Introduction

Ehaab is providing an opportunity for young Egyptians to fulfill their dreams and implement their innovative ideas through the Nahdet Masr Network (NMN).  Through this network Ehaab aims to empower youth to be a positive part of their country’s future while combating the prevailing feelings and sentiments of defeatism and alienation. Initiated by Egyptian youths, NM is an incubator that provides the necessary support and resources for innovative and creative developmental ideas that Egyptian youth have, helping them to become independent and successful projects that contribute to the country’s development. This will be achieved through promoting volunteerism, networking with other entities, creating awareness and building the capacity of individuals and organizations.

Nahdet Masr Network (NMN) is a forum of young Egyptians opting for a better Egypt. Formed in December 2002 as a web-based group, NMN encompasses members from various fields to engage, network, and act for Egypt. Nadhet-Masr’s goal is to provide Egyptians with a venue for exchange and action whereby they become empowered and utilize their energy, skills and knowledge to positively contribute to Egypt’s development at various levels.

Being  young himself, Ehaab saw the enormous potential in young Egyptians being wasted since  most educated young people feel that they have no role to play towards their country’s future and a lot of them leave the country. He felt that there is a strong need for those people to come together and that there could be a lot of synergy, linkages and great innovative ideas that could develop from such a network. Ehaab’s network is reaching out to both Egyptians who live in Egypt as well as those who live abroad.

While NM was initiated in December 2002, it was only officially registered as an Egyptian NGO, headquartered in Cairo, in November 2003.  Currently, NM boasts a membership of more than 120 young Egyptians in Egypt, Denmark, France,Tunisia, the UAE, the US, and the UK. . NM is an incubator for  on grassroots development issues and serve as a haven where youth can take part in intellectually daring discussions on sensitive issues that are very much in the fabric of the Egyptian society’s everyday life but that nobody alludes to out of shyness, fear, or ignorance.

NM acts as an incubator that provides the necessary support and resources for innovative and creative developmental ideas that Egyptian youth have, helping them to become independent and successful projects that contribute to the country’s development. According to Ehaab, the Nahdet Masr NGO will be a place where youth can gain support, through human and financial resources, to work on innovative and creative macro and grassroots development projects. NM will also have a strong component supporting applied-research and providing policy recommendations on development issues especially those that concern youth.

Ehaab’s network of Egyptian youth with a new and creative structure serves as a link between innovative and committed Egyptians and financial and human resources. NM aims at connecting these young innovative social leaders with national, international and global networks of experts and also funding opportunities. Ehaab hopes that this will become a social movement mobilizing youth throughout the country, providing them with the necessary professional training and empowering to contribute to their country’s development.

There are two main problems that the Nahdet Masr Network /NGO will be helping to solve. First, the problem is basically that the educated and enlightened youth of the country are alienated from the system. Educated youth (recent graduates of universities) make up at least 2 million people. Many of them want to contribute positively but have a strong feeling of apathy and defeatism. The second problem is that there are no venues in Egypt where young creative Egyptians can vent their ideas and get the guidance and financial support they need to realize their ideas and dreams. This is basically stopping youth from realizing their full potential and failing to use their talents, skills, education and energy towards their society’s development with all its facets and dimensions. It affects the whole society’s development as it affects the huge sector of youth that has a great potential. Egyptians have a very strong sense of identity and belonging to Egypt and this will be capitalized upon in Nahdet Masr. Ehaab’s idea will involve Egyptian youth in the “development” arena and try to prevent the brain drain. Ehaab envisions that on the one hand any of the members can champion some “dream” project of his/hers towards the development and betterment of the country and can solicit the help/advise of all those who would care to join him/her.  Any of the members who has a similar idea now will have the advantage of belonging to an NGO and being in contact with many different high-powered young Egyptian men and women who can provide all sorts of help and/or pointers.  Those ideas would be grass roots ideas that attempt to make life a little better for less privileged Egyptians.  It is a convenient haven for any of the members who has an idea and wants to start it. That means Nahdet Masr can give rise to many different sub-groupings working on diverse projects.

Unless actions are taken to prevent the current situation, the Egyptian society will continue not using the potential of its youth with their innovative ideas and skills in development. On the other hand, those youth will become more alienated, defeated and frustrated which in the least would lead to their leaving the country. i.e. more brain drain delaying more the development and enhancement of the Egyptian society.

Since December 2002, Ehaab has been able to achieve a lot. NM has a web-site (www.nahdetmasr.net) and now has more than 100 active members including Egyptians in Cairo as well as abroad. The group has some 9 developmental project ideas initiated by its members that are currently in their preliminary phase. Nahdet El Mahrousa became an officially registered NGO on November 23rd, 2003. Ehaab and his team are currently trying to work on securing financing for these development initiatives through contacting foreign donors as well as local businessmen. The next step is to conduct research on similar activities locally and around the globe and coordinate efforts with other youth groups, universities, NGOs and political groups. Once these mechanisms are clearly established, Ehaab plans to recruit full-time staff for co-ordination and follow-up which will be followed by aggressive recruitment and publicity activities.

At the NGOs, Ehaab has worked at, he felt very constrained by the NGOs’ rigid structure, which he felt was not conducive to the development of new ideas or innovative ways of addressing development issues. As a result, NM’s organization is loosely structured, to allow as many youth to contribute their ideas. However, as it progresses Ehaab has a clear plan to divide tasks functionally. So there will be a department for economic development, social development, university and youth relations and fundraising and reviving traditional philanthropic mechanisms. Ehaab was one of the main founders of another NGO, Fat’het Kheir where he was the first president and he now plans to fill the same function for Nahdet Masr. Once established and having strong foundations, the members will have open elections for new revolving leadership.

To finance Nahdet Masr in the short run, many of the members donated some money to finance the initial start-up costs (rent, communications with external organizations, government, etc). Now there are membership fees of L.E 185 per year. In the long-run, Ehaab aims to target Egyptian as well as foreign financial support.The target group for their activities varies from project to project. The implementers and initiators of those projects are youth but the targeted populations from those developmental initiatives vary from one project to the other.  The Mentoring Program involves providing guidance and support to promising young Egyptians on how to plan and pursue their professional, academic and personal aspirations to achieve maximum personal growth, through linking mentors with youth. The National University Scholarship Project (NUSP) is a pilot project, that aims to sponsor, through raising scholarships, the top (15%) students’ graduation projects at a technical faculty, and to commercialize breakthrough projects by connecting them to industry. Nahdet Masr has already identified Cairo University Faculty of Engineering as a potential partner. Another project aims to reverse the brain drain of Egyptian experts abroad, by encouraging Egyptian experts abroad to volunteer to help transfer knowledge to Egypt’s SMEs.

Through many of the project ideas that already are starting to emerge from this dynamic group, many social systems will be challenged and affected. For example, one project that was initiated by one young Egyptian through this network is addressing the revival of indigenous philanthropic mechanisms. If such project is supported well enough with needed resources through Nahdet Masr, it will change the face of the development field, the role of the educated youth in society, etc.Egypt as a country has a strong influence on Arab countries, African countries, Muslim countries, etc. which puts Nahdet Masr at an advantage that Ehaab and his group intend to build upon to spread the idea beyond the borders of Egypt.

Ehaab’s objective for the future is to establish an organization and a network that will be an incubator for Egyptian youth to find the necessary resources to be able to realize their dream development projects in Egypt. This will be a professional organization with qualified full-time employees and program officers mobilizing youth and soliciting ideas from them on one hand and on the other hand mobilizing other needed supporting resources for those ideas, whether financial or human. Ehaab’s vision of the future is of NM having branches all over the country, mobilizing and empowering youth throughout Egypt. Ehaab and his group envision having branches and strong connections in different universities through which Egyptian youth will be trained and supported to work on their development ideas. This will contribute to their empowerment as well as to the development of the country though their innovative development projects. NM will also play a major role in helping these projects scale-up and network.. The idea is that these educated young Egyptians, once empowered through the success and contribution of their developmental projects, will seek larger change, and will become more engaged in political and public life, to bring about this change.

NM’s mission and mandate is to provide an incubator, providing the necessary resources and support to empower youth to implement their innovative development ideas. As a result, Egyptian youth living in Egypt and abroad are the main target group of NM.  In the past few months, Ehaab has presented Nahdet Masr to a number of youth-societies including the Egyptian American Professionals’ Society (EAPS) in New York in March 2004, The First Young Egyptian-American Convention (YEAC), in Chicago in April 2004, as well as to several Egyptian-American groups under the auspices of the Egyptian Consulate in New York in April 2004, and to the Egyptian-American Scholars Association (EASA) in May 2004.

Looking at the impressive list of Ehaab’s accomplishments, one is surprised by his young age. At the age of 27 he was the president of Fat’het Kheir the NGO he co-founded in 1999, and thus the youngest president of a board in an Egyptian NGO. Fat’het Kheir is the first NGO to offer interest-free micro-financing backed by purely Egyptian money, to help underprivileged households start sustainable income-generating projects. The association is unique in that it depends primarily upon volunteers, now numbering 80, most of whom are youth, helping around 500 families in Moqattam, an area of Cairo that was very badly hurt by the 1992 earthquake. FK’s main target group are the residents of the Moqattam area that it serves, and it focuses mostly on female-headed households. Fatheit Kheir aims to help other youth groups to start similar organizations based on the Fathet Kheir model. They have already helped Rawdet Abu Ghaleb NGO in the delta area0 to adopt FK’s models, and have been in contact with other youth groups in Alexandria, Banisweif, and Assiout to replicate the model there too. Ehaab was the initiator and catalyst for the establishment and the first three years of the organization’s life, starting in April 1999. He was involved in researching and designing Fatheit Kheir’s mircro-credit model, as well as initiating and designing major partnerships with the faculty of agriculture on a number of projects. He also coordinated and led several external relations meetings and presentations for fundraising and networking purposes, including to several Rotary clubs, to the British Council, to the Governor of Beni Seouf, the Future Foundation, and to the AIESEC student organization. He was also responsible for securing the purchase of the NGO premises, fundraising and finalizing contracts, and his dealings with the Ministry of Social Affairs, resulted in FK getting a free piece of land to build a model NGO on. Ehaab was responsible for internal communication among volunteers and chairing meetings. For a few months during his job at the IDRC, before leaving to the US, he decided to become a part-timer to dedicate more time to FK. For the past two years while he was away in the US studying for his Masters, he has been supporting FK by proposing new projects and strategic concepts like the New Ideas Project fund, and liaising with some national donors such as the Sawiris Foundation. During this time, Ehaab has also presented the FK mode to several groups o Egyptian-American youth as well as international audiences in Pittsburgh.

There are many differences between Fatheit Kheir and Nahdet Masr. NM’s initiatives are mostly national based as opposed to Fatheit Kheir’s initiatives which are community-based.   FK is a community-based development organization focusing on the community of Moqattam and mobilizing local resources, whether human or financial towards that aim. FK has also chosen to only accept national funding to support its projects, creating a model that it aims to replicate in other parts of the country. Nahdet Masr is more of a national movement mobilizing privileged Egyptian youth all across the board, living in Egypt and outside, and empowering them through supporting their different development ideas to work for a better Egypt. NM hopes that through its efforts, these youth can play a greater role in their society’s social, economic, and political life.

Ehaab was in a family that believed in the importance of fostering the sense of independence in their children  and gave Ehaab an appropriate amount of freedom from an early age. This gave Ehaab the opportunity to taste freedom and also what comes with it, responsibility which prepared him for his later choices in life. Throughout his school years Ehaab participated in different social work activities such as raising money for an orphanage etc. However, it was during his time at the American University in Cairo that Ehaab’s leadership qualities excelled. He devoted his free time to the International League of Economics and Business Administration Students (AIESEZ),   which is the largest student league in the world, and to which Ehaab was unanimously elected as the first Egyptian president in 1995.

After graduation from the Faculty of Business Administration in 1997, Ehaab worked for some time in marketing. However, he could not forget the huge gap between his work, trying to promote chocolates and other “luxury items”, and the majority of the Egyptian population who barely can afford the bare necessities. Accordingly, Ehaab decided to leave the food industry and work with a development organization. Here he was introduced to a wide a array of societal issues and gained experience in community development and development in general. However, Ehaab still did not feel truly satisfied with his work, and slowly the idea of Fat’het Kheir started to emerge. Fat’het Kheir is now a successful organization and has won  recognition in Egypt as well as in the global field of development.

Ehaab just (May 2004) received his Master’s in International Development from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. Along with his relevant voluntary and working experiences and skills, he feels this will qualify him more to be able to lead such an organization. On a volunteer basis, he currently dedicates around 15 hours weekly to the management of Nahdet Masr, attending different meetings, spreading the word and soliciting support and potential linkages. However, when he gets the Ashoka Fellowship, he intends to work full time on the project. (After April 2004).