Co-created in 2017 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Citi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Citibank N.A., the Youth Co:Lab initiative aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth, in order to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs through leadership, entrepreneurship and social innovation.
With Pakistan being a key region for the program, Youth Co: Lab, in collaboration with UNDP Pakistan, along with its execution partner DEMO, trained entrepreneurs in a National SDG Bootcamp that ran from 7th – 10th January 2019, followed by the SDG Changemakers Summit that took place on 11th January 2019. Over the course of five days, young entrepreneurs received mentorship and support from experts to develop game-changing social ventures with the potential to tackle Pakistan’s complex development challenges.
Pakistan is a young country with more than 29% of its population between the age of 15-29 years. Pakistan’s ‘youth bulge’ offers unique opportunities for the country’s social and economic uplift. It is essential to create pathways for the economic and social empowerment of youth through innovative means, including mentoring and supporting young entrepreneurs so that they can become a part of the solution.
The SDG Bootcamp was an intensive four-day workshop for 20 young changemakers led by leading experts in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, that aimed at training entrepreneurs to develop their innovative products and services to accelerate social impact. The four-day Bootcamp held talks from the country’s best entrepreneurs such as Muneeb Maayr and Sarah Khurrum and a series of workshops on Leadership training, Social Innovation, Design Thinking, Financial Modeling, Pitching, Industry Linkages, Marketing and Branding Strategies.
The Bootcamp was followed by the SDG Changemakers Summit 2019. The Summit brought together key stakeholders including the government, private sector, development actors and entrepreneurs to discuss opportunities to take quick actions needed to improve Pakistan’s entrepreneurship ecosystem for social impact. A panel discussion on “Improving Pakistan’s Entrepreneurship Ecosystem for Social Impact – what actions do we need” resulted in fruitful suggestions from the esteemed panelists that included Saram Boukhari – Director Centre for Social Entrepreneurship; Parvez Abbasi – Co-founder TeamUp/National Incubation Centre; Lashley A. Pulsipher – Chief Sales Marketing and Revenue Officer at Hashoo Group; Adeel Shahid – Head of Marketing and Public Affairs at Citibank N.A., Pakistan; Aamer Ejaz – Chief Digital Officer Jazz; Dr. Umar Saif – SDG Consultant at UNDP Pakistan and; Ignacio Artaza – Resident Representative a.i. UNDP Pakistan.
The top three performers from the SDG Bootcamp were awarded grants of USD 2,500 each to help them in expanding their social enterprises and will be given an opportunity to pitch their ideas at the Regional Annual Youth Co: Lab Summit that will be held in Vietnam, early April, this year.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Ignacio Artaza, Resident Representative a.i. remarked,
The sheer scope of the SDGs creates a space for a new generation of social entrepreneurs who can contribute to this vision through innovative initiatives and by setting up new social businesses. UNDP will continue to strengthen its support to the ecosystem.
Mr. Adeel Shahid, Head of Marketing and Public Affairs at Citi said,
The growing income disparity in Pakistan does not provide a level playing field for the underserved youth of Pakistan. Mentoring and giving exposure to a variety of life skills helps young people get a head start that they need in order to excel in their lives and careers. Pakistan has a growing labor force with 1.7 million young people reaching working age each year, and unemployment for them is set to rise to 8.6 million by 2020. Citi Foundation aims to work with partners, such as the UNDP who share our interest in empowering our urban youth to ensure a brighter future.
Saad Hamid, CEO DEMO, the execution partner for the SDG Bootcamp remarked,
We are thrilled to partner with UNDP to introduce this model of capacity building for young founders and startups. The bootcamp helps the founders not just to learn through some of the best mentors of the ecosystem but also gives them an opportunity to connect with each other and form a long-lasting bond that will be crucial to their success.
The event provided key stakeholders with the opportunity to understand the experiences and challenges that young entrepreneurs in Pakistan face and articulate actions required to create a space for entrepreneurs to scale their social ventures.