RAIN Wins U.S. State Department Grant to Advance Gender Equity at University Incubation Centers in Pakistan

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The Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network (RAIN) is pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with three Pakistani universities to support gender equity at their incubation centers. The project aims to build a regional inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports Pakistani women entrepreneurs, boosts capacity at existing incubators to serve more women, and develops the first all-women business incubator at Pakistan’s first all-women university, Fatima Jinnah Women University.

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RAIN Wins U.S. State Department Grant to Advance Gender Equity at University Incubation Centers in Pakistan

Fatima Jinnah Women University is very excited to be part of this collaboration with RAIN in developing an all-women incubation center at the university. This initiative will promote entrepreneurial culture and will empower female entrepreneur students to realize their full potential.

The Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network (RAIN) is pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with three Pakistani universities – Bahria University (Islamabad) Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South University (Islamabad), and Fatima Jinnah Women University (Rawalpindi) – to support gender equity at their incubation centers. The project, which began in September 2022, is funded over a two-year period by the Department of State Embassy of the U.S. in Islamabad. It aims to build a regional inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports Pakistani women entrepreneurs, boosts capacity at existing incubators to serve more women, and develops the first all-women business incubator at Pakistan’s first all-women university, Fatima Jinnah Women University.

“I want to thank our Pakistani university partners for inviting RAIN—from across the globe—to help accelerate women entrepreneurship in Pakistan. I also want to thank our funders for recognizing the potential for this partnership to build a thriving, inclusive, and sustainable regional entrepreneurial ecosystem that aims to reduce barriers to starting a business, accelerate women entrepreneurship in Pakistan, build a more diverse Pakistani workforce, and connect Pakistani women entrepreneurs and university faculty to U.S. entrepreneurial experts and resources,” said RAIN’s CEO, Caroline Cummings.

“Fatima Jinnah Women University is very excited to be part of this collaboration with RAIN in developing an all women incubation center at the university. This initiative will promote entrepreneurial culture in the university and will empower female entrepreneur students to realize their full potential. FJWU is at the forefront of providing not only quality education but also enhancing opportunities for employability, whether self or otherwise,” stated Dr. Saima Hamid, Vice Chancellor of Fatima Jinnah Women University.

In collaboration with its university partners in Pakistan, RAIN designed an innovative program to address the particular needs of Pakistani women entrepreneurs through its proven model for building best practices for inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems and community-informed programming (not only for incubator spaces, but also for mentor networks), access to capital, and educational opportunities that are designed based on the needs of the entrepreneurs in a given territory. RAIN will train Pakistani university partners on its investigative-not-prescriptive model and how to embrace inclusive entrepreneur-led programming.

“RAIN’s proposal stood out for its competitive activities and the opportunities it offers to connect emerging Pakistani women entrepreneurs with American mentors and investors, while linking relevant Pakistani faculty with their counterparts in the U.S.” stated Public Diplomacy Officer, U.S. Embassy, Islamabad, Juan German. “Since 2012, the U.S. Mission in Pakistan has continued to support the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, and recently many Pakistani entrepreneurs have attracted international investors,” explained Juan. “Last year, Pakistani startups raised more than $300 million in investments, more than the prior five years combined. However, according to the World Bank, just one percent of entrepreneurs in Pakistan are women. Through this project, we hope to address the vast gender imbalance in the Pakistani entrepreneurship sector and foster an inclusive environment for Pakistani women-owned businesses.”

Part of this project includes an exchange program, where 30 Pakistani women entrepreneurs and 4 University faculty will travel to Oregon over the next two summers to meet with University of Oregon faculty, women entrepreneurs and investors from around the state, and tour accelerator programs hosted by RAIN’s ecosystem partners.

While this is RAIN’s first international project, the organization is well suited to support the advancement of women entrepreneurs and incubators in Pakistan:

  • RAIN has found great success implementing its entrepreneurial development program to support underserved and underrepresented entrepreneurs in 30 rural cities across five Oregon counties since 2014. Through these initiatives, RAIN has assisted close to 2,000 entrepreneurs (64% women) and incubated nearly 400 entrepreneurs (68% women and 22% BIPOC).
  • RAIN raised $5.4M from the State of Oregon to help create and scale two regional incubator/accelerator spaces and programs— one at the University of Oregon in Eugene, OR called The Innovation Hub and one at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR called The Advantage Accelerator. Those programs have incubated hundreds of startups.
  • RAIN does not maintain an office, so its distributed team has always collaborated remotely. The organization has excelled at building and maintaining strong public-private partnerships with economic development organizations, academic institutions, governments, foundations, and other stakeholders from throughout the U.S.
  • As part of a previous federal grant, RAIN’s CEO, Caroline Cummings, was invited by the University of Oregon to travel to Islamabad and Gilgit-Baltistan in September 2019 to mentor women entrepreneurs at Karakoram International University’s (KIU) Incubation Center, women MBA students from various universities in Islamabad, and women entrepreneurs from the Swat Valley. RAIN has maintained its connection and support of these efforts to advance women entrepreneurship in Pakistan ever since.
  • While visiting Pakistan, Caroline met and began mentoring a Pakistani woman entrepreneur named Aqsa Khan, who since moved to the U.S., received her Master’s Degree in City/Urban Community & Regional Planning from the University of Oregon, and was hired by RAIN to serve as a Venture Catalyst (Entrepreneurial Ecosystem-Builder) for Rural Lane County. Aqsa will serve as RAIN’s Pakistan Project Manager and she is excited to return to Islamabad to help share the knowledge and experience she has gained as an entrepreneur and member of RAIN’s team and ecosystem of partners.

To receive the latest news and updates on the RAIN Pakistan Project, sign up for the RAIN newsletter at: https://raincatalysts.org/newsletter

Contact: Matt Hollander, PR Lead for RAIN - matt@oregonrain.org

About RAIN: RAIN (Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network) is a 501(c)(3) global non-profit organization that is run by experienced entrepreneurs and exists to reduce barriers to entrepreneurship and innovation. Since 2014, RAIN has been invited to serve 30 cities across five counties in Oregon to help them build inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems and innovation economies. As of September 2022, RAIN has been invited to serve Skagit County, Washington’s rural entrepreneurial communities, as well as help advance women entrepreneurship in Islamabad/Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

RAIN’s Mission: To partner with communities to catalyze inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems, connect entrepreneurs to resources—including overlooked entrepreneurs—and contribute to the creation of prosperous economies.

RAIN’s Vision: Communities support, value, and celebrate entrepreneurs; regional leaders recognize entrepreneurs are a primary creator of net new jobs; small and rural communities have thriving economies; and a culture of possibilities is embraced. Visit http://www.oregonrain.org to learn more.

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