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Learning Journey of Youth Co:Lab Thailand 2020

Updated: Jan 12

Guest post by Youth Co:Lab Thailand and UNDP Thailand


Experienced by youth, Initiated by youth, solutions by youth. This is the story of Youth Co:Lab, a project co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation,​ in Thailand for 2020 creating a space for youth to create social innovation.


The theme, for this year’s Youth Co:Lab was COVID-19 Recovery, inspired by youth response to our survey concerning the challenges of COVID-19. Topics under this theme covered social issues, educational problems, economic challenges, mental illness, and gendered domestic violence.


​During the preparation stage of the program, the impacts of the pandemic were severe in Thailand, and all though the situation in Thailand had improved significantly by the workshop day youth still faced many challenges.


These are the lesson learned that made this year’s Youth Co:Lab program successful.

Photo: UNDP Thailand

Online Classroom


Learning from the experiences of previous years’ Youth Co:Lab, the staff acknowledged that the three-day program format was intense and at times difficult for the participant to learn, develop and pitch the project under the time limitation. Additionally, the increasing use of online channels for learning and meeting purposes has become normalized during the pandemic. So, the team looked into changing from a physical workshop to a combination of physical and online.


The online workshop allowed us to provide more inclusive information and learning materials to the participants. The full program consisted of a four-day online workshop and a two and half day physical workshop.


​On one hand, the online channel offers more intensive content of the workshop. On the contrary, the organizers were concerned participants might feel more comfortable and safer to interact and exchange in person. However, we found that hosting the workshop online and extending the workshop time allows the participants to feel safe to engage with each other. Friendships, shared interests, and commitment to transform to a better society continued to grow with the extended time-frame.

Photo: UNDP Thailand

All support is Ready


The physical workshop at the end of the programme was designed to create a space for participants to exchange their interests and information, to draw out the lesson learned from the workshop and present their project developed from what they have discussed and learned from the both online and offline workshop.


Before the workshop starts, the organizing team discussed with the experts several social issues to share their insights, their expertise, and to reflect on the projects, so the participants can advance their projects to be more efficient. Sanon Wangsrangboon, Co-founder of Locall, provided suggestions on the employment creation in the restaurant industry during COVID – 19. Dr. Rangsan Wiboonuppatum, an education officer from UNICEF, also provided consultations on educational innovation in the workshop.


​This year is the first year that the workshop has been supported by Youth Co:Lab alumni as mentors or supporters for each group. The mentors are responsible for answering any possible questions that the participants might have, providing suggestions, and strengthening the group project.


One of the mentors who was a participant from last year Youth Co:Lab revealed that helping and providing suggestions to improve projects, is a further opportunity to learn for themselves

Photo: UNDP Thailand

What’s inside the online workshop?


​Our appreciation goes out to HandUp Network and ChangeFusion who helped the team facilitate the processes of the four-week online workshop. In the first week, participants have a chance to meet and introduce themselves. The main objective of the first class is to provide an understanding of the problems that their solutions are to be solved.


​The tool, problem tree, used to create an understanding of the problems does not provide only the current situations that the team is interested in but also an understanding of the root problems and a well-rounded understanding of their impacts.


After working through the problems, each group of participants completes a stakeholder mapping, this step helps the participants to appropriately situate themselves in the problem nexus and focus on the main problem.


​The session ends with consolidating a problem statement to clearly define the territory of the project that each group is coping with.


​​The second online workshop is about ideation. Because all the team have already prepared their ideas, the session focuses more on revising their ideas, finding pros and cons, and identifying the significance of their innovation.


​To ensure the participant is not too exhausted with their project, we use Ice Breaking activities to focus more on interaction and take a break from the intensity.


​The third online class is about learning to create a business plan through the Business Model Canvas. The content is sophisticated and complicated, so the session’s central idea is to remind the participants not to forget the business side of innovation.


​When each team has a clear picture of the problem, finds ideas to solve the problem, and recognizes the importance of the business part, the class discusses the social impacts under the Theory of Change.


Once each team can identify their expected social impact, each team is asked to make a reverse plan from one-year estimated outcomes to six months and provide more details on milestone activities and action plans that will bring success to the project.


​During the workshop, the political movement in Thailand was very intense. Therefore, the organizing team provided the space for discussing the current situation in a safe and respectful environment to express opinions. The organizing team believes that creating social innovation while ignoring the current social issues may be unavailing.

Photo: UNDP Thailand

Our First Meet


One of the purposes of Youth Co:Lab is to create a network between participants, supporters, and all stakeholders. ​That’s why it is so important to bring all participants to meet in person after going through all the information and resources.


​Almost all the participants agreed that meeting other workshop participants in person was the best part. Participants meet with diverse groups of people such as Pkakenyaw from Mae Hong Sorn province, Muslim youth from the three-southeast provinces of Thailand, and youth from the central part of Thailand. All the participants have different skills and interests so that they can share their views and experiences. This helps to broaden their viewpoints and to learn about different cultural contexts and backgrounds.

Photo: UNDP Thailand

Ideas Become True


​During the meeting between the participants, the organizers invited Social Entrepreneurs who have succeeded in business and created social impact to share their inspiring experiences. Some of the social entrepreneurs are alumni of Youth Co:Lab, such as Thanakorn Promyot, the co-founder of Yonghappy (Youth Co:Lab alumni 2017), and Sarocha Tiansri, co-founder of Pa’ Learn (Youth Co:Lab alumni 2019).


​Before the last day of the program, each team reviewed the status of their projects and learned about the SDGs where each team got to apply the concept of inclusive society to their projects as well as consider economic, social, and environmental impacts. ​One of the participants mentioned that the session on SDGs is one of the most impressive sessions because it helps to broaden the direction of the project and find the possibility of the project to be more inclusive.

Photo: UNDP Thailand

Project Presentation


The end of the first phase is when the participants pitched their project to the committee and other participants. The presentation provided crucial information to help the audiences understand and find social innovation, which had been eagerly developed during the program.


Before presenting the project, particpants heard suggestions on issues that should be included, and examples of the effective presentation methods and strategies. The presentation was not only for the contest, but the organizers hope that it provided an opportunity for the participants to narrate the problems that they or their relatives or friends experience in their everyday lives. The organizers also hope that the participants can summarize the ideas and knowledge from the workshop and share it with other participants.


All ten team have developed their projects, and they have their work plan ready to be implemented and eventually, achieve their goals. Even though only five out of ten teams will receive the funds to trial their project for three months, it does not mean that all the team will gain nothing from their work developed along with the program. They can further their projects in several ways, such as making a prototype from their idea, finding a new partner in the program to proceed with their projects, or making a proposal to the other activities or other opening opportunities.


This project could not be successful without the collaboration from the enthusiastic youth who applied. We are thankful for our partners, Citi Foundation, UNICEF, Thailand Institute of Justice, True Incube, and the National Innovation Agency (NIA) for their collaboration on organizing the program, providing multidiscipline knowledge to the participants. We are very grateful to the facilitators from the Hand Up Network and the Changefusion for their hard work on instructing and supporting all ten teams throughout the program.

What are the stories behind the five selected team, who will benefit from their innovation, and how will the innovation solve these particular social problems? It will be narrated in the next articles. Please stay tuned!

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Co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab establishes a common agenda for countries in Asia-Pacific 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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