Cool workspaces: Youth, Entrepreneurial Skills, and Economic Crisis in Oman

Authors: Feras Klenk*,
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural Geography, Middle East
Keywords: Entrepreneurship, Middle East, Neoliberalism, Freedom, Political Geography, Economic Geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 10, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper is part of a dissertation project that examines how the global discourse on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial culture is taken up and promoted in Oman, specifically in the capital Muscat as a response to economic crisis and austerity measures. With low oil prices, looming budget deficits, and a saturated public sector, discussions about change have become more urgent and centered on skill building, work ethics, government reform, and accountability. This process began in 2013 when Sultan Qaboos gave an important speech that emphasized the significance of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs to Oman’s economic and social development. Since, then with variable degrees of success, an entire infrastructure has slowly emerged to help nurture, guide, and develop aspiring Omani entrepreneurs. In this paper, I examine the case of Al-Rudha (The Lounge), a private platform that offers workspace to aspiring entrepreneurs and startups in a cool and stylish setting, to network, but also to “chill” and “relax” with fellow Al-Rudha members. Framed as "giving back to the community and youth," the business also carries out workshops where members can learn new work skills useful for starting a business or work in the private sector. I argue that spaces like Al-Rudha that are seen as “cool” are sites for the cultivation of an entrepreneurial ethos and practices. It appeals to a new generation eager for a new lifestyle and type of work, juxtaposed, as it were, to “older” styles of work in the public sector in Oman.

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