Six social enterprises from around the world have been chosen by Abu Dhabi’s Ma’an to participate in its first accelerator program, which will focus on increasing access to mental health services in the Emirate.
The inaugural cohort is all mental health initiatives, a social priority established earlier this year by the government of Abu Dhabi in response to the growing need for local initiatives to help negate COVID-19’s social impact.
“The launch of the accelerator program signifies Ma’an’s commitment to benefitting Abu Dhabi’s community through empowering social enterprises in the emirate, encouraging Abu Dhabi’s third sector and addressing key social priorities,” Salama Al Ameemi, director general of Ma’an, said.
Spike in demand due to COVID-19
Unprecedented demand for mental healthcare has been experienced by communities around the world, spurring interest in ventures focused on supporting existing services.
The demand for counselling through tele-health services increased during the pandemic in the UAE, according to health authorities. According to data shared ahead of World Mental Health Day in October, the number of individual counselling sessions reached around 5,600 from April to October.
The six ventures are being provided with office space and license registration at ADGM, Abu Dhabi’s financial free zone, as well as one-on-one mentorship and coaching through Plug and Play ADGM, and introductions to potential customers and investors.
In support of the cohort’s theme of mental health, Ma’an will also provide market information and access to a network of industry experts and government bodies, including major healthcare providers and insurers.
One of the program’s objectives is to attract impactful global social social enterprises to operate in the emirate, to increase the number of legally licensed social enterprises in Abu Dhabi and to enhance cooperation through engagement and new contracts between private, public and so-called ‘third sector’ entities.
Participants include Healium, a US company that tracks well-being using virtual reality goggles. The device tracks brain activity and, when under stress, allows users to self-regulate brain patterns. Users pay for a subscription service, which is seen as a drug-less solution to mental health issues.
Also taking part is Australia’s Tali. The company created a kind of therapy via an online game to test and treat attention deficit disorder in kids. The technology was patented in the US and Japan and has thousands of users in Australia. Some 136 million children are understood to have the condition, with Tali a non-medicinal approach to tackle a global issue.
Ma’an’s new program was introduced via an online orientation day earlier this month and will conclude during a demo day in March where the companies will demonstrate their progress in developing applications for the Abu Dhabi market.
Ma’an was established in February 2019 under the Ghadan 21 stimulus fund by the Department of Community Development.