x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Young Emiratis help build a buzz about Dubai’s Expo 2020 bid

Less than two weeks before the winner is announced, a team from Emirati-run social media group Think Up remains committed to spreading the message of Dubai as the destination for the world fair.

Saleh Al Braik, founder of Emirati-run social-media group Think Up, which is committed to promoting Dubai as the ideal candidate to host Expo 2020. Jaime Puebla / The National
Saleh Al Braik, founder of Emirati-run social-media group Think Up, which is committed to promoting Dubai as the ideal candidate to host Expo 2020. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // A group of young Emiratis has given up their time to help drum up support for Dubai’s Expo 2020 bid.

Taking time off from full-time jobs and university studies, they worked backstage during last month’s visit of the Expo 2020 organising committee, frantically tweeting, texting and uploading photographs.

With less than two weeks before the winner is announced, a team from an Emirati-run social-media group, Think Up, remains committed to spreading the message that Dubai is the ideal destination for the world fair.

“We were approached to create a buzz during the symposium and we wanted to make sure the news trends on social media,” said Saleh Al Braik, Think Up’s founder.

“The tactic we used is that we made a lot of noise. We wanted the competition to know that Dubai is in it to win it.

“We also took this up because whether you are born and raised here or have recently moved in, the Expo 2020 is turning from being something unrelated to something that fills you up with pride.”

The #Expo2020 hashtag, offering a constant stream of information about Dubai’s bid, was in the top 10 trending list during the visit of 250 representatives of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) from October 20 to 24.

The emirate was the final candidate to present its theme, “Connecting Minds, Building the Future” after Yekaterinburg, Russia; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Izmir, Turkey.

The winning city will be declared after a vote by the BIE general assembly in Paris on November 27.

At the symposium, national and international experts spoke about energy conservation, mobility and collaboration.

Mr Al Braik’s team of 12 uploaded pictures on Instagram, jotted notes, translated quotes and tweeted in both Arabic and English.

“Dubai is the loudest on social media, it is the most interactive,” said Mr Al Braik, 25, a financial strategist at Dubai Aluminium Company (Dubal).

“It is the young we need to reach out to because the youth today will be the business leaders and heads of companies in 2020. They will be the face of the country when the Expo comes here.

“We want to reach out to not just nationals but all 200 nationalities – this will continue to be our plan.”

Think Up has a database of thousands of contacts and about 1,000 active members. Most of the team involved with the Expo symposium declined to accept payment for their work.

“They said, ‘It is my country, my duty, if I don’t do this, who would?’,” said Mr Al Braik.

The excitement has not ebbed for Think Up’s project manager, Sahar Al Awadi, 23, a business performance analyst with Dubal.

“It was thrilling because not only were we supporting our country, but it was a huge honour for them [the organisers] to trust us to get the information out,” she said.

“It was very inspirational for me as a young girl to see young women leaders speak and to see UAE leaders talk about their vision – it was a matter of pride.

“The speakers talked about how the purpose of the Expo is to bring diverse cultures together and support creative innovation.”

Rashid Al Turki, 20, a university student, said it was important to keep the dialogue alive.

“Hosting the Expo is a dream not just of locals, but one that everyone would like to achieve,” he said.

“All we can do right now is keep working on it until the time of the vote. We must keep social media active and keep people talking about Dubai.

“Tweeting is the simplest and the most effective thing you can do every day.”

For Eman Al Awadhi, the campaign is a learning experience.

“Everyone talks about Expo 2020 but not everyone has the full picture and I too didn’t have much idea what was going on,” said Ms Al Awadhi, 28, who works for telecoms firm du in the information security sector.

“The symposium gave me the whole picture that it’s about innovation and technology. Now I keep thinking about how new things will be built and how generations will say that change happened because of this.”

rtalwar@thenational.ae