On the 7th and 8th of June 2018, the UNDP Samoa Multi-Country Office (MCO) hosted the first ever Youth Co:Lab in Samoa. The pilot event brought together 20 young Samoans with a passion for social innovation and entrepreneurship. The workshop was an energy filled, creative and innovative space where young Samoans were able to learn, share, and collaborate on social ideas that would solve global problems.
Youth Co:Lab Samoa was coordinated and implemented by the UNDP Samoa MCO together with the Samoa Chamber of Commerce. The event was made possible through the support of the UNDP Pacific Office, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub (BRH), and the Australian High Commission; with prizes sponsored by Digicel, Bluesky, and Huawei. The workshop was facilitated by Pacific Global Solutions founder and Samoa Planet Co-Founder, Tuiloma Sina Retzlaff and UNDP Youth Co:Lab Community Builder, Cynthia Cheung.
The event was held at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, and ran parallel to the Digital Pacific Conference at Tatte Conference Centre. On day one, the participants developed new ideas for social enterprises, and some built on existing businesses they already owned. On day two, the participants worked on turning their social enterprise ideas into 5 minute pitches. 18 participants pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.These judges included Farid Mohammed - CEO of Digicel Samoa, Srijana Rana - Team Leader of Inclusive Growth UNDP Pacific Office, Melissa Mitchell - Second Secretary and Consul Australian High Commission Samoa, and Tomasi Peni - ILO National Coordinator Samoa. The panel of judges presented their top three pitches/Youth Co:Lab Samoa finalists.
The three finalists included first place prize winner Etuale Scanlan presenting ‘SamoaMarket.com’, an online marketplace connecting customers around the world with local Samoan vendors. Second place prize winner was Olisana Mariner presenting ‘The Hub’, a mini conferencing solution with a focus on capacity building and education. Third place prize winner Mose Mose presented his idea for ‘Employ Mai’, a mobile/web application created to tackle the issue of youth unemployment in Samoa.
The Youth Co:Lab finalists presented to the Digital Pacific conference closing session. The room was filled with over 100 delegates comprised of government dignitaries, technical experts, and private investors from all around the region. The entire room was blown away by the Youth Co:Lab presentations. After the finalists presented, they received immediate pledges of support from the audience. From one delegate offering to purchase a new laptop for one participant, to another delegate offering to invite all three finalists to a social innovation workshop in Korea later this year, to invitations to a networking dinner hosted by Pacific Trade Invest to explore opportunities of collaboration.
Olisana Mariner, founder of The Hub and winner of the second prize, said of her experience at Youth Co:Lab Samoa: "Attending this workshop has inspired me to learn more about the model that is social enterprise. I am encouraged to learn more about how to thrive at the intersection where people, profit, and planet collide. An eye opening experience for any young professional."
On the final day of workshop, UNDP Samoa MCO and the Samoa Chamber of Commerce signed an MOU to continue the work of Youth Co:Lab, including the facilitation of business incubators and accelerators for youth entrepreneurs; the offer of mentoring, support and capacity building to youth with existing and new entrepreneurial endeavors; and the provision of access to knowledge sharing and South-South and Triangular networking and cooperation opportunities.
UNDP Samoa MCO and the Samoa Chamber of Commerce look forward to building a strong partnership in support of Samoa’s young social entrepreneurs.