Entrepreneurship and Youth

Rapid change and uncertainty have become an increasing feature of global realities. What does the future look like for the world’s young people who will inherit the burdens of global climate change, political polarizations, and wide-spread economic and health disparity as well as the promises and dilemmas of digital technologies and global interconnectedness?

The Middle East and North Africa is one of the most youthful regions in the world, with a median age of 22 years. With nearly 60% of the population in many countries under 25 years old, the nature of the region must rapidly develop to meet the demands countries will face in coming decades. The MENA region’s youth have the potential to become agents of change and contribute to a more prosperous and stable future for themselves and their communities. Unleashing this potential, however, requires a robust investment in the creation of meaningful learning and engagement opportunities.

Columbia Global Centers | Amman runs a number of initiatives that aim to promote and advance youth leadership development in Jordan and the wider region. Through talks and interactive workshops, participants learn how to turn their personal interests and hobbies into careers or businesses, develop specific skills, and inspire, influence, and motivate others to encourage effective leadership. With the support of a number of Columbia schools and campus partners, the Amman Center has been able to generate successful education and entrepreneurial activities in various parts of the region.

Fostering Entrepreneurship in Engineering Education in Tunisia

This project aimed to strengthen the cultureof entrepreneurship in engineering education in Tunisia by introducing critical elements of an entrepreneurship curriculum and training faculty to become entrepreneurship educators and coaches to increase opportunities for student learning. It was recognized as one of the more successful university partnership projects for its efforts in strengthening collaboration between public and private higher education institutions, and for the establishment of partnerships between public engineering schools and the start-up and business community.

As a result, the initiative was scaled up to include the participation of 100 universities from across Tunisia, in addition to being expanded to Morocco and potentially elsewhere in the region. The program has helped foster a collaborative ecosystem to support entrepreneurial activities in the Tunisian context by increasing the number of certified coaches and embedding the ideation process in local universities. Primarily, the program supported interdisciplinary founding teams comprised of Tunisian students through two stages of a national open start-up competition in Tunisia and prepared them to compete in the technology track of the Columbia Venture Competition. These students were connected to a global network of entrepreneurs from Columbia University and in New York. Overall, the program trained nearly 300 students.

The project is organized in partnership with Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, Columbia Business School, Open Start- up Tunisia, and Columbia Global Centers | Tunis, and was funded by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Tunis.

Start-Up Tunisia


Social Entrepreneurship Workshop for High School Students

Social Entrepreneurship Workshop for High School Students

A five-day workshop on social entrepreneurship is held each summer at the Amman Center in partnership with Building Blocks, a student-run
organization working to inspire, educate, and launch the next generation of student entrepreneurs. The workshop aims to give high school students the opportunity to examine themes of gender equality, entrepreneurship, innovation, leadership, design thinking, and sustainable development.

Participants learn about how entrepreneurship is changing the world and get the chance to engage with successful entrepreneurs who share their lessons as master innovators. Working in teams, students collectively design ventures and present them at the conclusion of the program. The third and fourth iterations of this program, in Summer 2020 and 2021, have been adapted to an online format.

The workshop is part of the Center’s Soraya Salti Youth for Youth Series inspired by the legacy of the late Soraya Salti, former President and CEO for Middle East and North Africa at INJAZ Al-Arab.


Youth in a Changing World

“Digital Technologies, Identity, and Belonging” Collective Drawing

Youth in a Changing World is an initiative to identify current global issues of greatest concern to youth involving a series of global workshops where they discuss among themselves how their future aspirations are affecting and being affected by a rapidly changing world. The initiative is spearheaded by Vishaka Desai, Chair of the Committee on Global Thought and Senior Advisor for Global Affairs to the President of Columbia University, and works through the network of Columbia Global Centers around the world, and with local universities and youth organizations. In Jordan, local partners included The School of Graduate Studies at Jordan University and the Princess Basma Youth Resource Center.

“Security and Wellbeing” Collective Drawing



These workshops include focus group discussions, where local youth facilitators moderate conversations with their peers around thematic open-ended questions. Each peer-led focus group ends with a collective drawing exercise, in which they create an image around their conversation. Collective drawings offer participants freedom to play with artistic expression to shape and convey their own narratives and understandings.

Conversations held so far have revealed that young people everywhere acutely feel the need for a platform to express themselves and have themselves heard and that they are able to think simultaneously in personal, local, and global terms.

Related News

December 31, 2017

Newsletter: Soraya Salti Youth for Youth Series Year 2

Based at Columbia Global Center in Amman, this initiative reaches out to young people to promote and advance youth leadership development. Four young leaders from the MENA region were hosted during the first year of the program, from November 2016 to May 2017, who spoke and interacted with fellow youth who stand to benefit from positive role models.

November 29, 2017

Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination Fellowship

The Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination will open its doors in Paris in fall 2018. Its annual cohort will comprise seven Columbia University faculty fellows and seven fellows - scholars, writers and creative artists -  from outside the USA. Its purpose is to question the established ways in which knowledge is defined, produced, and taught. 

June 08, 2017

President’s Global Innovation Fund 2017

Provost John H. Coatsworth has announced the fifth round of grants from the President’s Global Innovation Fund (PGIF) on June 1, 2017. 11 projects received awards this year after being selected by a review committee of senior faculty drawn from both the Morningside and medical campuses.

March 26, 2017

Columbia University Honored at 2017 Tunis International Book Fair

The organizing committee of the Tunis International Book Fair announced that Columbia University in the City of New York and the Lebanese Republic will be the guests of honor for 2017. The 33rd Tunis International Book Fair takes place on March 24 - April 2 in the city of Tunis, Tunisia. The University’s participation in the book fair shows the growing ties between Columbia and Tunisia. Honored guests at previous fairs have included France and Egypt, among others.

September 21, 2016

Exploring a Region in Transition as Change Sweeps the Middle East

Historic waves of migration, unprecedented digital activism, challenges to religious pluralism: amid all of these developments in the Middle East, Columbia Global Centers – Columbia University’s network of eight education and learning centers around the world – are exploring the implications of these changes on culture, health and safety, and politics in the region.

September 13, 2016

Redefining a University’s Role for a World in Crisis

NEW YORK, Sept. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- "With civil conflict, terrorist threats, and major health crises causing unprecedented disruption in communities all over the world, universities must step up to a new level of globalism in our outlook and in our activities," says Professor Safwan M. Masri, Executive Vice President for Global Centers and Global Development at Columbia University

April 27, 2016

Fostering Entrepreneurship in Engineering Education in Tunisia

In collaboration with the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the Amman Center is working with engineering faculty at five leading Tunisian universities to introduce critical elements of an entrepreneurship curriculum and consult on how to build an ecosystem that will support entrepreneurial activities in the Tunisian context.

September 24, 2015

Technical Report Delivery to Family Development Foundation

Given the current governmental priorities for social service development in Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates, a trained cadre of professional social workers is needed in a fast growing economically, and socially evolving country to take on the multi-level roles of program design, development, implementation, evaluation and management.

July 15, 2015

The Jordanian Ministry of Education begins a review of textbooks and curricula

As the Ministry of Education in Jordan continues the implementation of the first phase of a process aimed at developing curricula and textbooks, the views of education experts vary. Professor Safwan M. Masri, Executive Vice President for Global Centers and Global Development at Columbia University, explained that the reform process of curricula seems superficial.

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