It is not every day we get the chance to meet and learn from almost 200 like-minded people from 20 different countries across Asia-Pacific, some of which, I must admit, I have heard of for the first time, such as Vanuatu or the Solomon Islands. The Youth Co:Lab Summit 2019 in Ha Noi has by far been the most diverse, inclusive and inspiring event on youth social impact entrepreneurship in Asia-Pacific.

Group photo of Youth Co:Lab Summit 2019 social entrepreneurs with representatives from UNDP and Citi


Whether participants came by boat, car, plane, or indeed all three, whether it took them two hours or four days to finally set foot in Viet Nam, or whether they are a sixteen year-old CEO or a social activist with over 20 years’ experience, all came with one goal: empower youth in Asia-Pacific to accelerate implementation of the SDGs through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship.

One of the Youth Co:Lab Summit 2019 participants wearing her traditional costume


The Summit was divided into three different tracks, tailoring the discussions to meet the needs of youth, government participants and UN delegates, respectively. The key question across all tracks was how do we get the bottom up energy generated by Youth Co:Lab across the region to become “a movement” that helps drive youth economic empowerment?

On the Demo Day, 34 social impact startups pitched their ideas to an expert panel of judges. Their ideas ranged from providing affordable 3D printed prosthetic limbs (Vulcan Augmetics - Viet Nam), artificial intelligence powered navigation device for visually impaired people (AI Sight - Hong Kong), to aeroponic agriculture (Aeroroots - Nepal) and training/mentorship for local farmers (Tasty Kitchen Collective - Fiji). The Excellence Award went to DeafTawk (Pakistan), a startup that aims to bridge the gap between the deaf and non-deaf communities by offering online audio-video translation services and sign language trainings. The two motivated founders, one deaf and one blind, have won both our hearts and minds with their determination, entrepreneurial spirit and positive social impact. They have also won a trip to visit Slush, the World’s Leading Startup Event, held in Helsinki every November thanks to our partners at the Embassy of Finland! 

H.E. Kari Kahiluoto, Ambassador of Finland in Viet Nam, handing the Excellence Award to DeafTawk


What makes the Youth Co:Lab Summit 2019 different is that it was an entirely paperless and plastic-free event. Most communication products were displayed on electronic boards. Name badges were made of recycled paper without plastic cover. No plastic water bottles were distributed. Instead, each participant was given a bamboo refillable water bottle to get water from public stations, with the support of our partner Save Your Ocean, an impact startup aiming to combat plastic pollution from entering our oceans and based in Ho Chi Minh City.

All Youth Co:Lab participants left the Summit feeling inspired and energized to work together in a spirit of collaboration to strengthen the social innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in the region, acting as agents of change for sustainable development, ensuring to leave no-one behind. “We might not be able to change the entire world, but at least we can make a positive change, for one person, for ten people. Take an action to make a difference to our societies”, affirmed Reyhan Camalova, keynote speaker and Founder of Rainergy (Azerbaijan).

Sometimes, a better world is just one great idea, one small action away. Be a part of Youth Co:Lab and join the movement!


More about 34 impact startups from Youth Co:Lab Summit 2019: (insert link to file attached)

More about the Government Innovation Lab “Why Labs Matter-A Reflection from Hanoi” by Courtney Savie Lawrence, Head of Exploration, Asia-Pacific Regional Innovation Center, UNDP

More about “What makes a good moderator?” by Ke Lin, Consultant, Youth Economic Empowerment, UNDP Asia-Pacific

More about the lessons learnt from Youth Co:Lab Summit 2019 in a young entrepreneur’s perspective, Syed Ommer Amer, Founder of Daastan, Pakistan

About Youth Co:Lab

Since 2017, Youth Co:Lab has been implemented in 20 countries and territories across the region. The national dialogues, regional summits and social innovation challenges, reached over 48,000 participants. The initiative has benefitted over 2,500 young social entrepreneurs and helped launch or improve nearly 500 social enterprises. Youth Co:Lab has also established partnerships with over 100 key ecosystem players to strengthen the Youth Empowerment Alliance.

In 2019, Youth Co:Lab aims to expand to at least 25 countries and territories, deepen mentorship capacity for youth entrepreneurs through the Springboard programme, and engage ecosystem partners in the development of young people’s 21st century skills.

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