The „Dialogue on Social Innovation (DSI)” is a series of talks jointly organized by the Cairo offices of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Freie Universität Berlin, and the Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB). This series takes place at the DAAD Cairo premises.

Two lectures were held in the last months under the DSI series:

  1. “Social Innovation as a Derivative of Scarcity of Resources: Cases from “Rural” and “Urban” Areas in Egypt”- September 21st

Two young female candidates awarded a master’s in Integrated Urbanism and Sustainable Design (IUSD) from Stuttgart University, Germany and Ain Shams University presented their M.Sc. theses during the event.

On one hand Dina Mahdy shed light on the case of Basaisa rural village in Sharkeya governorate that was promoted to be a model due to its transformation and development to form a twin new community in the desert of south Sinai as the new Basaisa village. On the other hand Franziska Laue’s focused on the coping mechanisms that were undertaken in a low-income Cairene neighborhood to facilitate relief from extreme heat, highlighting potentials to develop adaptive capacities and pointing out the role of awareness in this process. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Mohamed Salheen, Prof. of Integrated Planning & Design, Director of IUSD – Ain Shams University.

  1. “Global Health in the local context: From Alma Ata to Sustainable Development Goals”- 18th of October

What are the characteristics of a good health system? What conditions do we need to establish such a system? What is public health? Which local problems concerning health are we facing in Egypt? And how can we find local solutions for them? These were the main topics of the DSI talks of Dr. Olaf Horstick, Director of the Teaching Unit at the Institute of Public Health (University of Heidelberg, Germany) and Dr. Mostafa Hunter (Faculty of Medicine Cairo University).

“Basically it is two things a good health system needs to fulfill” – said Dr. Olaf Horstick: “First it needs to provide medicine and medical care in a way that every person can reach it – irrespectively of factors like gender, religion, income or age. And secondly it needs to ensure the financing of the medical treatment for everybody.” In his talk he explained furthermore that two factors are decisive for establishing a good health system: There has to be political will to do it and there has to be a budget for it. After Dr. Horsticks introductionary talk, Dr. Mostafa Hunter described the situation in Egypt. “Concerning health Egypt faces special difficulties” – he explained. “One of the biggest challenges is the rapidly increasing population” – so Mr. Hunter. Another major challenge is the fragmented character of Egypt’s health care system that is catered to by different players with different needs and agendas. “Nevertheless, the situation in Egypt is challenging but far away from hopeless”, Mr. Hunter explained. “The Egyptian health workers are highly qualified and the population is mostly young – these are the ressources we have to use.”

Health is a global topic but it needs local solutions

In the lively discussion following the talk the main topic was how to find solutions for the challenging situation in Egypt. “Health is a global target but we always need a situation that fits to the local situation”, explained Mr. Hunter. “Imagine a small fishing village where many people are suffering from malaria. Now this village gets a donation of mosquito nets from one of the Western countries. What happens? The people do not use the nets for protecting themselves but for fishing.” In the situation of the fishermen, it was totally logical to use the nets for fishing. “Because you always care about food first”, Mr. Hunter explains. And that is why Egypt cannot just import a health system from another country like the mosquito nets. The challenge is to establish a health system that fits to Egypt. “We have to look for innovation”, said Mr. Hunter. “And innovation is only possible if there is a social discourse on the topic – we need debates like the one we just experienced in the framework of Dialogue on Social Innovation…”