As part of the 18th edition, held under the theme ‘The Future Starts Now’, Abu Dhabi Festival announced the graduation of the first cohort of the Young Philanthropists Programme, which was launched in partnership with the University of Cambridge’s new Centre for Strategic Philanthropy. The programme empowers emerging philanthropists from the GCC and MENA region to solve social and environmental issues through strategic philanthropy.

The first cohort encompased 20 people from different countries: the UAE, KSA, Tunisia, Lebanon, Palestine, Bangladesh, Jordan and Egypt. Following the virtual executive education course the participants took, the programme will offer in its next phase, an in-depth mentoring with leading academics and enterpreneurs around the world to help them set their goals and work towards achieving them.

H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, and Founder and Artistic Director of Abu Dhabi Festival said, “Culture has always been an integral part of the advancement of philanthropy, as the two complement one another to preserve civilizations and the well-being of people. We launched the Young Philanthropists Programme after identifying the need for a clear vision to shape the future and the culture of philanthropy regionally and internationally. The programme is a Festival first and is made possible by an exceptional partnership with the University of Cambridge’s new Centre for Strategic Philanthropy.”

“In Abu Dhabi Festival’s ongoing investment in the nation’s youth, innovative support is instrumental for young individuals to realise their full potential and becoming tomorrow’s creative leaders. The cutting-edge Centre for Strategic Philanthropy is leading the way into new horizons, enabling emerging philanthropic professionals to focus their efforts and achieve the greatest possible impact on society. The Young Philanthropists programme is not only a method for young entrepreneurs to become leaders and patrons in solving economic and societal topics, it is an investment in the region’s emerging philanthropists to be able to make a difference and a long-term change,” H.E. continued.

Clare Woodcraft, the Executive Director of the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy (CSP) said: “We were delighted to partner with ADMAF to deliver our Executive Education programme entitled Strategic Philanthropy in Emerging Markets: Maximising Impact that was specifically tailored for the Arab world. The programme is about helping young practitioners learn practical ways in which they can improve their philanthropic outcomes while also building a community of young Arab professionals in the sector.”

Woodcraft said that the CSP was delighted with the level of engagement from this young cohort noting that they came from a range of organisations including start up social entrepreneurs and well-established regional foundations. “Despite their diversity, there was a lot of consensus around the importance of evidence based interventions, knowing what and how to measure, leveraging brands for partnerships and ensuring that even the most early stage venture has clearly defined values and associated governance,” she said.

“We hope very much that this is just the first step towards building a region-wide community of young Arab practitioners who can network, share best practice and help to ensure that precious philanthropic capital is judiciously deployed for systemic change at scale. We look forward to the next cohort!”

The five-day virtual course ran between 27-30 September 2021 and featured an integrated and comprehensive programme designed to promote and build creative skills, community leadership and community innovation, as well as to develop voluntary initiatives by addressing topics such as the philanthropy paradigm shift, measuring impact, talent development, hybrid finance and creating effective governance that contributes to leveraging philanthropic capital in the best possible way to deliver impact and long-term system change.

Comprised of video lectures, discussions, live online mentoring sessions and exercises, the course addressed the challenges and opportunities facing emerging market philanthropists – particularly in light of growing intergenerational wealth transfers – in aligning their work with national development plans, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the need to deliver sustainable outcomes at scale.

The programme provided participants with specialised knowledge and tools, and will continue with in-depth mentoring sessions with leading global academics and entrepreneurs around the world which will help participants shape their plans and hone their skills. The sessions will provide emerging philanthropists with access to a network of professional philanthropists and experts to help guide them to become global leaders in solving societal and environmental problems.

Based on its clear vision to adapt to the rapid digital transformation and the sustainability of cultural initiatives, Abu Dhabi Festival combines a unique hybrid programme of virtual and in-person performances, exhibitions and events leveraging the latest digital technology.

Abu Dhabi Festival is supported by its Lead Partner Mubadala Investment Company (Mubadala) and Energy Partner GS Energy.


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