Young Southeast Asians Unite in Singapore to Create Solutions to the SDGs

Designed to empower Southeast Asian youth to tackle regional sustainability issues, Young Sustainable Impact Southeast Asia (YSI SEA)’s 14 week-long Innovation Programme 2018 came to an end on 30 July 2018. The programme brought forward 24 participants from across 8 Southeast Asian countries to kickstart solutions for select United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) faced in their local communities.

 

YSI SEA team, YSI Global team and participants of the Innovation Programme 2018 at University Town, National University of Singapore

After a three-round selection process with 800 applicants, the Innovation Programme 2018 nurtured the 24 most promising participants to build 6 social impact startup teams focusing on the UN SDGs. The Innovation Programme 2018 consisted of two main components: the Online Innovation Programme and the Singapore Innovation Programme. The Online Innovation Programme was conducted on various virtual collaboration platforms. Over three months, participant teams were guided by expert mentors and YSI SEA’s curated course modules, from problem identification to developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for market validation.

YSI SEA then flew its participants down to Singapore on 19 July 2018 for the Singapore Innovation Programme. Over the next ten days, teams were able to accelerate their innovation process in each other’s physical presence. Five courses were conducted to prepare teams for pitching day and beyond. The participants also attended a workshop on the UN SDGs, the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the platforms available to them to take actions for the UN SDGs.   

Pitching took place during the Singapore Sustainability Conference on 29 July 2018, to an invited group of angel and corporate investors, venture capitalists, accelerators and rotary members at the CDL Singapore Sustainability Academy.

The participants of the Singapore Innovation Week 2018 with Danat Tekie, Chief External Relations Officer, YSI Global during the Cultural Night

Leveraging on their diverse geographical and technical backgrounds, all six teams displayed their creative prowess in fashioning innovative solutions to the SDGS in the ASEAN region.

While Agrireach created the Reach Cube to tackle poor irrigation and drainage systems in agricultural fields in Philippines’, Allyasia developed an e-commerce platform to empower indigenous communities in Southeast Asia by reimagining their cultural heritage and to provide them with sustainable livelihoods. Gatewaste pitched a mobile application to optimise the recycling system in in Jakarta, by mobilising and empowering scavengers.

When asked about her thoughts on the Innovation Programme 2018, Sophia Enage, a participant of the Innovation Programme 2018 and co-founder of Mushroomable, said, “YSI SEA opened so many opportunities for learning and sharing wisdom as well as actualizing passions in life. In this whirlpool of experiences, learning and realizations, I want and will create sustainable and positive waves that the world will enjoy just like how YSI SEA made it possible for me.” Her startup idea aims to empower farmers to manage agricultural waste effectively, by utilizing rice by-products to grow mushrooms.

Sophia Enage, a participant of the Innovation Programme 2018 and co-founder of Mushroomable, pitching her idea during the Singapore Sustainable Conference 2018

The use of technology was apparent in the ideas generated by all the startups. With the goal of empowering healthcare providers in Philippines, Nutri-Alliance proposed an application that educates and supports healthcare providers, through access to digital information, education, and communication materials for healthcare and nutrition. Even Kembalikash, with the mission of educating Indonesian migrant workers f and their families in financial literacy, is working with industry leaders to provide an online payment and financial management platform.

Innovation Programme 2018 was a huge success, and the longevity of participants’ startup ideas for sustainable development will be seen to. These are made possible by a YSI SEA team which has worked tireless behind the scenes. “The whole YSI SEA team holds the SDGs closely to their hearts and their actions. We believe in the fundamental concept of leaving no one behind (and that includes mother nature) and the SDGs embody this concept perfectly”, said Sai Surya, the Managing Director of YSI SEA. “YSI SEA aims to empower these youth regardless of socio-economic backgrounds to solve the sustainable issues they are passionate about with a measurable impact. By creating impact-driven startups and impact-driven young leaders, we hope to push the SDGs and society forward,” he added.

YSI SEA team, YSI Global team and participants of the Innovation Programme 2018 at CDL Singapore Sustainability Academy

YSI SEA is one of the regional chapters of Young Sustainable Impact (YSI Global). YSI Global was started in Oslo, Norway by a group of youths passionate about bringing young people around the world together to tackle sustainability problems. They saw a lack of startups in the field of sustainable development aimed at alleviating bigger world problems, and decided to bridge the gap between idea generation and impact, as well as engage youth in sustainability and entrepreneurship.

When asked why YSI Global chose Singapore and Southeast Asia to work in the field of sustainable development, Marcus Bruns, Co-founder and CEO of YSI Global commented, “When YSI Global expanded to new regions, we based our decision on the people who applied to start locally. Not only were we lucky to have a great team in Singapore, we also have a youth population of 213 million in the ASEAN region, which makes it a great arena for sustainable innovation and community engagement.”

In addition to the Singapore Sustainability Conference, YSI SEA also organized the Singapore Sustainability Showcase on the same day. Graced by the Guest of Honour, Minister of Social and Family Development and Second Minister of National Development Desmond Lee, the showcase brought different NGOs, social entrepreneurs and corporations together to share on various sustainability initiatives and innovation in Singapore and the region. 

Minister Desmond Lee, the Minister of Social and Family Development and 2nd Minister of National Development in Singapore and Sai Surya, Managing Director of YSI SEA during the Singapore Sustainability Showcase

Ultimately when you talk about sustainability, it is how do we endear into each and every one of us that we are nothing more than mere custodians and stewards – that we take what we need today to meet the needs of ourselves, our families, our communities and our societies,” said the minister when delivering the opening address.

The 400 registered attendees of the Showcase were given electronic goodie bags. Among others, the goodie bags featured the ASEAN MY World Survey, which made it convenient for the attendees to take the Survey both during and after the Showcase. 

Since its inception in 2017, YSI SEA has received widespread support from organizations such as the Prime Minister’s Office Singapore, Temasek Foundation Ecosperity, World Vision Singapore and National Youth Council of Singapore. YSI Global has the network of 14,000 entrepreneurs and innovators worldwide united with the common goal of reaching the UN SDGs. By bringing together the energy of the youth around the world and by connecting them to private, national and global stakeholders, YSI Global and YSI SEA could create an ecosystem to solve some of the most crucial issues of the 21st century.

Shafkat Fahmid Sifat

Author: Shafkat Fahmid Sifat

Shafkat is the Director of Corporate Relations of Young Sustainable Impact Southeast Asia (“YSI SEA”), a non-profit in Singapore with the aim to engage Southeast Asian youth with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”) and to build strong and effective start-up teams that will create solutions to one or more of the SDGs. Born in Bangladesh, Shafkat graduated from the National University of Singapore and is currently a practising lawyer in Singapore. He is also one of the co-founders and currently, a foreign delegate of Youth's Voice, a registered NGO in Bangladesh.