Image courtesy GE
Young people at 1.8 billion (per UN) are some of the biggest contributors of human capital in the world. We have a role to play in our own development as well as the development of our communities. This has resulted in us being increasingly recognized as key participants in decision-making and development processes.
However with an increasing rise in population, there is a rise in youth unemployment. Almost 75 million young people are unemployed worldwide (per ILO). With education being increasingly unaffordable for most youth, especially in Asia, the ability to be employed in a sector of their preference is quite low. In such instances, social enterprise has been seen to change the status quo, offering the ability to change lives while creating revenue.
Social entrepreneurship is not a new phenomenon, but it has risen to prominence over the past decades. Ashoka’s definition of social entrepreneurship as “catalysts of system wide social change” excludes a greater part of young people below the age of 18 as a majority of youth-led initiatives are not making “system wide change.”
However, youth led social enterprises have been creating changes that have being changing systems indirectly for years. Youth social entrepreneurial ventures, young people’s ideas and energy can contribute meaningfully in community building, social change and leadership skills, while facilitating their own development.
In South Asia, Mangrove based social enterprises have created over 5000 employment opportunities while conserving the environment by advocating for alternative livelihoods of the like of eco-tourism and organic farming. In Sri Lanka, Mangroves were officially protected and conserved through legislation in 2015 through a Presidential declaration by the current president. Such changes in legislation can be achieved when young people have been able to contribute through long-term action.
In India, youth led solar power social enterprises are changing the face of the power struggle seen in rural villages, with villagers gaining a monetary income through grid contribution. This also results in the end of the vicious cycle of bribing for power connections.
Therefore using social entrepreneurship as a tool to support youth development would result in more innovative and more sustainable community held solutions for social issues. This turn would lead to more equitable and more habitable world for all of us, man and animal alike due to the environmental and social harmony created through social enterprise. In my capacity as a UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board Representative for Asia, I will advocate for social entrepreneurship in urban interventions to empower young people to address our “wicked challenges” through new tools and mechanisms.
Author: Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne, UN-HABITAT Youth Advisory Board