The Business Year

Lynn Zovighian


Social Innovation in the Middle East

Managing Director, The Zovighian Partnership


Lynn Zovighian is a peace and business builder. Prior to co-founding The Zovighian Partnership with her father, Lynn was a banker specialized in investment management for family offices and family succession. She has worked with her father in his construction trading conglomerate in special projects. Lynn was also a consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, serving as the expert on Middle East private wealth when the firm was first established in the GCC. She has an MBA from London Business School, a Bachelor of Arts in Political Studies with a concentration in International Relations, and a double minor in Islamic History and American Studies. Today, She is focusing her family’s social investing efforts to serve and protect minority groups at risk of extremist violence and sexual enslavement in the Middle East in partnership with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Lebanon.

“Our venture is about advancing a fortified and capable community of philanthropists and humanitarians.“

With The Zovighian Partnership, you focus on social innovation and social investing in the Middle East. Could you tell us more about your organization and your vision for the region?

The Zovighian Partnership is a family-owned venture that I co-founded with my father almost five years ago. I believe that our Middle East is a lot more fundamentally capable of stability and prosperity than what meets the eye, but we do not do enough to set the stage for its success. Growth in our region is largely led by government as the largest public investor, as well as champions in the private and third sector. But there is a serious need for other socio-economic forces to join the ranks of nation-building. Our venture is about advancing a fortified and capable community of philanthropists and humanitarians, social and impact investors, and social entrepreneurs to serve our region.

Thus far, the Partnership has already worked on several commissioned projects and missions, all in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and you have your own impact portfolio called the Peace Collection. How have you developed your model to bring stakeholders together and to initiate such projects?

It has been a journey of building a venture with significant expertise in the design and administering of strategic social impact, creating proprietary evidence-building methodologies based on scientific research, designing prototyping tools to pre-launch impact missions and stress-test their viability, as well as building long-term management capabilities to run impact missions and portfolios. You can only imagine what is learned. You learn how crucial risk taking and risk management is, and the very few ways to get it right. You learn how to not allow for the mismanagement and wastage of philanthropic capital and humanitarian budgets. You learn how to serve in solidarity and partnership. National leaders and active citizens have commissioned us to take this knowledge and capabilities to build and manage a growing portfolio of impact missions in the Kingdom. All these missions are transformative for the community, sustainability, and state institutions.

Under Vision 2030, the Kingdom is aiming for a comprehensive economic diversification agenda, attracting investments in new sectors like sports, culture and entertainment, while opening up more to internationalization. How do you view all this from a social investment lens?

The energy, mindset, and transformation we are seeing, and have been a part of, is absolutely wonderful and so crucial. A prosperous Kingdom is a key prerequisite for a thriving Middle East. Vision 2030 is the patron of new mediums for building the nation. Vision 2030 is asking us to be participatory and inclusive, to not limit the boundaries of the imagination, and to put the people first for a prosperous future. Creating socio-economic capacity for growth in new sectors is absolutely spot on. These new sectors are welcoming the participation of local talent and champions. They are creating mechanisms for stronger partnerships with the international community. And they are capacity-building a new infrastructure supported by thoughtful regulations. This is what every country in the Arab World needs.

The royal decree allowing women to drive is widely considered to empower more female participation in labor market. What should be done to support this trajectory and continue to empower women — and does Saudi Arabia compare in a regional perspective? What have been the challenges in your successful business career?

The royal decree for women to drive was a powerful milestone, and its pulsating energy and ripple effects on the country are still in its early stages. The Kingdom has switched on a new and formidable economic engine by equipping a significant workforce with mobility. At a regional level, I do not see another country investing so heavily and consistently in its women and society-at-large like Saudi Arabia is doing today. Our clients and fellow social investors are embracing this economic might. I would have loved to see the international community rally in parallel with strong support and encouragement. My biggest challenge today is getting a global audience to listen with the intention of learning and understanding what Saudi Arabia is truly about.

What are your primary ambitions for the coming years? What would be your message to aspiring business owners, social entrepreneurs, and philanthropists in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, and elsewhere?

My ambition is to continue to thoughtfully invest in furthering sustainable mechanisms for the building of prosperous nations and societies in our region. Data is at the core of this decision-making journey; we are looking forward to a further wave of investment in scientific research and methodologies that we can call Made in the Middle East. I hope to continue to align my business-building and peace-building worlds together, and help demonstrate the incredibly important roles and responsibilities that businesses have towards their communities and countries. My message would be to embrace the opportunities of tomorrow’s Middle East today; we all have a responsibility to identify how we can best serve the region, and there is no time like the present to invest for tomorrow.



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