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Blogs and Op-Eds by the Youth Co:lab team and contributors from our extensive network of changemakers. 

  • Writer's pictureCynthia Cheung

What does it mean to believe in young entrepreneurs?

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

This is what we ask ourselves every day, in our meetings, in our programme design, and in all our engagement with young social entrepreneurs. Being entrepreneurial runs in our team. While I have personally experienced the ups and downs of founding three social initiatives and two tech companies in the past twelve years, my colleagues all have their own rollercoaster stories to share. We know what it means to take the first steps when nobody else sees the point, eating criticism for breakfast, trembling on stage, running out of money, and breaking up with co-founders. What we needed was not just another programme that could teach us how to draw a business plan; all we wanted was someone who believed in us.

Why do we believe in young social entrepreneurs?

We were fortunate to have mentors and friends who believed in us as humans, well beyond the successes and failures of the initiatives we founded. That has given us tremendous strength to be resilient; to continue to be immensely optimistic in solving some of the world’s greatest challenges, and to power the future with valuable lessons from the past.

In the same way, when UNDP and Citi Foundation co-created the Youth Co:Lab in 2017, we believed in the change young social entrepreneurs could bring. We believed in a regional support network that could help level the playing field for all. We have the privilege and mandate to go beyond what interests traditional venture capital firms and highlight youth-led solutions. We bridge opportunities for youth groups that may not fit in the ‘unicorn’ mould for exponential financial return, but could be perfectly sustainable and thrive with impact.

Young social entrepreneurs during the Youth Co:Lab Summit 2023

What is the Youth Co:Lab Springboard Programme?

The Springboard Programme at the Youth Co:Lab manifests our belief system in what it looks like to support young founders, aligning our success with theirs. Having had the majority of the Youth Co:Lab Springboard team be entrepreneurs or have worked with startups and youth prior to joining, we deeply empathize with the challenges young founders face in this region. Such empathy is foundational to building the trust we have with our founders and our relationships with our ecosystem partners.

In entrepreneurship, readiness meeting opportunity is everything. The more ready you are and the more opportunities you encounter will determine your probability of success. The Springboard startup support framework focuses on leveraging the catalysts that can improve the readiness of young entrepreneurs and bridge as many opportunities as possible. This is also a learning loop, as the process of pursuing opportunities will also increase the resilience of the founders. We have an intentional Springboard architecture revolving around these two aspects: curriculums to enhance readiness and an ongoing support hub to facilitate opportunities.

What is our portfolio approach?

In the past 6 years, we have worked with over 28 governments in the Asia-Pacific region and their local ecosystem partners to support some of the most innovative youth-led solutions contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Taking a portfolio approach means we foster learning and collaboration among different stakeholders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem and design targeted interventions to provide a space for young social entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds to learn, experiment, and craft their own paths to success. After countless iterations of listening to our founders, we have continuously built on our portfolio approach with the following pillars:

Springboard PLUS - An industry expert-led programme that is dedicated to enhancing the investment readiness of youth-led social enterprises, and addressing their business operations and management challenges when scaling their impact. We collaborate with leading impact investors, family offices, technology firms, corporations, and UN agencies to provide the essential knowledge and network for mobilizing resources.

Springboard ELEVATE - A peer-to-peer learning fellowship programme that convenes a supportive network of young social entrepreneurs who lead impactful initiatives, improving the lives of marginalized communities to learn, co-create, and together advocate for an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Springboard AMPLIFIER - A knowledge collaboration programme for our national Youth Empowerment Alliance (YEA) partners, especially entrepreneurship organizations (ESOs), sharing best practices across the region to enhance the collective support services for young social entrepreneurs with a focus on empowering the most marginalized groups.

Springboard HUB - An ongoing online resource hub that facilitates mentoring, knowledge exchange, networking, and showcasing to provide skills development for young social entrepreneurs.

Young social entrepreneurs actively participating during the Youth Co:Lab Summit 2023

Will You Join the Movement?

If it takes a village to raise a child, it would definitely take the world to raise a company. We urge you to join us in believing in the change young social entrepreneurs can bring, wholeheartedly, with all you can, and act with all your might. There are plenty of resources for everyone. International development is not a financial issue; it is an alignment issue, and investing in young change-makers is our only hope for a more sustainable and equitable future for all.


Co-created in 2017 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth so that they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship. Read more about Youth Co:Lab here.

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