Ms Thuy shares the Healthy Farm startup story

Viet Nam has the third largest startup scene in South East Asia. Despite this growth, the social impact startup ecosystem continues to lag behind other leaders in the region, such as Thailand and Malaysia. If only we could tap into the ambition, creativity and commitment of this new generation of young Vietnamese entrepreneurs to help find solutions to the biggest challenges the country faces?

This is the challenge the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Citi Foundation and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) have taken up as co-leads to deliver Youth Co:Lab Viet Nam 2018.

The Youth Co:Lab initiative is looking for the next generation of leading social entrepreneurs in Viet Nam, following the success of the SDG Challenge in 2017, where four Vietnamese startups received over $85,000 in equity-free seed funding and a year-long business incubation programme.

The Youth Co:Lab programme will be kicked off by two high level Diagnostic events in Ha Noi, at UP Coworking Space today, and in Ho Chi Minh City, at Saigon Innovation Hub on 22 June, to bring all major players in the impact startup ecosystem together and plot a course to foster the growth of the sector and connect startups to the business of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Mr. Tran Van Tung, joined UNDP Viet Nam Country Director, Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, and Senior Vice President of Citi Viet Nam, Mr. Bui Quang Huy, in launching the Youth Co:Lab initiative today.

“A vibrant start up ecosystem and skilling are key to unleashing the creative energies of youth in meeting the most pressing SDG challenges in Viet Nam,” Ms Caitlin Wiesen said in her opening speech. She also informed that UNDP will open up applications for SDG Innovations Incubator and selected teams will receive an intensive business incubation and impact acceleration programme as well as the opportunities to pitch their ideas to national and international investors.

Deputy Minister Tran Van Tung stated in his opening remarks, “Social impact businesses both make profit and have a positive effect on the community. And with their ability to adapt and replicate quickly around the world, these innovative businesses are the best models to tackle social challenges, create social impact, and accelerate the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Senior Vice President-Head of Corporate Affairs, Citi Bank, Mr Bui Quang Huy shared his organziation’s commitment to youth, “Entrepreneurship aspirations don’t just come to life on their own. Young people have told us they need a few things, including the right skills for the right jobs, the right policies in place, and they would like mentoring and guidance along the way. Which is why the Citi Foundation has committed to invest $100MM to support 500,000 youths to become career-ready and employable by 2020.”

The Diagnostic events in both Ha Noi and HCM City will bring together experts from the private sector, Government, NGOs, investment firms, social entrepreneurs, startup incubators, and guests from Thailand and Malaysia to develop a set of recommendations for all sectors to help build a social impact startups in Viet Nam to address some of the biggest challenges the country faces.

The programme also includes a series of exciting activities to train and mentor Vietnamese youth. Up to 130 young people from across Viet Nam will be trained in design thinking, 21st century skills, social innovation, and SDG entrepreneurship, in Ha Noi and HCM City later this month. The Youth Co:Lab programme strongly focuses on ‘leaving no one behind’. One third of participants are youth from rural and mountainous areas and the communities of persons with disabilities, deaf and hard of hearing people, LGBTI people, ethnic minority and persons living with HIV.

A wide range of partners are on board and contributing in different ways to make the Initiative a success and reach out to as many young people as possible, including UP Coworking Space, the Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 2030 Youth Force, AIESEC, and Viet Nam Airlines.

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