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

  • Writer's pictureYouth Co:Lab

The SDGs and Youth Social Entrepreneurship: A Perfect Fusion to Achieve a Better World by 2030

By Youth Co:Lab Singapoore

What are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

The SDGs were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. The SDGs are fully integrated, which means that action in one area will affect outcomes in others.

The SDGs promote a different range of opportunities for the global community to take action and contribute, to reach those ambitious but extremely necessary outcomes. How successful we are in creating a better world, is dependent on how we build innovations and use our existing social, financial, and human capital resources to achieve these goals.

SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Through the pledge to “Leave No One Behind”, countries have committed to fast-track progress for those furthest behind first. Therefore, governments can’t act alone. The spectrum of social needs requires joint efforts from the public sector, corporates, academia, civil organisations, nonprofits and the emerging social entrepreneurs. Just as the SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals - suggests, all stakeholders must complement each other’s expertise and resources in order to work towards a better future for all. In other words, we must work and collaborate together to achieve our SDGs, there’s no other way we could achieve them by 2030.

Social Entrepreneurship: Understanding the Concept

Social enterprises (SEs) have their core focus on the larger social mission while also managing the conventional business plans and decision-making processes. By nature, social entrepreneurship allows social innovation through the conception and implementation of multidisciplinary ideas that impact the social issues, including our environment, communities and economies.

Youth Action Challenge Season 1. Photo: Youth Co:Lab Singapore

SEs are getting international recognition and support for their willingness to disrupt the conventional way of solving social issues. In fact, they have been identified as key contributors to attaining the entire spectrum of SDGs. Therefore, creating partnerships that include SEs to provide all types of knowledge and resources is highly important to expand their social impact. Youth Co:Lab tries to facilitate that.

According to the European Commission report on Social enterprises, they are a key element of today’s European economic landscape, as they

  1. Create jobs,

  2. Innovate in welfare provision,

  3. Provide opportunities to participate in economic life and

  4. Help demographic, green and digital transitions, without leaving anyone behind (EC, 2020).

How are SEs contributing to international Development?

Let’s take a look at the numbers. According to a study conducted by Schwab Foundation on social entrepreneurship across 190 countries, more than 622 million people have been directly impacted by the operations and activities of SEs since their inception (WEF, 2020). Also, more than 192 million tonnes of CO2 have been mitigated through the enterprises studies (Schwab Foundation, 2020).

Social enterprises are also generating more than what people usually think or expect. In fact, according to a British Council Report (2018), it’s estimating that social enterprises account for more than 10% of France’s GDP, 15% of Italy’s and an even higher in the Netherlands and Belgium -15.9% (BC, 2018).

Empowering the Youth Social Entrepreneurs

As innovation and disruption is part of youth DNA, social entrepreneurship offers a perfect opportunity for the youth to contribute to the 2030 Agenda while creating a profitable professional career. Actually, among citizens between 18-34 years old, there is a greater representation of nascent social entrepreneurs than commercial entrepreneurs in three of the world’s regions: the Middle East/North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe (GEM, 2018).

According to the UN report on Youth Social Entrepreneurship, one possible explanation is that young people today are assigning equal value to the dual benefits of social entrepreneurship: a way to generate their own employment and help to address the challenges of their communities (UN, 2020).

About Youth Co:Lab

Youth Co: Lab is a joint initiative of the United Nations Development Programme and Citi Foundation. We believe that youth are not only the future, but also the present, and empowering them to reinvent and create solutions for our most pressing challenges is key to achieve our Sustainable Development Goals. In order to do so, we partner with the youth themselves, but also corporates, academia and the public sector across the Asia Pacific region to create a better ecosystem for youth social entrepreneurs to grow, scale and impact their communities.

This blog is the first in our Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) Series. Stay tuned as in our next few blogs, we will showcase the Youth Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Singapore, as well as address some of the main challenges and opportunities for the youth willing to take this journey or already on it.


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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