Bridging real-life learning and evidence-based policy: AUC labor economics course commemorated for lifelong learning in collaboration with Sawiris Foundation.

Published on Tue, 10 Jan, 2023

As Sawiris Foundation for Social Development (SFSD) endorses effective altruism as a philosophy, the link between our work and academia is closer than ever. As an evidence-based organization, we constantly venture into innovative learning environments in search of fresh answers to one of the country’s most pressing challenges, while equipping future leaders with evidence-based policy making tools and methods. It is therefore important for us that students, being the future generations of researchers and policymakers, to be familiarized with our processes and philosophy as an attempt to demonstrate how research contributes to decisions and policies. That being said, last spring, on the backdrop of the Egyptian year of civil society, The Learning & Strategy Department collaborated with The American University in Cairo (AUC) Economics Department and the AUC center for Learning & Teaching (CLT) on a community-based learning workshop. This pilot collaboration is designed to bridge science and evidence generation on one hand, to policy dialogues and policy making on the other.

The project focused on conducting research on youth unemployment, being one of SFSD’s strategic priorities and a problem that undergraduate students experience upon graduation. It is easy nowadays, with the huge amounts of information and modernized scientific methods, to assume that we know enough about a certain social or economic phenomenon. However, as challenges compound and pressures felt, it becomes evident what we know for sure works and what are merely well articulated assumptions. It was therefore important to showcase the process that we go through when choosing our strategic priorities as a foundation.

Population growth, a compounding pressure in Egypt is developing with its unique set of challenges and opportunities alike, one of the most salient is the state of employment, or lack thereof, of decent jobs for the wave of youth entering the labor market in the future. This makes youth unemployment one of the most complex challenges facing Egyptian demographics, its people, the labor market, and governing entities. With a growing population which has reached 104 million by the end of 2022 [1] of mostly young citizens, this brewing socioeconomic phenomenon, was also coined as the “youth bulge” [2], where approximately 60% of the population now is under the age of 30, and 40% is between the ages of 10 and 29, and an influx of labor supply is expected by 2030 to 2050. [3]

Community Based Learning (CBL): is a teaching strategy that bridges academic theory and real-world practice. CBL promotes students’ academic learning and civic development while simultaneously addressing real world problems, community needs and interests. It is characterized by its emphasis on reciprocity and collaboration with community stakeholders.[4]

After two years of COVID19, two labor economics sections and forty-four (44) students of AUC School of Business in their CBL contributed to Sawiris Foundation for Social Development (SFSD) research and policy agenda, producing a comprehensive report on Youth (Un)employment in Egypt. Students (11 groups) worked in groups of (3-4 students each) and were instructed to either generate primary data or research secondary data & evidence from rigorously conducted impact evaluations and peer reviewed papers, to produce their corresponding section. Furthermore, students were asked to produce a blog that summarizes findings and lessons of their section, with a winning blog to be further developed & circulated as an advocacy tool, asserting the importance of generation and also advocacy of science.

This CBL project produced conclusions and recommendations delivered through a design thinking workshop on Youth Unemployment.  Research was conducted by the students whom worked in groups on youth unemployment as an overarching theme addressing labor market demand and supply interventions at the global and national levels, analyzing the problem, and looking into future of work trends such as climate change and automation.

Design Thinking: is a non-linear, iterative process that teams use to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test. Involving five phases—Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test—it is most useful to tackle problems that are ill-defined or unknown.[5]

Through this five-hour design thinking workshop led and facilitated by AUC (CLT), students along with Patricia Samman and Adham Hamdy from the Learning & Strategy Department at the Foundation, unpacked their research results and came up with recommendations in line with the Foundation’s strategic priorities while realizing AUC School of Business core value of responsible citizenship. The existing research now serves as material for the foundation to make decisions regarding the potential expansion of this program and guides us as to where and what should be the areas of focus according to the proven need in the Egyptian community.

Leading this innovative learning experience is Dr. Amal Mowafy & Dr. Dina Abdel Fattah and their amazing team of Teacher Assistants, whom we owe gratitude for inviting us into their learning spaces.  A specially directed appreciation goes to the marvelous efforts of Dr. Hoda Mostafa Director of CLT at AUC and CLT’s outstanding team of workshop implementers, for bringing out and crystalizing findings from the student’s minds and research.

To commemorate this achievement, The "Community-based learning ECON 3071" course was a runner-up for the Best Lifelong Learning Initiative Award at the Association of MBAs & Business Graduates Association Excellence Awards 2022/23, which we are very proud to have participated in this success.

The Workshop featured the closing remarks of Mr. Ahmed El Banhawy, Program Manager, Economic Empowerment Department at Sawiris Foundation where he highlighted the importance of innovative labor market solutions to address this issue, while stressing on the importance of evidence and information generation and availability to ensure a healthy working economy for the incoming surge of labor market entries.

In conjunction, Sawiris foundation is on the forefronts of advocating for and mobilizing the creation of decent jobs through a number of economic empowerment projects and technical learning endeavors. We would like to reiterate our commitment towards Learning, evidence generation and better employment promotion programs. More so, we invite our implementing and collaborating partners to constantly endorse the value of learning. At Sawiris Foundation we are proud to have contributed to this achievement towards doing good better, knowing more and being a step closer to civic spaces supported by data, evidence and science.

[1] Dynamic TVET Country Profiles (

[2] Ragui Assaad (2022): Beware of the echo: the evolution of Egypt’s population and labor force from 2000 to 2050, Middle East Development Journal, DOI: 10.1080/17938120.2021.2007649 

[3] Survey of Young People in Egypt | Population Council (

[4] John S. Kendall Center for Engaged Learning

[5] What is Design Thinking? | IxDF (


Adham Hamdy

Adham is the Learning & Innovations Officer and has been at SFSD since 2021. Adham Represented Sawiris Foundation during COP27 (Nov. 2022) and completed a successful secondment assignment to Ministry of Social Solidarity during the same period. Previously, Adham consulted on reform of G2B services delivery for the EBRD. Is an alumnus of the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Initiative DEDI and worked at the Egyptian National Competitiveness Council (ENCC). Adham Graduated in 2020 with an MA is Social & Political Thought from University of Sussex, UK, and holds a Bachelors of Arts in Political Sciences from the American University in Cairo in 2015 and is a strong advocate for ecological/circular economic policy and socioeconomic solidarity, inclusion and equality. ( )

Patricia Samman

Patricia is a young strategy and research assistant in SFSD. She studied her Bachelors in Management of International Social Sciences at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. Patricia has led and assisted several projects focused on child development as a volunteer and intern. She has also previously taken part in consultancy projects focusing on Social Behavioral Communication for Change.