The 2-day Social Innovation Mela held at Saeed Saigol Auditorium, LUMS concluded last week and brought together social entrepreneurs from Pakistan, India, US and UK on a single platform. The event sparked an international level discussion on Pakistan Social Enterprise landscape and beyond through product fairs, panel discussions, pitching sessions and an exclusive documentary screening.
The event started off with a keynote speech from the founder of Akhuwat, Dr. Amjad Saqib, who recounted the story behind the creation of Akhuwat – Pakistan’s first interest-free micro-finance service provider. The panel discussions were based on various issues from vis-à-vis social enterprise in South Asia to the role of universities in promoting social justice and highlighted the lessons to be learnt from successful ventures in Pakistan’s social enterprise space. The panel participants included a diverse mix of LUMS professors, faculty of the University of Minnesota and O.P Jindal University, corporate sector executives, as well as promising, young social entrepreneurs.
The discussion on the topic ‘#SocEnt Today ‘ touched the social enterprise landscape in Pakistan and India. Dr. Lina Sonne, Head of Mumbai Office at Okapi, stated in this regard, “The voice of the entrepreneur in Pakistan is louder, but Pakistan has lots to learn from across the border.” Jeremy Wade, Associate Director at the Jindal Center for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, elaborated on the friction between social enterprises and external impact investment actors. He also pointed out the need for organizations like Social Innovation Lab who can guide an entrepreneur when external entities step in.
The LUMS Central Courtyard, a small distance away from the auditorium, came alive with stalls of social enterprises which displayed a variety of samples from organic basil seeds to handcrafted jewellery and leadership development programmes. These enterprises include Akhuwat, Rabtt, LettuceBee Kids, Reading Room Project, Gulmit Carpet Weaving Center and Mountain Fruits Pvt. Ltd.
Startups – Ravvish and TurrLahore from Social Innovation Lab’s flagship incubator The Hatchery gave promotional pitches and gained a sizable audience. Moreover, Social Innovation Lab, in collaboration with Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) screened an exclusive documentary on the women artisans of the Gulmit Carpet Weaving Center in Gojal, Upper Hunza. LUMS Vice Chancellor Dr. Sohail Naqvi stressed the importance of social justice through social enterprise during the closing ceremony and awarded prizes to the Mela Participants.