Earlier this year, Cairo 360 profiled an NGO that had been making headway in addressing the struggles of Egypt's refugee population. Though the subject is far from a hot-button topic in Egypt 2013, the conflict in Syria made the NGO's work at least a little bit relevant, with the number of Syrian refugees having tripled in the twelve months previous.
At the time, the NGO was in a financial black hole and was in desperate need of donations and volunteers. But what's important to know about this particular NGO is that it isn't three hippies and their laptops sitting in a dilapidated Downtown apartment. It is in fact a highly complex and sophisticated machine of an organisation that has been working to help refugees in Egypt for ten years, which makes the conclusion of this story all the more harrowing.
The article spread over social media; so much so that on learning how much attention it was getting them, representatives of the NGO demanded that the article be taken down.
Because despite being a highly complex machine of an organisation that has been working to help refugees in Egypt for ten years, the NGO didn't have the proper licenses to legally operate. They feared that in exposing themselves so explicitly to an online publication, some government crony would catch wind and come down on them with the full force of the law.
In the grand scheme of things, this is just a side-note to the seemingly institutionalised abandon and persecution of NGOs in Egypt; just one more thing to add a to the laundry list of ridiculous – a list that is most likely headed 'Things We Can Do to Make Life Hard for NGOs' and signed 'Interchangeable Man in Cheap Suit.'
It's not that there's a misperception of NGOs in Egypt; it's more that there seems to be no perception at all.
This could all change, however, with the imminent launch of BEcause; a new online magazine and platform from BridgEgypt, where non-profits and the corporate world can come together in harmony.
"We're looking to tell the stories of those who step up to tackle social issues" says BridgEgypt Managing Partner, Karine Kamel. "Be it companies that are advancing their CSR programs, civil organisations, NGOs and/or social businesses who address pertinent causes using different means."
This seemingly ambitious aim might seem contrary to the traditional NGO-corporate dichotomy, but as Kamel asserts, social responsibility has been coming to the forefront of Egyptian corporatism.
"There's a growing interest in social responsibility when it comes to companies who can no longer afford to only focus on profit. This trend started about ten years ago in Egypt and has increased drastically since the revolution, not only in terms of the number of companies who show interest but in the way they go about implementing their CSR programs."
But with many websites already providing NGO information and databases, BEcause is looking to take things a step further. "Our focus is on newsworthiness. We seek those who demonstrate powerful impact through their work."
In this regard, it seems like BEcause is a godsend for NGOs all over the country. The bigger question, however, is how a business can benefit. Kamel points to something they call 'Cause Matchmaking' and insists that social responsibility has become a very real and very necessary detail in Egypt.
"Companies are increasingly interested in getting the right partner to make sure that sustainability is part of their core business and that their CSR efforts resonate loud and clear. It is not only a competitive advantage, but key for employee retention and financial returns."
But what makes BEcause so intriguing is that, by luck or by design, the idea strikes a perfect balance between non-profits and corporates in providing mutually essential understanding that will help sustain both parties.
"In an increasingly interconnected world, collaboration is key for advancement" says Kamel. "Working together to better address those causes has become not only an added value but a necessity for real impact to be achieved."
And this is the crux of BEcause. It's not just about a staggered stream of donations and international aid. It's about building a system of self-preservation for both NGOs and the corporate world.
"Though companies and non-profits speak different languages and have different mindsets, they also have similarities; the idea is to capitalise on those."