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Startup to Pakistan's premier publishing platform: How social enterprises can help acheive the SDGs

Joint post by Zara Qaiser (UNDP Pakistan), Ayesha Babar (UNDP Pakistan), and Zahin Hussain

Daastan was one of the three winners at the National SDG Bootcamp in 2019, Islamabad. Photo: UNDP

Syed Ommer Amer, Chief Executive Officer of Daastan (Legend), is the first Pakistani to have received the Media Information Literacy Award by UNESCO for his work. He is also amongst 20 extraordinary young individuals including inventors, activists, and entrepreneurs from 18 countries who were finalists for the Commonwealth Youth Awards earlier this year. The award recognises outstanding youth from the Commonwealth whose projects are transforming lives in their communities and helping to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

National SDG Bootcamp at the National Incubation Centre in Islamabad, 2019. Photo: DEMO Enterprises Pvt. Ltd

Daastan is a social enterprise based in Pakistan that started off as a team of three people giving freelance writers the opportunity to publish their work. The team would try to find employment as well as training opportunities through their book publishing platform. They were one of the national winners, selected to be part of the National SDG Bootcamp followed by the SDG Changemakers Summit held in Islamabad in January 2019.

National SDG Bootcamp in Islamabad, 2019. Photo: UNDP

The SDG Bootcamp is a first-of-its kind five-day entrepreneurship bootcamp, developed jointly by UNDP and Youth Co:Lab–a regional initiative co-created by UNDP and Citi Foundation in 2017 for young social entrepreneurs whose initiatives contribute to the realization of the 17 SDGs in Pakistan. Since 2018, UNDP has held two SDG Bootcamps through which it has supported 41 social enterprises and engaged over 100 changemakers while working with 25 local partners. A widely successful initiative which has resulted in the establishment of numerous social enterprises, including Daastan, that have secured funding both nationally and internationally.

Regional Youth CoLab Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, 2019. Photo: Youth Co:Lab.

Over the course of five days of the SDG Bootcamp, Daastan received mentorship and support from leading experts in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. It helped them develop their potential to tackle Pakistan’s complex development challenges. In 2019, the top three performers from the SDG Bootcamp, including Daastan, were awarded grants of USD 2,500 each to help them expand their social enterprises. They were also given the opportunity to pitch their ideas at the Regional Youth Co: Lab Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam and subsequently at the Asia-Pacific Forum on Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Guangzhou, China.

After the Summit, Daastan received dedicated support from the Youth Co:Lab’s Regional Springboard team and was recognized as a high-potential social enterprise with prospects to achieve regional success. Through ongoing mentorship, Daastan pursued its objectives and key results framework, developed a digital accounting ledger and brand assets, and scaled its revenues three times over in just one year.

Syed Ommer Amer, Chief Executive Officer of Daastan, at the Regional Youth CoLab Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, 2019. Photo: Youth Co:Lab.
“Be it the SDG Bootcamp, Youth Co:Lab or the Movers Programme, UNDP has supported Daastan at every step of the way and has always given us opportunities to prove ourselves. I will forever be grateful to UNDP for providing me with a platform and giving me the opportunity to rebuild the foundations of Pakistan's literary industry through tech,” said Syed Ommer Amer, Chief Executive Officer of Daastan.

The team of Daastan is also playing an influential role with different initiatives and movements striving to accelerate the realization of the SDGs. One such community is the Youth Co:Lab Mover’s Programme, comprised of young volunteers that promote SDG awareness, entrepreneurial mindsets and 21st century skills through localized trainings.

Daastan is one of numerous social enterprises that UNDP has supported through its national and regional initiatives. UNDP’s Youth Empowerment Programme (YEP) works closely with Youth Co:Lab to empower and invest in youth so that they can accelerate the implementation of the SDGs through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship. Working with young social entrepreneurs in all sectors at various stages of business growth, from scouting for good ideas to turning them into viable business solutions, UNDP continuously strives to strengthen the social enterprise ecosystem in Pakistan so that social enterprises like Daastan can flourish.


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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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