UNDP’s Youth Social Innovation Lab Gathers the Best in Filipino Youth Innovation

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Youth Co:Lab 2019 recently gathered young innovators from all over the country to develop and pitch ideas for socially inclusive sustainable enterprises. With the theme “Social Inclusion,” the two-day hackathon held at the Benilde Hub of Innovation for Inclusion showcased the ideas of more than 100 Filipinos between 15 to 30 years old, including high school and university students, new graduates, youth affected by conflicts and/or disasters, members of the LGBTQIA community, differently-abled youth, as well as those from ethnic and religious minorities.

Part of Philippine Startup Week 2019, the Youth Social Innovation Lab was hosted by Youth Co:Lab Philippines in partnership with makesense, and co-led by Citi Foundation.

Participants were grouped together and through intensive integrated learning sessions rooted on human-centered and design thinking methods—had the opportunity to be mentored by experts to harness their ideas into tangible and marketable solutions. The teams pitched their ideas to a board of jurors to clinch a spot at next year’s Youth Co:Lab Regional Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where they will have an opportunity to compete with fellow youth innovators across the Asia-Pacific region.

Tangible solutions

Here are some of the ideas pitched at the event:

Qapwa – aims to do away with Basilan’s stigma of being a hotbed of terrorism by offering tour packages showcasing their rich culture. The group emphasizes that visiting Mindanao is relatively safe and that AFP security is already a tourism requirement in their area.
Project SDGs4ALL – seeks to layman-ize the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by explaining them in a comic book format to be incorporated as a curriculum activity. According to the presenter, not enough Filipinos are aware of the SDGs, despite the deadline set for achieving them being merely a decade away. “If we don’t raise awareness about and layman-ize the SDGs, then we might as well accept that achieving them is just wishful thinking on our part.”
Greenhows – harnesses the ideas and potential of individuals from displaced communities through stories and exhibitions, environmental campaigns, commerce, and capacity building. Conceived by six passionate Yolanda survivors who realize how important stories are to a nation’s history and psyche. They’re determined to share, preserve, and rewrite their stories and that of their community through their initiative.
Project Ka-sama – visualizes a virtual learning environment offering mental health and counseling classes to people with chronic medical conditions. eAtelier is their prototype, and it targets youths with chronic diseases as more than half of this segment tend to have mental health issues. At least two of the team members have chronic health conditions themselves: “I won’t live to see 2030, but I hope this idea does.”
Grow Philippines – offers a platform for Laguna farmers to analyze and budget their resources. They discovered through research that 86 percent of those who religiously keep records saw a dramatic increase in their income. They plan to address the irony that some of our country’s food producers can’t afford food themselves.
MeBo – pitches a marketplace for selling personalized biodegradable medicine bottles. The nondescript packaging conceals the contents of the bottle, so those with stigmatizing illnesses like HIV and HBV need not fear being alienated. The bottles are also useful for other types of pills like multivitamins and supplements.
Project Kaala Mangyan – envisions an e-commerce and e-learning center for the Hanunuo Mangyans of Oriental Mindoro. The said community is hobbled by poverty and a lack of education, problems that this project hopes to effectively address.
TransKonek – gives transgender Filipinos having trouble finding work an online platform linking them to job opportunities and other support services. A lot of companies, they say, compel transgenders to give up their identities first (“…but first you need to cut your hair…”) before giving them jobs.
AccesiWheels – enables the physically disabled to enjoy comfortable rides through a ride hailing mobile application designed for them. Co-founded by someone whose car accident left him in a wheelchair. His accident made him think, “How hard is it for physically disabled persons without cars to move from point A to point B?” Their drivers will be trained to be sensitive to their clients’ particular needs, with driving them to and from clinic visits among the app features.
PUL.DI.YA. – crafts a freelancing portal for the indigenous population in the Cordillera region. They plan to train youths in on-demand as well as digital and soft skills, with courses to be taught in their mother tongue.
#Ethicoco – utilizes agricultural wastes through the employment of indigenous peoples. Banking on the opportunity presented by the plastic packaging ban in their province of Agusan del Norte, they are driven to innovate high value-added products such as paper from devalued agriculture wastes like coconut husks.

Looking forward

Of the seventeen groups that presented, five will have the chance to represent the Philippines in the regional competition: AccesiWheels (first place); #Ethnicoco (second place); Transkonek (third place); Project Ka-sama (fourth place); and Greenhows (fifth place).

Lisa Coory, Head of Public Affairs at Citi Philippines, expressed Citi’s support of the initiative. “Our employee mentors who shared financial and technology expertise were greatly impressed by the breadth of innovative ideas,” she said. “We congratulate all participants for taking the initiative to solve important problems affecting our communities and we look forward to cheering on the selected teams from the Philippines at the Regional Summit where they will join fellow youth from 24 other Asia-Pacific countries in April 2020.”
Youth Co:Lab and makesense will soon be organizing the first National Springboard Programme to further support the rest of the participants of the Youth Social Innovation Lab. This three-week online sprint will train young innovators who are in the ideation phase to learn the basics of entrepreneurship and have the opportunity to build prototypes for their solutions.