Shanaka Waduge- Citi Sri Lanka
Under the Youth Co:Lab initiative, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) together with Citi Foundation, recently hosted ‘Innovation for Social Change’ – a design thinking program – for the National Youth Model United Nations (NYMUN) delegates. Following their annual conference, over 65 young people, including award winners, executive committee members and members of the NYMUN secretariat, came together to participate at the Youth Co:Lab extended program in Sri Lanka.
Youth Co:Lab, established in 2017, is a joint initiative of the UNDP and Citi Foundation, which is based on a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth, so that they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship.
The participants brought resolutions for identified social issues which revolved around the theme of ‘Youth for National Peace’, and with the facilitation of HackaDev Academy, participants had the opportunity to refine their ideas by following the design thinking process.
Reflecting on the workshop, NYMUN 2019 Secretary General Ornella Hishaam said, “The workshop was a refreshing follow-up to the two-day NYMUN Conference. All the participants had an engaging and informative day using the content and resolutions created at the conference to learn and understand a unique methodology for innovation and solution creation. We spent the day working in teams to complete a variety of fun activities and reflect on the teachings and insights of each activity.”
The day concluded with a panel discussion on ‘The role of entrepreneurship, innovation and impact finance for youth development’ with Citi Bank Country Head Ravin Basnayake, Ministry of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology Additional Secretary of Development Waruna Sri Dhanapala and UNDP Sri Lanka and the Maldives Senior Economic Advisor Kithsiri Rajatha Wijeweera.
At the discussion, Basnayake highlighted, “The survival of the private sector depends on being relevant to young people as a preferred employer and in terms of service offering. Citi together with UNDP created Youth Co:Lab, which intends to create youth entrepreneurs to ensure that young people are at the centre of development to drive the sustainable development goals. This is why we are pleased to collaborate with NYMUN, especially given that Citi is celebrating its 40th anniversary in Sri Lanka this year.”
Speaking on the importance of innovation and how the public sector supports innovative thinking of young people through the National Youth Social Innovation Challenge – HackaDev, Dhanapala emphasised that, “One solution does not fit all – it is important to look at different ways to innovate to solve some of the most pressing issues of the country.”
Adding to this, Wijeweera shared his views on how social entrepreneurs should not only focus on risks and returns but also on the impact. He added that, “Entrepreneurs should stand out as risk-takers who do not take things for granted. Entrepreneurs need constantly innovate and work hard to be the best in the game.”
‘Innovation for Social Change’ is part of the Youth Co:Lab initiative to enable young people to take the lead in developing new solutions to social and environmental challenges within communities.