peer-to-peer learning. Dalia Saed tells Pioneers Post her company has so far hosted 13 community meetups and community engagement events with different sectors (such as the education sector) as well as online ‘retreats’ for founders looking to scale up their enterprises.
Mohamed Salama, one of the participants of the El Rehla retreat last year, says the programme was very intense but it helped him to build a stronger relationship with himself. He had a lot of time to think about nature and his impact on the community.
The camp inspired Salama to come up with an idea to save the environment. He created an online gallery, Marmarya, that sells handmade and eco-friendly products, made of local materials. These are supplied by more than 50 workers. The designs aim to spread awareness to the benefits of eco-friendly products, and include reusable grocery bags, fabric bags, coffee cups, planters and indoor plants.
Watch the film above to get a glimpse of an El Rehla retreat.
Rehab is a DICE Young Storymaker – one of 14 young journalists from six countries selected to reporting on social and creative enterprise as part of a joint initiative of Pioneers Post and the British Council.