Youth Co:Lab Summit 2023, co-organized by UNDP and Citi Foundation was held at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) in Bangkok from 12 - 14 July 2023, with over 200 participants representing 20 countries and territories. Youth Co:Lab alumnus Ramu Vairavan, Founder of Project Enigma, a Singapore based social enterprise providing tactile novelty edutainment to inspire curiosity, cultivate problem-solving, and stimulate creativity in people, shares his reflections of the Summit.
Celebrating Social Entrepreneurship
The Youth Co:Lab Summit 2023 was an experience that has forever transformed my perspective. I feel incredibly privileged to have been a part of this remarkable event, and I am thankful for all the people who made it possible. At the summit, I had the honour of connecting with and hearing the stories of fellow passionate changemakers and social entrepreneurs across the region. Their enthusiasm for their endeavours left a mark on my heart and inspired me to dream bigger than ever before.
Showcasing Work and Discovering Limitless Possibilities
The Youth Co:Lab Summit, hosted in the United Nations Conference Centre in the heart of the vibrant city of Bangkok, radiated a sense of limitless possibilities. It served s a platform for entrepreneurs like myself to showcase our work and seek support from an international audience to expand our impact.
The expansive conference room invited us to think beyond ourselves, pushing the boundaries of our imagination. As part of the Singaporean delegation, which included individuals from UNDP, SpedGrow, National Youth Council, Citi, and my own venture, Project Enigma, I felt the electric energy of like-minded visionaries coming together to shape a better future.
With over 200 participants from different sectors, the collective support and encouragement we received from stakeholders was genuine and heartening. The Summit exemplified the power of unity and collaboration.
The sessions and speeches at the Summit were thunderbolts of inspiration. From embracing change, making lasting impacts to groundbreaking ideas; speakers, including young social entrepreneurs, shared the stories of their journeys with raw authenticity, reaffirming the transformative power of platforms such as the Youth Co:Lab Summit.
Promoting Inclusive Entrepreneurship
During the summit, our booths became portals to innovation and inclusion. At my booth, "A-ha Corner," I brought 50 puzzles and toys from Singapore, each representing a spark of creativity and possibility. We had many visitors who stayed a long while to try out the items on display and returned later to try out even more.
I was quite excited when Chadchart Sittipunt, the Governor of Bangkok, and Beniam Gebrezghi, Programme Specialist on Civil Society and Youth, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, also stopped by our booth to try their hands at a couple of disentanglement brainteasers!
Yet, it was the visit from a group of visually impaired delegates that left an indelible impact on my journey. As they explored the tactile toys and puzzles we had carefully curated, a world of insight opened before me. One exceptional individual, Sarocha (Ploy) Kittsiripan, Founder of a publishing house for disabled writers, revelled in the Switch Pitch ball from my pitch. I had an epiphany when she shared her observations about the textures, unnoticed by my sighted eyes, which sparked a profound realisation within me. It became clear that people with disabilities possess unique abilities that transcend their challenges, and their perspectives hold the keys to unlocking new dimensions of innovation.
Another remarkable guest, Piyanat Thongmoon (Arm Minyong), approached the Soma Cube puzzle, a challenge that required careful perception. Guiding him through the intricacies of each piece, I witnessed his determination and resilience firsthand. As he solved the puzzle, piece by piece, a surge of inspiration coursed through me. I realized that empowering people with disabilities requires not only providing suitable products but also presenting them in ways that respect their unique perspectives. Through this understanding, we can truly transform lives and foster a more inclusive society.
Fostering Connections, Building Collaborations
As I move forward, I embrace the boundless potential for collaboration that emerged from the Youth Co:Lab Summit. Already, delegates I met from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand hold the promise of joint projects that can drive meaningful change.
At the end of the Summit, the audience was asked to share their key takeaways, which were then shown on screen as a word cloud. I was surprised when I saw several mentions and indirect references to my company’s work including, ‘puzzles’, ‘toy’, ‘aha moment’, ‘enigmaaaa’, and ‘love project enigma’. In fact, ‘puzzles’ was one of the bigger words alongside the key themes of the Summit, “inclusivity” and “leave no one behind”. I was heartened that our hands-on enigmas had made an impression on a sizeable number of delegates. I left the conference room with renewed determination to bring these transformative experiences to individuals worldwide.
The writer, Vairavan Ramanathan (Ramu) is an alumnus of Singapore’s Youth Action Challenge Season 4, co-organized by the National Youth Council Singapore and Youth Co:Lab, co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation.
About Youth Co:Lab Summit 2023
The Youth Co:Lab Summit 2023 hosted at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok, by Citi Foundation and UNDP, held in partnership with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the Commonwealth Secretariat, CVC Capital Partners, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the Islamic Development Bank (IsBD), was a platform that fostered a community which collaborates to strengthen and future-proof the entrepreneurship systems across Asia and the Pacific region.
Find out more at: https://www.youthcolab.org/summit-2023