Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Filipino social enterprise teams win at inaugural Asian Forum on youth unemployment

Five social enterprises founded by young people across the Asia Pacific were recognized for innovative approaches to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The winning teams were chosen from 16 finalists in the Summit’s Regional Social Innovation Challenge, which capped the inaugural Youth Co:Lab Summit 2018 held in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Launched in 2017 by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), with support from the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab is a regional program that aims to tackle social and unemployment challenges by harnessing youth’s leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation. The program is part of Citi and Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative to equip urban youth with the tools to thrive in today’s economy.

All three Philippine teams won in the categories of Start-up Track and Scale-up Track.

The Philippine representatives were Alex Austria and Keisha Mayuga of LawKo, a legal literacy initiative; Pamela Nicole Mejia of Phinix, a textile recycling center; and Samantha Sanchez and Dominique de Leon of Arooga Health, a mental wellness platform.

Citi Philippines CEO Aftab Ahmed congratulated the young entrepreneurs, telling them, "Citi is proud of what you’ve achieved both as delegates and entrepreneurs. Your entrepreneurial spirit is to be admired and we look forward to seeing the continued growth of your businesses in contributing to the development of the Philippine economy.”

A total of 21 teams, consisting of over 30 young people from 9 countries, participated in two days of dialogue, capacity-building and mentorship before making their final pitches. The winning teams will participate in a youth entrepreneurship forum in China in August 2018. 

For the Start-up Track category, winners are LawKo, a social media chatbot that aims to bridge the knowledge gap between a jargon-filled legal system and the general public by responding to questions about legal and government processes; and Arooga Health, a platform that provides users with convenient access to trusted emotional and mental wellness care providers.

For the Scale-up Track category, winners are Phinix, a textile recycling center that collects fabric scraps and transforms them into higher value products like footwear, fashion accessories and lifestyle pieces and Hands On from China which uses 3-D printing technology to produce affordable prosthetics for children and young amputees. In the past year, the social enterprise has made over 50 robotic hands for beneficiaries in over 14 Chinese provinces.

For the Popular Award category, Blue Hearts from the Maldives has received over 900 Likes on Facebook. The online platform is designed to provide young people access to psychological care by connecting them to psychology graduates seeking work experience. The graduate volunteers will be supervised by registered professionals.

Winners were chosen based on included contribution to relevant Sustainable Development Goal(s), viability and potential to scale social enterprise models, team capability and innovation, including potential to pioneer impactful change, among other things. 

The judges were David Galipeau, UNDP SDG Impact Finance chief impact officer; Brandee McHale, Citi Foundation president and Citi Corporate Citizenship director; Chinawut Chinaprayoon, Thailand National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office New Venture and Entrepreneurship director; Elsie Tsui, Hong Kong Social Enterprise Challenge project director; Sujiva Dewaraja, Sri Lanka John Keells Holdings former executive vice-president; and Chiratas Nivatpumin, Bangkok Post Newspaper Business assistant chief operating officer.

The Regional Social Innovation Challenge, part of the inaugural Asia Pacific Youth Co:Lab Summit, marked the first year of partnership between UNDP and Citi Foundation. The program has reached over 1,700 young people and led to the launch and further development of over 140 social enterprises in 11 countries: Thailand, Philippines, China, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Pakistan and Vietnam. The Youth Co:Lab program is expected to include 16 countries by  2019.

“We are here to support young people. While we do not doubt the ability of young people to lead innovation, we know that the systems that have been conceived for their economic and social empowerment often fall short.   We will only be able to work for the good of the region’s social entrepreneurs if we solidify our partnerships, including the new partnership between Citi Foundation and UNDP connecting with ongoing national level initiatives will be crucial to this success,” said Haoliang Xu, United Nations assistant secretary general and UNDP director for Asia Pacific. 

"Youth Co:Lab is enabling young entrepreneurs to be at the center of efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said McHale. "The Citi Foundation is looking forward to continue our work with the UNDP to help more young people across the Asia Pacific region achieve their full potential."

For ongoing updates on the Youth Co:Lab program, follow #YouthCoLab and visit and the Youth Co:Lab page on Facebook.

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