UNICEF Lebanon and partners launch Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge
"The Youth Challenge is an invitation to youth to become problem solvers instead of problem owners. No one understands their problems better than they do.” Tanya Chapuisat, UNICEF Lebanon.
Today, one in six people in Lebanon between the age of 15 and 24 is considered vulnerable, and numbered among their most pressing challenges are access to secondary education, skills for learning, employability, decent work, and – in particular for girls - empowerment. A global platform launched in September 2018, Generation Unlimited, seeks to foster a generation without limits to its ambition, creativity, resilience and give them the power to make a change. Its first initiative, ‘The Youth Challenge,' unrolled during a three-day intensive workshop at the Lebanese University's Hadath campus in December.
Hosted by UNICEF’s Generation of Innovation Leaders program as part of a global team competition where the ultimate reward is a US$20,000 investment towards furthering the winning team's project – which must be a proposal to directly benefit their generation – 18 groups gathered at the library of the university's Engineering Faculty.
"The Youth Challenge is an invitation to youth from all over the world to become problem solvers instead of problem owners," said UNICEF's representative in Lebanon Tanya Chapuisat. “No one understands their problems better than they do; no one can solve them better than they can."
Throughout three days of lectures, roleplay, mind mapping, research and challenges, teams from throughout Lebanon, many drawn from amongst the most vulnerable neighborhoods, developed ideas through their concept and prototype phase into testing for the market. It culminated in their opportunity to pitch in the hope of being one of the teams chosen to pass through to the next stage – a second round of mentoring workshops in the country.
"The Youth Challenge is an invitation to youth to become problem solvers instead of problem owners. No one understands their problems better than they do.” - Tanya Chapuisat, UNICEF Lebanon Representative.
Zeina Saab, the founder of The Nawaya Network, sees the advent of Generation Unlimited as providing a genuine opportunity for change. "All of those present were embarking on the first steps of a journey that could affect a new direction on their lives, and the lives of those their ideas will touch. I tried to impress upon them that they shouldn’t remain constrained by the actions of previous generations. The country has changed, and we all need to be adaptable and evolve. Whatever happens here, this is the beginning for all of them. I will have opened the doors to further opportunities”.
The country has changed, and we all need to be adaptable and evolve. Whatever happens here, this is the beginning for all of them. I will have opened the doors to further opportunities." - Zeina Saab, the founder of The Nawaya Network
The teams energetically worked through the process, and created concepts to support and build a resilient generation with a range of ideas, many internet-based, including apps to connect youth with prospective employers, current internships and, of course, each other – but in a forum of shared experiences and lessons learned. Other ideas were to facilitate practical study, the collection of (what would be otherwise) waste food from restaurants and its distribution to the needy, and women-only taxi services.
"We gave them a huge challenge, and they more than rose to it." - Nicolas Dawaliby, Program Manager for INJAZ Lebanon’s Innovation Lab Network
Nicolas Dawaliby, Program Manager for INJAZ Lebanon’s Innovation Lab Network, was hugely impressed by the speed and quality of development the teams put into their ideas. “I spend my days working with today's young generation, but what I saw here this weekend – to have seen them come this far in just three days – is very impressive. We gave them a huge challenge, and they more than rose to it. They're here to learn genuinely, they're all hungry to make an impact".
Without urgent investment in education and skills training, the rapidly growing population of adolescents and young people will continue to be unprepared and unskilled for the future workforce. For them to grow into productive citizens, they need to understand their rights and to make life choices.
“There is an ecosystem of mentoring that serves the top tier of Lebanon’s youth but, until now, nothing that matches the global reach of The Youth Challenge. The youth here have been sparked by this opportunity."- Naila Saba, the coordinator of Lebanon's round of The Youth Challenge.
Naila Saba, the coordinator of Lebanon's round of The Youth Challenge, acknowledged the size of the social challenge in the country. “These were mostly youth that hadn’t been through boot camp before, so it’s a new experience for them. I wanted to give them an experience they would enjoy, and leave feeling they’ve learned some tools they can take away with them. It also needed to be something that would meet the high standards of the global challenge.
“There is an ecosystem of mentoring that serves the top tier of Lebanon’s youth but, until now, nothing that matches the global reach of The Youth Challenge. The youth here have been sparked by this opportunity. They’re raring to go. Whether they go forward within this process or not, they’re all keen to push forward with their ideas and projects after this weekend. Just being here has changed their view of themselves, and they’ll all go home and change others views about themselves too”.
With five teams selected for the second stage of The Youth Challenge, after which two will go forward to the global finals in 2019, their three-days of lectures and programs highlighted one thing for sure - today largest-ever generation of youth in Lebanon’s history represents a powerful force for change.