Youth, Social Entrepreneurship, and Sustainable Development Project

Categories: Responsible Business Video,Small Grantee Features

Youth continue to be largely ignored by those in power. Rather than viewing them as important human capital, youth are often viewed with suspicion because they frequently challenge traditional norms and ways of doing things in society. These authorities fail to comprehend that putting youth to work would not only enhance economic growth, but promote greater social and political stability while training the next generation of leaders in all areas of society at the same time.

With slow economic growth, many countries face the problem of large numbers of youth entering the labor market each year only to find that there are no jobs beyond menial work. This is especially disheartening for youth who have received a college degree but cannot use the skills they learned through their education. For all too many youth, the outcome is feelings of disillusionment and lack of hope in the future.

In countries where youth are a large demographic, in some cases 70% of the population under the age of 30, this presents a dangerous situation. What can be done to address the problem of youth who see little opportunity for developing a meaningful career?

The lack of opportunities available to youth in LDCs, and the potential problems which lack of hope in the future can produce, are key reasons why a group of colleagues and I established the Youth, Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development project (YSESD). The idea underlying YSESD is both simple and elegant: If youth can be trained to develop social entrepreneurial skills, then they can both support themselves materially and contribute to their respective societies on an ongoing basis.

The goal of YSESD is to establish an international network of youth social entrepreneurs who will have access to a “talent platform” where they will be able to exchange ideas about potential start-ups or established social entrepreneurial ventures with colleagues, receive mentoring from successful social entrepreneurs, and pitch their projects to potential investors through “shark tank” style competitions.

As a result, forty social entrepreneurs from Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey attended the 4- month long YSESD Workshop which was held between December 2020 and March 2021. The Workshop included sessions based on:

  • Human-Centered Design: Human-centered design is an approach designed to solve the problems by involving human perspective in all steps.
  • Canvas Business Model: A Business Model Canvas is a management template for mapping the clients, stakeholders, value proposition, and new business models.
  • Business Case: A business case provides justification for undertaking a project, program or portfolio.
  • SWOT Analysis: SWOT analysis is a strategic mapping of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to entrepreneurial ventures.
  • Pitching: Pitching involves a 2-3 minutes presentation of the startup and allows for questions to be posed. Entrepreneurs can request investment, networking assistance, or advice through other important connections.

YSESD participants worked in teams to develop social entrepreneurial ideas on five thematic foci:

  • Civic Engagement and Leadership
  • Gender Empowerment
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Public Health
  • Energy and Climate Change.

Each team had several mentors to help them develop their ideas. In addition, each workshop session included networking components where fellows discussed questions such as “the social enterprises they would start on another planet,” and “their dreams for a more inclusive world.” After the workshops and mentorship sessions, participating youth social entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to pitch the ideas they developed during the Workshop to the YSESD network and their peers.

The workshops culminated into the final “Demo day” which was held on March 6, 2021, during which many excellent projects were presented. These included social entrepreneurship ideas such as:

  • Innovative recycling ventures,
  • Ventures to reduce food waste and convert it to fertilizer,
  • Public health assessments in urban and rural areas which lack adequate access to health care,
  • Electric waste reduction in homes,
  • An employment agency to place women university graduates in private sector firms,
  • A venture which offers psychological services to refugee families and their children, and a very successful venture which reduces agricultural product loss through air drying fruits and vegetables to extend their shelf life.

The workshop hosted YSESD network and impact investors. Audience asked questions to the participants and provided feedback to look more for competition and pilot their solutions.

The YSESD is now entering Phase 2 where it will complete the building of its platform – both a public information site and a “talent” platform where youth social entrepreneurs can benefit from the services described above. Most important will be the YSESD’s efforts to obtain investment funds for project start-ups and established ventures which seek to scale up their efforts.

As the YSESD moves forward, it is working to attract a larger number of youth social entrepreneurs to join the project. Particular focus will be given to three countries in the MENA region – United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Tunisia – whose governments have shown special interests in promoting social entrepreneurship, both through secondary school and university curricula, and through assisting youth special entrepreneurs in developing new ventures.

We look forward to expanding our collaboration, first with youth social entrepreneurs in Pakistan and the MENA region and later with youth social entrepreneurs in other regions of the world. As the YSESD grows overtime, we envision our international network of youth social entrepreneurs having an ever greater impact on the economies of their respective countries. Interested parties should contact YSESD Director, Dr.

Eric Davis at: davis@polisci.rutgers.edu

Author: Michael Carroll