Social Innovators from 22 Country Offices gather in Kosovo to map next phase

Lisar Morina & Katherine Crisp
22 Country Office gather at Kosovo: Group Photo
Lisar Morina
06 November 2018

Prishtina, Kosovo — UNICEF Kosovo and UNICEF’s Global Innovation Centre, brought together stakeholders from more than 22 countries including Vietnam, Guatemala, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Jordan, Georgia and Indonesia to support the development and enhancement of UPSHIFT. This 3-day workshop was an opportunity to bring together perspectives from across the globe to work collaboratively to develop an UPSHIFT that will better upskill and prepare the youth of the world to shape their (and our!) future.

So what is UPSHIFT? As one of the most promising new approaches to youth and adolescent development, the UPSHIFT programme supports the most disadvantaged young people to become social innovators. The programme combines social innovation workshops, with mentorship, materials and seed funding, equipping young people with the skills and resources to identify problems and challenges in their communities and build solutions to these problems (in the form of products or services). The young people build skills and resilience; their communities benefit from the solutions they create.

Anchored in human-centered design—putting youth at the centre of the process—and experiential learning practices, UPSHIFT’s social entrepreneurship curriculum is designed to instill professional and transferable skills like problem-solving, creativity, collaboration, leadership and communications, whist also making young people more resilient, knowledgeable, and adaptive to dynamic labor markets.

Lisar Morina

Where it all started. UPSHIFT was developed in Kosovo in 2014 as a non-formal response to the challenges and lack of opportunities of adolescents and youth, who make up the majority of the population of Kosovo, many of whom are not in education, employment, or training. In the last three-and-a-half years in Kosovo alone, UPSHIFT supported 197 youth-led projects, with 20 of those projects becoming established businesses, 28 becoming CSOs, and 100+ participants being employed as a result of the programme’s skill-building. The UNICEF Innovations Lab Kosovo has reached 22,470 direct beneficiaries, and 180,000 indirect beneficiaries.

Why is it growing, globally? UPSHIFT is a global tool – adaptable and flexible to different contexts. Almost like a constant thread winding its way across the globe, UPSHIFT is now being implemented in more than 6 UNICEF Country Offices worldwide — championing the idea of youth and adolescents as the main actors of social change.

For example, in Jordan, where there is a massive refugee influx, UPSHIFT has developed into a programme that focuses more on social innovation skills than the creation of social enterprises. It uses the same vector— community problem solving—but has been developed into a longer, and more modular, curriculum which is being delivered in social innovation labs located in Makani Centres. It aims to build on the existing life skills curriculum by adding experiential learning opportunities. In Lebanon, UPSHIFT has inspired the creation of UNICEF Lebanon’s social innovation and digital jobs programme. In Vietnam, the learnings from delivering UPSHIFT are now being used to meet gaps being identified in the education system, ensuring a transition of pedagogy to deliver 21st century skills and embracing participatory learning.

Presentation slide shown
Lisar Morina

Gearing for UPSHIFT 2.0. This three-day workshop in Kosovo, the birthplace of UPSHIFT, was designed to bring together various stakeholders to work together to develop the programme further and create an UPSHIFT toolkit which comprises of consolidated learnings to date and provide guidance on implementing UPSHIFT.

UPSHIFT 2.0 focuses on sustainable, scalable impact for young people and seeks to equip adolescents with 21st-century skills and provide platforms and mechanisms that elevate and amplify their voices, ideas and creativity. During the workshop, participants also explored the links between adolescent brain development and UPSHIFT.

UPSHIFT started as a workshop, but is now evolving into programmes that focus on skills or on social enterprise development. And the same tools and techniques can be applied within any programmatic area to design responses that are youth-led.

UPSHIFT will always need a degree of localization, but by investing in gathering and sharing best practices from around the globe, we can efficiently create a scalable model.

So what’s next? In early 2018, a new UPSHIFT curriculum will be available across UNICEF and beyond (open source, of course!). Stay tuned.