Initiatives like the XLR8 program of Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), member of Qatar Foundation , have been playing an instrumental role in the development and success of many startups in Qatar.
One of these startups, Qmunity Kenz, is steadily attracting the attention and interest of the community and, most notably, important players and stakeholders in the national entrepreneurial ecosystem, co-founder Leyla Mroueh told Gulf Times.
Only recently, QSTP has opened applications for cycle 13 of its XLR8 program . Applications will remain open until October 8, noted Mroueh, who encouraged interested entrepreneurs to take advantage of the opportunities that the program offers, including QR150,000 for this year’s winning team and a QR100,000 prize for the second place winner.
Gulf Times: What role has QSTP played in the development of Qmunity Kenz?
Mroueh: Qmunity Kenz is a grass roots initiative that was established to join the dots between people, ideas, and resources to contribute towards building a more connected, equitable, and sustainable community in Qatar and beyond. At the heart of our mission is our people-powered ‘time bank’ that offers a rewarding and enjoyable way to bring people together to share their skills, resources, and time.
QSTP played a valuable role in the development of Qmunity Kenz by helping us refine our thinking through the various modules that the program covers. Sessions ran for over six months with the Program Manager for Acceleration at QSTP, Mohammad Zebian at the helm and included focused workshops around customer validation, segmentation of our beneficiaries and stakeholders, and exploring models that could be considered for future revenue streams that would support us in being sustainable. The program also connects you to a mentor, and lucky for us, our mentor, Agata Braja, was an incredible guide with her wealth of knowledge and expertise in user experiences and brand building. We are thrilled to say that she remains a core part of our co-founding team to date!
So, having this kind of support, as well as the weekly schedule of after-work sessions that you sandbox in your day to focus on your idea was invaluable. It felt like having access to a ‘mind gym’, with weekly classes, after work hours, and some flexibility to have a chat during breaks or after sessions with fellow XLR8 attendees, mentors, and QSTP staff.
Applying the learnings from the after-work sessions into practice and sharing our findings was encouraged to help us test some of the assumptions we had and to find our early adopters and community champions that we wanted to play a role in the development of the time bank. In our case, we took a very analog approach to each step of our customer validation process by first, trying to ensure that every step of our process and development was made possible through time-banked hours (from our logo design to our pitch deck development) and second, by inviting people interested in the idea of a community, to gathering ideas related to time banking. People signed up via http://wearewhatweshare.com/.
One of the things that programs like XLR8 reinforces is the need to be agile, so when sandy weather conditions on the day of our gathering were challenging, we took a last-minute decision to run the session from two houses in a local compound. The results were fantastic and provided the kind of problem-solving and insight that money cannot buy.
We welcomed 36 people between ages of nine and 59 at the gathering in March 2022 where we co-defined our guiding principles and leveraged people’s views on ways that Qmunity Kenz and time banking could purposefully contribute to everyday life for people, families, and communities living and working in Qatar within social, educational, and healthcare settings and beyond. Eighty percent of people who were with us during the journey in March are still with us today. They are listed in our new platform qkenz.com as co-founders.
Given the objectives that the website described as a “grass roots initiative,” how can Qmunity Kenz complement QSTP’s efforts in developing Qatar’s startup ecosystem and advancing the growth of the country’s entrepreneurship culture?
Whilst the focus on Qatar is mostly on its GDP, financial wealth, and global ranking indices, it’s no secret that the social capital that sits within Qatar is one of the nation’s greatest assets, so we hope that we can make a small contribution to the country’s emerging startup scene by providing a platform that enables startups to access and engage with subject matter experts and end users from all walks of life, whilst also sharing their own skills.
Given how bootstrapped most startups are when they start their respective journeys, it is very common for people to swap and barter skills. However, the chance to connect with everyone – from branding and business experts to health coaches – in a measurable and equitable way has always been trickier as people need to use resources wisely, so hopefully, we can help startups address this matter as one hour of everyone’s time has the same value.
Considering QSTP’s commitment in hosting and organizing programs like XLR8, how can Qmunity Kenz help promote this initiative to encourage more entrepreneurs and startups to take advantage of this opportunity?
We are still in our early stages of building, so it will be interesting to learn how startups will respond to the idea of time banking. That said, Qmunity Kenz’s time bankers bring a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and listening ears that startups could use to test the waters or shape their ideas. You can plan and think and consider as much as you like but unless you build, test, and measure, it’s impossible to build a product or service. So, we hope time banking will give people who are interested in testing their ideas or building their projects, skills, or a simpler and manageable way to do that whilst growing their network and mapping the social capital that exists to support them.
As an alumnus of XLR8, we very much look forward to giving back to the QSTP program by contributing a number of time banked hours to support the next cycle of XLR8 participants in learning more about how they can tap the social capital around them to help them reach their goals.
What’s next for Qmunity Kenz and how can people get involved?
Research has shown that time banks have a really positive impact on the health and wellness of a community, so we are thrilled to be officially launching the platform to residents during ‘Doha Healthcare Week’ with our first phase pilot platform and English version of the site.
The joy of being involved in a grassroots initiative like Qmunity Kenz is that plans and priorities are shaped by the people and community that contribute to them, so at this early stage, we have a number of ‘Qmunity time bankers’ already featured on the platform who are ready to share their skills from health coaches and parenting advice sessions to personal development and coaching activities, and we look forward to welcoming many more community members who are interested in being a part of our sharing economy over the lifespan of this initiative.
Depending on Qmunity feedback, some of the areas we may explore include working with our community and partners to develop an Arabic version of the platform.
Advocacy and partnership around the use of time banking as a tool to complement existing activities are taking place. This includes exploring ways to integrate time banking into institutional volunteering or within everyday healthcare settings where time banking could be used as a tool for improving health and wellbeing through nonclinical or medical interventions in line with social prescribing practices that are emerging. Through our positive collaboration and membership of Time Banking UK we look forward to connecting with other time banks in places like India and the UK that are driving some great work in this space.
Supporting Qatar’s diverse thriving student population looking for opportunities to engage within their community is another area that we are exploring in line with our mission, so we are thrilled to be participating with some workshops in the up-and-coming ‘QF EDI Teaching and Learning Forum on October 9th 2022 . To find out more about Qmunity Kenz and how you can get involved, visit https://qkenz.com/ or email [email protected]
For more details about QSTP’s XLR8 program and to apply for this year’s cycle, visit https://qstp.org.qa/xlr8/