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National Youth Social Innovation Challenge 2018 kicks off

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The National Youth Social Innovation Challenge, a joint initiative between the Ministry of Telecommunication, Digital Infrastructure and Foreign Employment (MTDIFE) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) kicked off in June this year, together with the National Youth Services Council (NYSC) and the Information Communication Technology Agency (ICTA). 

UNDP’s tried and tested social innovation hackathon, HackaDev, will be further scaled up, where the program is aimed at giving effect to the realisation of the vision of a Digital Economy in Sri Lanka, and will put young people in the spotlight of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals at the National level. Following the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers for the initiative, the initial phase of the program was implemented in the latter half of 2017, where following a public call for applications for the National Youth Software Competition, a total of 45 innovative teams participated at 3 clustered HackaDev events in Badulla, Matara and Jaffna. Subsequently, 9 teams went through the first phase of incubation in Colombo and have received seed funding to further develop their ideas towards implementation.

The initiative this year, which comprises of four stages, including an Ideation and Outreach Activation Phase, Idea Pitching Phase, Social Innovation Camps, and Incubation for Further Development, is aimed at empowering youth to generate innovative solutions to development challenges through improved engagement and participation in an ICT-enabled society. It will garner the capacity of youth to actively engage in social innovation, and pave the way for continued engagement to contribute towards national priorities identified in ‘Vision 2025’ and Government-led initiatives such as ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’. Further, the Challenge will also trigger and inspire partnerships among a diverse group of actors to advocate for social entrepreneurship and build the innovation ecosystem in the island.

While expressing his thoughts on the Challenge, Telecommunication, Digital Infrastructure and Foreign Employment Ministry Secretary Wasantha Deshapriya stated: “The National Youth Social Innovation Challenge is an investment on the youth of our country, as it equips young minds with the type of thinking required for Sri Lanka to progress towards achieving sustainable development. The Ministry takes great interest in leading the efforts along with UNDP and other partners.”

The first session of the ‘Ideation Phase’ of the National Youth Social Innovation Challenge was conducted in Kegalle. Similar district level programs titled a ‘Social Innovation Impact Town Hall and Workshop’, targeting university students, NYSC youth club members, young entrepreneurs, vocational trainees, and other youth, will be carried out in the coming month, with the view of attuning their thinking to be social innovators.  

Highlighting the significance of the partnership with the Government, UNDP Sri Lanka Country Director Jorn Sorensen stated: “This year, the National Youth Social Innovation Challenge leverages the collective expertise of a wide range of stakeholders to reach a wider group of young people and foster their thinking to become innovators and entrepreneurs with significant social impact. UNDP is pleased to join hands with the Ministry to support young people to become agents of change and to explore innovative approaches to address sustainable development challenges.” 

The National Youth Social Innovation Challenge, with a wide range of experts partnering this year through public and private partnerships, and both local and global social innovation networks, will intend to position the program as a model of empowering young people in the new development agenda. The National Youth Social Innovation challenge 2018 is in partnership with Citi, Citra Social Innovation Lab and Youth Co Lab.

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