The Journey of Young Change-Makers
Generation Unlimited’s Youth Challenge Winners share their year-long journeys of innovating to change lives
What if we gave young people the chance to lead through innovation?
In September 2018, more than 800 young innovators from 16 countries around the world joined the Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge to work on solutions that ensure every young person can access the education, skills, and empowerment they need for a better future. After all, they are the experts in their own lives, experiences, contexts, and goals.
The Challenge was crafted to inspire young people with brilliant ideas and to encourage them to bring these to life, even if their circumstances offer them no resources to do so. Especially young refugees, who face daily ethnic, gender, or disability-related discrimination, and those disadvantaged by poverty, were engaged with, eager to make a difference.
From Vietnam to Nicaragua, national workshops were conducted where young innovators collaborated to design creative new solutions for education, skills, empowerment, and pathways to work. The brightest ideas were then reviewed by an international and diverse panel of judges, who selected five global winners. These inspiring teams received mentoring and seed funding to take their ideas to the next level and scale for meaningful impact in their communities.
Here’s what some of them have been working on and achieving throughout the year:
Fantastic Four: From detention to decent work in Thailand
Chonlachat (Mac), Pichitchai (Oat), Phanuwat (Ball), and Akarapol (Mee)
Despite having been in juvenile detention, the Fantastic Four have been determined to move on and engage with, produce and contribute to society. “There are millions of young people like us around the world who are repeat offenders because society does not accept us nor trust us,” they say.
Their winning idea was to build a website that enables these young people with unique circumstances to access employment opportunities. They quickly gained support from the Thai government, resulting in hundreds of businesses willing to offer work.
Since then, over 10 major media outlets covered their story and their winning solution, including a nationwide programme called “King’s Philosophy” (video in Thai). However, they have been continuing their mission by gathering input and insights from more young people and repeatedly testing their solution.
Their hard work and determination led to a presentation at the Social Expo Thailand 2019 and their recognition as a best practice by the Ministry of Justice — the boys were then invited to meet the Minister.
They are now excited to continue building their website for young ex-offenders, this time with the supervision of the Innovation Section of the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection, under the Ministry of Justice. Their goal is to reach 280 young men and women by piloting the solution in 6 training centers.
AndroMeta: Speaking out against bullying in North Macedonia
Danche, Dario, Aleksandra, Matej, and Amra
Joined by the ambition to achieve change in their community, these 5 young people met by chance and ended up winning the Youth Challenge with their idea of crafting an application called SpeakOut. More than a forum where young people can connect to offer and obtain peer-to-peer support, the app can also link them with trained volunteers and professionals.
The first obstacle they met was how to actually build this app; through sheer determination and perseverance, they are now on their way to release a working app by the end of 2019. They’ve incorporated features such as authentication functions, and live chats on top of the forums, and have done great strides in design work as well.
The team has been continuously testing to understand how users will utilize the app, and these important opinions will help them on their way to build their ground-up, final version of SpeakOut.
From here, they will seek support from the Ministry of Labour on social policies to form groups of volunteers and find psychologists to help them talk to peers, and establish a user journey on how to best serve specific people’s needs — from events, to forums, live chats, and even personal meetings with psychologists — all to help them SpeakOut.
Team Amigo: Bringing Education to remote corners of Zimbabwe
Blessing, Brighton, Simbarashe, and Farayi
This group of young men are friends from university, joined and fueled by a passion to improve access to textbooks and other learning materials for disadvantaged children, even in remote areas. Currently, learning materials are often unavailable or too expensive, and their solution to build a web and mobile application that delivers learning materials to students at low cost secured them funding and support at the Youth Challenge.
They struggled as they had to balance their schoolwork and preparing for exams and dissertations, but the friends stuck together through patience and smart delegating based on their passions and their shared vision to provide students with easily accessible, affordable educational materials.
They also have the desire to incorporate special tools for young people with disabilities, such as vision and hearing, into the application. Thanks to the support of Generation Unlimited, they were able to immerse in entrepreneurship skills and networking, empowering them to conduct monthly pitches to find entrepreneurs to offer them a new perspective and help them further develop the idea.
Since winning the Youth Challenge, they have also now formally registered as a company, and have been improving their technologies. They also have onboarded over 13,000 users who have access to 2 million textbooks and over 150,000 old exam papers. They also incorporated a WhatsApp option for those who don’t own a computer.
Brought together by passion, they hope to include some payment scheme for the business to become sustainable - so they can also employ and enable more young people, and continue improving their service so education can reach the farthest.