ED­U­CA­TION CAN’T WAIT

OVER THE LAST DECADE, DUBAI CARES CEO, TARIQ AL GURG HAS TRANS­FORMED THE OR­GAN­I­SA­TION FROM ONE THAT SIM­PLY SIGNED CHEQUES INTO A MA­JOR GLOBAL NGO THAT HELPS COUN­TRIES MAKE SURE THEIR CHIL­DREN AREN’T LEFT BE­HIND

CEO Middle East - - BUSINESS - BY SHAYAN SHAKEEL

WHEN TARIQ AL GURG JOINED DUBAI CARES IN 2009, THE OR­GAN­I­SA­TION only had three de­part­ments. “His de­part­ment didn’t ex­ist,” he says, point­ing to a cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager sit­ting across from us. “All we had were pro­grammes, cam­paigns, and back-of­fice sup­port. But this or­gan­i­sa­tion needed to work like a busi­ness, with a mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­part­ment, a fundrais­ing func­tion... it needed to be sus­tain­able, and peo­ple needed to know why it ex­isted.”

Tied since its in­cep­tion in 2007 to the Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals agreed upon by the world in 2000 – to help al­le­vi­ate a global ed­u­ca­tion im­bal­ance, pro­mote gen­der equal­ity in ed­u­ca­tion, and get gov­ern­ments, donors agen­cies, UN agen­cies, and third party providers work­ing closer to­gether – Dubai Cares is bridg­ing an es­sen­tial gap, es­pe­cially for a coun­try in the Arab world.

“Often we’re the only foun­da­tion from the Mid­dle East at an event where the world’s largest donor agen­cies are pitch­ing their ser­vices to us. And it’s all be­cause we have demon­stra­ble re­sults that prove we are able to make a dif­fer­ence.”

How­ever, the path to be­com­ing an or­gan­i­sa­tion of its kind, a foun­da­tion that works across all ar­eas of global ed­u­ca­tional de­vel­op­ment, is one that re­quired a con­cen­trated fo­cus, as he ex­plains.

How did the Dubai Cares story be­gin?

It was some­time near the end of 2006 that Sheikh Mo­hammed [Bin Rashid Al Mak­toum, UAE Vice Pres­i­dent, Prime Min­is­ter and Ruler of Dubai] be­gan an eight-week fundrais­ing drive, call­ing on the UAE com­mu­nity to con­trib­ute to a cause close to his heart. At the time he hadn’t men­tioned what that was but high net worth in­di­vid­u­als, along with pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor en­ti­ties, con­trib­uted $480m to the drive. Then, at an un­veil­ing event, Sheikh Mo­hammed spoke about the global need to make an im­pact, and an­nounced that the money raised would go to an or­gan­i­sa­tion called Dubai Cares. This new body would work to break the cy­cle of poverty by im­part­ing qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion to chil­dren in the de­vel­op­ing world. And in what was a com­plete sur­prise he dou­bled the $480m raised with the same amount of his own. So Dubai Cares be­gan with a re­mark­able startup cap­i­tal of $960m.

And you joined two years later in 2009?

Yes. Dubai Cares of­fi­cially took root in Septem­ber 2007. The first six months in­volved sim­ply set­ting up the or­gan­i­sa­tion with an­other six months spent study­ing how the or­gan­i­sa­tion could go about its mis­sion and see­ing which coun­tries needed the most help. The next year it bought into pro­gram­matic in­ter­ven­tions in var­i­ous coun­tries. I joined in 2009 to help the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s work in those coun­tries ear­marked for aid, but, more im­por­tantly, to make Dubai Cares a sus­tain­able or­gan­i­sa­tion that could con­tinue to de­liver im­pact.

How did you go about do­ing that?

When I joined Dubai Cares it had made a good start but it wasn’t work­ing be­hind the scenes. There hadn’t been any an­nounce­ments about the ac­tiv­i­ties it was un­der­tak­ing, even though it was ac­tive in 14 coun­tries. Also, at the rate that the or­gan­i­sa­tion was dis­burs­ing funds in three- to five-year pro­grammes, it would have de­pleted its startup cap­i­tal rapidly and left it with no plan for the fu­ture. So an in­te­grated ap­proach and a new model to op­er­ate sus­tain­ably was needed, to trans­form from a donor agency that just signed cheques. It needed to spread aware­ness about the or­gan­i­sa­tion and raise ad­di­tional funds, but, cru­cially, to un­der­stand how the dis­burse­ments were be­ing utilised, and if there was progress in the ini­tia­tives. So we em­barked on a jour­ney to un­der­stand the fun­da­men­tals of the chal­lenges im­pact­ing global ed­u­ca­tion, how UN agen­cies and other stake­hold­ers worked, and si­mul­ta­ne­ously built our own ca­pa­bil­i­ties as an or­gan­i­sa­tion in­ter­nally and in terms of outreach.

As a for­mer banker, how does mea­sur­ing im­pact at Dubai Cares com­pare from your days in fi­nance?

Re­turn on in­vest­ment (RoI) is some­thing both com­pa­nies and char­ity foun­da­tions have in com­mon-year ca­reer at Na­tional Bank of Dubai (now Emi­rates NBD), I looked at it as a busi­ness. The dif­fer­ence at a com­pany, how­ever, is that RoI is mea­sured in terms of money. As a ‘re­formed banker’ at a foun­da­tion, I now mea­sure it in terms of peo­ple. At Dubai Cares the RoI is the num­ber of chil­dren ed­u­cated. In 2017, and that num­ber will grow a lot big­ger, it was 18 mil­lion chil­dren in 53 coun­tries.

Would you ever go back to bank­ing or does your heart now lie with this job?

I love num­bers. Math was the only sub­ject I ever got an ‘A’ in as a stu­dent. And I’ve al­ways been some­one that walks into and of­fice happy about get­ting some­thing done. How­ever, char­ity has been an im­por­tant part of our fam­ily. And here I walk into the of­fice with a buzz in my mind about how I should help. And I love do­ing it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.