12 October 2016
From Cairo to Capital Hill: Alexis Taylor’s Experience as a 2016 Gabr Fellow
by Alexis Taylor
This past month, 3 Day Startup had the honor of having one of our team members selected for the 2016 East-West: The Art of Dialogue Fellowship. Alexis Taylor joined 21 American, Egyptian, and Lebanese fellows as a part of this initiative developed by Mr. Shafik Gabr Chairman and Managing Director of the Egyptian investment and development group called ARTOC. Chairman Gabr knows that non-governmental organizations can positively impact societies, which is why he formed this program to “provide opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders to create a meaningful impact on the lives of others within our increasingly globalized community.” Chairman Gabr, developed this fellowship as a tool to have citizens from different cultures and backgrounds come together to make change and work towards peace, greater international empathy, and cross-cultural understanding. These fellows came with backgrounds ranging from entrepreneurship to art to politics.
After rising from a pool of 600 applicants and progressing through a four step interview process, Taylor embarked on 2 exchange programs (one in Cairo and one in D.C. and New York) that cumulatively lasted approximately 20 days. In these 20 days, Taylor met with Egyptian and American entrepreneurs, educators, policymakers, and nonprofit leaders.
Though schedule was packed and the program intense, Taylor says that this experience has been one of the most valuable in her life. “It really pushed me out of my comfort zone…and I learned what it felt like to really be pushed to my limit as far as taking in information and trying to process what can be done to problem solve or make an impact.”
For Taylor, part of that impact meant a Egypt-US Startup Exchange that seeks to help solve the problem of youth unemployment in Egypt.
This problem is a particularly important one for Taylor because it represents how 3DS can do more to help engage students in a manner that creates outsized change in their communities. And it extends beyond just Egypt. “Through our 3DS lens it can seem — particularly from the outside — like we treat all entrepreneurs as the same [in temperament and practice]. But so many entrepreneurship ecosystems in the world — including some in the United States — have challenges with teamwork, they don’t have the same embedded pressure and culture for creative thinking, and they don’t have as high tolerance for risk taking because they are afraid of failure. It’s really important for us to remember that not everywhere is like Austin.” For Taylor, this means that we at 3DS need to work harder at trying to understand those underlying barriers and apprehension so that we can make the most impact possible in those communities with our programs.
I really came away with an understanding of how important it is for me to understand global issues, geopolitical issues, and politics. I think I know now that I really need to be plugged-in to our diplomatic relations and what we are doing. – Alexis Taylor
But what gives Taylor and the rest of us at 3 Day Startup hope is the work she saw being done to support early stage entrepreneurs. She remarks, “They are really trying to do a lot of community engagement and get people involved.” Seeing these things first hand, Taylor says, gave her a much better understanding for the difficulties and triumphs of Egyptian entrepreneurship initiatives.
“You just get such a different perspective, being there…I went in with no expectations for what I would see or experience, I tried to just go in with a blank slate. But just seeing the country and interacting with all of the different fellows, I learned a lot. About being a woman in Egypt, about wearing a Hijab, what they do on the weekends, and what their vision is for their own country. But even though many of their experiences were different, I really experiences a feeling of sameness and connectedness.”
For Taylor, seeing the beauty and entrepreneurial aspirations that her Egyptian fellows and and the incredible people she met during the fellowship would have a lasting impact on how she would approach entrepreneurship education in different countries or cultures. “I really came away with an understanding of how important it is for me to understand global issues, geopolitical issues, and politics. I think I know now that I really need to be plugged-in to our diplomatic relations and what we are doing.”
This understanding helped to shape Taylor’s perspective on her personal interactions with people, the work that 3DS can do as an organization, and international diplomacy at large.
“For 3DS,” Taylor says, “it really underlined for me how important the fact that we tune and calibrate our programs to suit different communities and ecosystems is. And having experiences like the Gabr fellowship can help us be more purposeful in how we do that and give us a greater understanding of different cultures, situations, and ways of doing things. The more we develop this knowledge, the greater our impact can actually be.”
Because, more than anything else, what Taylor took away from the Gabr fellowship was that we live in an incredibly interconnected world. Everything that we do as a country and as a society makes an impact that extends outward, beyond ourselves. Taylor emphasizes that the fellowship helped her discover how “we need to understand to world in a holistic way. The more we do this, the better work we can do as people, as a company, and as a part of this global community.”
Alexis Taylor is a Program Manager and Facilitator at 3 Day Startup. We are so proud of her acceptance to this Fellowship and her continued dedication to spreading entrepreneurship to schools and communities across the world.