UNDP forum unites public and private sector leaders to enable youth-led social innovation in Asia

Oct 20, 2016

Youth entrepreneurs, youth-led development organizations and innovators from across Asia and the Pacific gather in Bangkok on Friday for the Asian Youth Innovation Forum 2016, to explore strategies to jumpstart entrepreneurship for nearly 700 million youth in the region.

The three-day forum led by the United Nations Development Programme, brings together corporate giants such as Citi, INTEL, SAP, and multilateral agencies such as the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and United Nations Volunteers (UNV) to act as session mentors and conference speakers.

The forum gathers 35 young participants from across the Asia-Pacific: winners of country and regional innovation challenges, along with hand-picked young social innovation teams in the region.

Participants have brought new thinking and research to the forum to examine ways that governments, private-sector actors, and multilateral agencies can empower youths to transition better from education to the workplace, to venture into entrepreneurship and to harness their creativity for innovations that address Asia’s stubborn development challenges.   

The three-day event seeks to translate ideas and knowledge around these issues into concrete solutions, with guidance from mentors at UNDP, UNV, UN ESCAP, INTEL, Citi Foundation, SAP, and other social innovation platforms.

At the end of the three days, the ideas will be evaluated based on relevance, innovativeness, sustainability, scalability, feasibility, and a number of other criteria. The winner will receive grants to implement their ideas in their community.

At the heart of the forum’s vision is the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ i.e. a strong focus on marginalized groups and communities often ‘left behind’ by traditional approaches to development.   

“Young people today are more connected, more creative, more informed and more persuasive than any previous generation. They are contributing fresh ideas, building bridges and sharing their vision of the world they want, all the while driving human development for themselves, their communities and their societies,” said Caitlin Wiesen, Chief of Regional Policy and Programme Support for Asia and the Pacific at UNDP's Bangkok Regional Hub.

She urged participants “to reach out to your friends, colleagues and governments, to volunteer and help us to make the 2030 Agenda a reality.”

“Young peoples’ innovative mindsets and actions are an inspiration to the community, and they are certainly the driving force for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the region,” said Manon Bernier, Regional Manager of UNV Regional Office: Asia and the Pacific.

“We should secure more opportunities, such as volunteering, for them to participate in the whole process of building and implementing impactful solutions. Their involvement is key to truly realizing ‘leaving no one behind.’”

The forum will seek to lay the groundwork for longer-term regional engagement to empower young people on social innovation to effectively engage with the SDGs.