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Tam is a public interest initiative registered in Saudi Arabia as a limited liability company. Its activities focus on transforming social problems and challenges in the Arab world into competitive opportunities, encouraging local talents to engage in the discovery of solutions. Tam’s team is committed to making a social impact, while maintaining a high standard of professionalism and quality – the very characteristics for which Tam has received national and international recognition. Abdullah Alyoussef, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tam, shared the story behind the development of the initiative, and talked about Tam’s work and achievements, in a discussion summarized by AGSIW.
AGSIW: Where did the idea for Tam come from?
Abdullah: The initial idea started back in 2011, when the co-founders and I were studying in Canada. Rawaa Bakhsh, Salem Bamakhrama, Omar Aljuraisi, Abdullah Aldammak, and I shared the concern of helping the Arab community to develop more in education, health, economy, and different professional fields. Relying on our personal experience of being engaged in the Arab intellectual sphere where social and economic challenges are discussed, we concluded that we, as Arab individuals, talk about problems more than we talk about solutions, and that was what sparked the initial idea that later developed into establishing Tam.
The initial idea was to co-author a book about the 20 percent key challenges in different fields, which if solved, would impact 80 percent of the people in the Arab world. For example, if a doctor wants to help improve the medical field, what are the challenges that he or she has to take on and overcome in order to develop the medical field.
AGSIW: How did the shift of the idea happen? And what was the new idea?
Abdullah: Our take on the idea of the book was that a book would be static. We realized that if we write a book, we would not be able to update it or make changes to it, unless we publish an updated version every year or two. To avoid this problem, we decided to create a website instead.
At the beginning, when we were still in Canada, we planned to launch Tam as a nonprofit organization, but going through the fundraising process as well as the legal process, we decided to register Tam as an LLC. Having our project as an LLC made more sense to us putting into consideration the immature civil society environment in Saudi Arabia, so an LLC would function more efficiently, especially with regard to resource management and suitability.
After I graduated and returned to Saudi Arabia, I started to work officially with Tam and started to recruit people. The website was supposed to be a social network platform where social challenges are presented, then people can submit ideas for projects or products to undertake these challenges. We launched this platform on October 2012 and called it Tam Hub. According to a program schedule, we started to post social challenges to receive ideas and projects to undertake these challenges. Even though the platform got the attention from so many people, the ideas and projects we received were way below our expectations. Therefore, we decided to develop the presentation of the challenges into a competition to attract the best of ideas and projects, to push people to develop more their ideas and projects.
AGSIW: What was your first competition?
Abdullah: It was an education-related competition called Ehsan Edu Award. The key challenge of the Ehsan Edu Award was “how to make students more passionate about learning.” We approached Ahmad Al-Shugairi, to have his production company, Aram, as a media sponsor, the Ministry of Education to be our honorary sponsor, and the Nabah company as a financial sponsor for this competition. Upon the launch of the competition, we attracted over three million people to our online platform to vote for the nominated projects and ideas. It was a phenomenon back in 2013, when such online interactive activities were unfamiliar in the Arab world.
AGSIW: Can you tell us about other successes of Tam?
Abdullah: After our success in Ehsan Edu Award, other ministries and major companies started to approach us to organize similar programs for them. Being in that unexpected situation, we decided to reposition our company to specialize in creating competitive programs with a social focus. We have worked with Saudi Aramco, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Economy and Planning, King Salman Youth Center, and other government and business institutions.
We grew from only four team members to two branches, in Jeddah and in Khobar, and soon officially in Dubai, where we are already operating. We have organized over 25 different programs under our new specialty. The number of visits to our online platforms have reached 50 million and the number of members is over 1.5 million. We have been very successful on both levels, financially and also with regard to the social impact, which is the core mission of our company.
AGSIW: What is the particular work that you do when organizing these competitive programs?
Abdullah: We do four things: We develop the concepts and the ideas to create competition programs; we create online platforms to manage the competition process, including the nomination and voting process, as well as the events where the awards are announced; we explore marketing ideas to engage the public in the competitions; and we administer the evaluation process such as reviewing the applications and filtering them.
AGSIW: How do you measure your success?
Abdullah: We have adopted three success indicators: the number of people we reach (visits to our online platforms); the number of people attracted to participate in the competitions; and the number of people engaged with the competitions (people who vote and comment).
Again, we are pretty satisfied with our performance so far.
AGSIW: On Tam’s website, we can see that Tam has received three international awards; could you tell us more about these awards?
Abdullah: We have received the World Summit Award for 2013, which is an award that was created in alignment with the introduction of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. We were selected for the award on empowerment and inclusion among 500 other initiatives from different parts of the world. The second award was the International Star for Quality for 2014, and the last one was the Bizz Award for 2015, which is an international business award that aims to recognize business excellence worldwide.
AGSIW: What are the values that Tam maintains?
Abdullah: The values that Tam holds are social contribution, social empowerment, and quality. We try to make sure to have these values on mind in our work, as well as when we recruit and promote our employees. Self-growth is a very important concept that we value as well. It is important for us to work constantly on developing the team intellectually and in the specific skills needed for different positions.
For more information visit Tam’s website.
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