Friday, October 28, 2011

Conclusive Sentiments of the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum

Hi fellow mentors and friends

I am humbly thankful for being provided the opportunity to travel to Paris just last week to attend the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum as one of the two Singaporean delegates.

I sincerely believe that it was only with the support and opportunities from YOU, provided throughout different phases of life that provided me the profile to clinch the spot, to represent Singapore to stand among 210 youth delegates representing 127 Member States.

Hence, I would like to share this report which we have prepared, of which will be presented by our elected youth representatives from Finland and Canada, to have the proposal discussed as an agenda item in the UNESCO General Forum held this week. Leaders from all member states will be attending to jointly discuss various social issues as priorities to address within the 2 years to come, and invest in resources to tackle them with the development and implementation of policies within their own countries.

Despite the fact that I was just one of the 210 delegates and that our proposal may or may not be of any significant influence to any consensus the leaders may form, I am truly delighted to be given this opportunity to even have this opportunity to potentially create an impact throughout the world.

This is the very first time, UNESCO have given the youths, this opportunity to present the proposal, prepared and presented by Youths, to represent the voice of Youths from 127 member states. This is also the very first time that I felt that my voice, no matter how small, have contributed to a unified voice that has essentially reached out to all the leaders from the various political leaders of the various UNESCO member states.

Therefore, I am encouraged and have been equipped with the confident to tell all the youths of our country; 
"Youths, Do not fear to dream about a better world!
Do not fear that your voice will not be heard!
Do not fear that your actions will not make a difference!

Believe in yourself, Believe in your cause!
Reach out and achieve the change you want to see!
Be the change you want to see!
For if you don't,
Who will?"

To all my friends and mentors, Thank You!

You are also a simply awesome change-maker! 
I thank God that I got to know you, and I sincerely hope that you will continuously believe and strive to achieve your dreams for a better world!

Link to reports:

7th UNESCO Youth Forum Day 3

Education should be recognized as a basic human right.

“All youths should have access to education through non-discriminatory channels that does not privilege any particular community.”

This was a strong sentiment, particularly felt by most of the ASEAN delegates. As it was realized after some exchanges, that language barriers were often the main limitations that prevents educational programs developed in one country to be effectively and efficiently imported into another.
To address this concern, I presented the opinion during the education debate, that all youths should be equipped with a common language (Such as English), so that they may benefit from cross-boundaries educational resources that can be increasingly found online. Many passionate change-makers have recently utilize innovative ways of presenting educational tools on web sources, such as uploading of tutoring videos on YouTube as a free source for teaching Math, Sciences or even instructions in utilizing different software programs such as Photoshop, Excel and many others. Thus, if a common language is taught in all countries, particularly in rural areas, then everyone in pursuit of education may have equal access to such resources.

Beside this issue, many others were discussed, such as:

  1. More opportunity for self-employment or employment in general.
It was at this debate that I learnt the difficulties of incorporating a start-up in many other countries. Unlike Singapore, where incorporation is just a few clicks, a few days of waiting and $300-$600 application fee away from owning your own business, many countries requires encumbering documentation requirements and many other restrictions. As such, for a economy to benefit from job creations as a result of entrepreneurship, process for incorporation needs to be improved, so that everyone will have equal opportunities to set-up their own enterprises.

Entrepreneurship provides benefits of new innovations, more jobs and the solving of community problems through innovative or creative means. Nevertheless, an entrepreneurship culture needs to be nurtured and created. It cannot be bought or simply built within just a few years as there are multiple factors to develop before the whole system become self-sustaining and thriving. Hence, as a start, we need to allow wide-spread communities to have equal access to the opportunities of entrepreneurship, and that youths are taught from young (Even when they are just children), to be able to think creatively and innovatively, and at much larger scale and ambition.

It is incorrect to assume that the poor, uneducated, or in anyway disadvantaged individuals, cannot become entrepreneurs. It is in fact, often observed from various micro-finance projects and social initiatives which I have came across, that the desire, hunger and drive to become financially independent is much greater in these communities, than the educated community in Singapore. All it really takes are the empowerment of these individuals with the confidence in their own abilities and self-esteem, and equip them with additional skills and support, so to enable them to achieve entrepreneurial successes.

  1. Desire for innovation
As discussed on the importance of entrepreneurship, a creative and innovative culture is often found necessary for society as a whole to continuously seek improvements in much aspect of our lives. From the way we do think to the way we cook/eat, from the way we play to the way we study, from the way we travel to the way we communicate with one another, innovation has increasingly found much more efficient and effective ways of doing the same things.

These attitudes and skills can also be transferred to solving social problems. Through comprehension on problems, ideation, rapid prototyping, and constant evaluations, solutions can be designed to innovatively solve the problems of the world.

Therefore, all government, VWOS, NGOs, private companies, and individuals should take steps to explore such areas of innovation and entrepreneurship to collectively solve the social issues we see around us.

  1. Broad base curriculum
With increasingly uncertainty in the world, due to rapidly changing demands and needs of the market, youths are increasingly finding difficulty in being equipped with relevant skills and expertise that are demanded in the job market.

This is perhaps contradictory to the powers of innovation and globalization, as they have created an increasingly competitive and rapidly evolving society. However, as discussed, such progress is useful and I would suggest, perhaps even needed, particularly in the solving of various social problems which persistently exist in our society.

To counteract these negative trends, youths and children should be equipped with both soft-skills and different technical-skills/expertise. This enables them to be equipped with a broad base of expertise, and the soft-skills that are transferrable from one industry to another.

In addition, youths and children should increasingly be taught “How to learn”, rather than “What to learn”, so that they become adaptable and versatile value-added members of society.

  1. Practicality of education and Early Internship opportunities
As the world rapidly evolves, practicality of education is important, so to ensure that youths learn what is actually “useful” when they graduate from school.

This can be enabled by facilitating early internship opportunities or encourage youths to explore the market needs by themselves, and help them facilitate adequate decision-making on what fields of expertise to acquire.

The benefits of early internship opportunities will also present mentorship opportunities to those youths who find the chance to build relationships with seniors in the industry, and benefit from their guidance and coaching of practical skills, rather than simply learning from the books.

Many other issues which existed in other countries were also learnt during this forum. To prevent the report from being too extensive, I would simply summarize these lessons into the pointers listed below:

  1. Key challenges of youth employment
    1. Lack of internship opportunities in all fields of work; Including political positions in some countries
    2. Not every school in the world teaches entrepreneurship
    3. Networking opportunities are found lacking in some countries
    4. Incentive for youth employment may perhaps be needed; Especially in welfare states
    5. Capacity building is required
  1. Proposed ideas to help tackle youth unemployment
    1. Consistent training and growth opportunities in companies
    2. Train and integrate youths into the senior workforce
    3. Provide equal advantages and opportunities to all communities (Particularly to vulnerable youths – which includes youth-at-risk, physically handi-cappable, etc)
    4. Use of technology and access to technology in rural education
    5. Basic literacy skills, character building (Life-skills) and financial literacy to be taught to everyone!
    6. For urban communities; Funding from government and community support, to encourage youths to travel to less advantageous societies, to transfer knowledge and skills (English, Financial literacy and civil/community literacy)
    7. Counseling and mentorship programs

  2.  Response from panelist
    1. Education, computer literacy and financial literacy should be brought online
    2. We should be job creators rather than job seekers
    3. Countries to implement second chance programs
    4. Increase relevance of education
    5. Act with governments to enhance technical training
    6. Ensure that all youths’ voices are heard
    7. Importance of non-formal education
    8. Teachers needs to be selected and trained

    1. Conclusive statements by the panelist
      1. We need to understand the society around the world, to be able to create an impact.
      2. We need to first change ourselves, and then be engaged in change. Know yourself, then know the world.
      3. Take action though
                                                                  i.      Consumer choices – Your purchase options are votes to which organization should continue to exist
                                                                ii.      Promote ethical values and behaviors
                                                              iii.      Build relationships with others; learn to empathize
      1. How to change the education system?
                                                                  i.      First, define the world and the vision you will like to see
                                                                ii.      Next, enable youths to be more active in acquiring knowledge

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    7th UNESCO Youth Forum Day 2

    I apologize for any language error committed on this blog post, as I was writing these blogs immediately after each day of the conference, doing it until 2am for this particular post. Hence, I seek your humble understandings on any mistakes I've made on this post.

    A. Opening Address Speaker: Mr David L. Hepburn, President of the UNESCO General Conference

    David was extremely encouraging in the potentials youths have in creating the change they want to see.
    He stated that all governments should:

    1. Recognize that youths have the talents, competence, and ideas to create real change
    2. Encourage and equip youths to take action
    3. Recognize that change is only constant. Do not be afraid to support youth causes.

    In addition, youths should:
    1. Never again accept “No” as a response to drive change
    2. Never fear to make your voices heard

    A personal reflection of mine would be, how many adults often say that youths lack the experience to 
    “Change the world”. That we should take this and that steps before we can ever think that we are wise enough to do so.

    I do agree that youths lack the experience required to make wise and perhaps truly practical decisions. But we should recognize the facts that:
    1. Youths are increasingly well connected, and hence more influential.
    2. Youths are courageous, have great energy and are not limited to mental obstacles that prevents us from seeing hope and optimism in various issues in life
    3. Youths creates change with the sincere intention to bring benefit to society rather than for selfish gains

    Therefore rather than rejecting the various ideas of youths and suppressing the voices of youths, the government should instead teach youths:
    1. The best/most effective ways to get themselves heard
    2. Non-violent ways (Not necessary non-disruptive ways) of voicing their stands
    3. Skills and competence to become effective change-makers
    4. Becoming positive leaders of change
    5. Ways to acquire objective information

    And to encourage youths to:
    1. Dream Big
    2. Be Faithful
    3. Take Action
    4. Be the Change they Want

    As shared by Ms Irina Bkova, UNESCO Director-General. As Matin Luther King said, “I have a dream!” Live your dream, this is the way you can change the world. Her emphasis was on the possibility of creating change, when we are really passionate and take active actions in doing so.

    Mr Miguel Angel Carreon Sanchez reinforced the message by telling us that change starts from us. It is from being really disciplined in all the little things that are seemingly important to us, that we learn to accomplish BIG things which are important to others

    B. The “legacy” of the International Year of Youth and the results of the high level meeting on youths

    Among many speakers, Ms Nicola Shepherd provided many insightful ideas which the government can act take on:
    1. Need to invest in youths – Education, training , employment, healthcare
    2. Build partnerships with youths
    3. Full participation of youths in decision-making
    4. For full participation to become successful, youth development challenges must be addressed
    5. Monitor and evaluate government’s impact on youths

    Maria Kyprioton , Section for Youth, Sport & Physical education, Social and Human science sector UNESCO, wrapped up the morning discussion by placing emphasized on:
    - Gender equality
    - Conflict settings
    - Vulnerable groups

    C. How Youth Drives Change, Main Thematic Plenary

    Among the other speakers, Prof Gunter Faltin, Free University of Berlin, Germany, made the deepest impression.

    He introduced the new concept of social entrepreneurship with facts on a tea business which became profitable and more successful than even some of the other more popular brands.

    He said that it is definitely possible to provide higher quality products, at lower price, fairly traded and environmental conservational factors in a business, and still succeed if the idea is great. In fact, all enterprises should strive to become socially responsible in the products they sell, how they treat their employees, and their general conduct of the business, etc.

    I personal believe that more support, recognition and encouragement should be made by the government and companies of the private sectors (Both in Singapore and the world), so to promote and encourage social entrepreneurship.

    Social Entrepreneurship is about identifying a social problem, and then develops innovations and a sustainable business model to solve that problem.

    Its potential in creating rapid and wide spread change cannot be underestimated as it is less tied up with 
    bureaucracy, relies on the normal operations of the market rather than the government, natural selection process of the best parties to lead the particular area of change, etc.

    It is surprising how advance is Singapore in foremost setting a definition of Social Entrepreneurship in the community (And hence the setting of certain tangible measures and standards), to build the community of Social Entrepreneurs and provide various funding and mentorship sources to encourage social entrepreneurship. Therefore, I believe that our sophistication and best practice in this area is definitely a valuable contribution to the international scene.

    Nevertheless, Singapore should step up its efforts in educating its citizens of the ideas and definition of social entrepreneurship, as well as clear out any wrongful assumptions of what social entrepreneurships are or are not.

    From Ruth Jones the executive director of Social Venture Partner International (Through a personal meeting in the past), “It is a fallacy that all non-profits should become social enterprises! As we cannot deny that certain organizations could/should be best carried in the form of professionally ran non-profit organizations.

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    7th UNESCO Youth Forum Day 1

    The 7th UNESCO Youth Forum sparked off with the entire first day, dedicated to providing a fundamental introduction and training of the dedicates on social issues, conflict resolution techniques and introductions of many social initiatives, so to provide better context into the various issues which we will be discussed and debated in the days to come.


    We started off with having an introduction by Irina Bokova, Director-general of the UNESCO and Forest Whitaker, a famous actor, to provide an introduction into what are some of the objectives of UNESCO.

    Some of the major points I picked up includes, the importance of:
    1. Transforming thoughts into actions
    2. Building peace through community building
    3. Putting education into practise
    4. Connect and incubate intentions

    It was also highlighted that we define our purpose clearly, and to define our purpose of the UNESCO Youth Forum together.

    Conflict Resolution Workshop

    1. Forest Whitaker, actor
    2. Aldul
    3. Rajshree Patel

    Some misconceptions about peace were shared by Aldul (I do sincerely apologise for misspelling of any names), that due to the lack of resources, we often end up thinking that peace is impractical, cannot be controlled nor achieved and are all reliant on external factors of influence.

    However, “Peace” is really a choice. It is about the choice to build “relationships” which begins with yourself.

    Rajshree took over by emphasizing that we can build relationships by building linkages. This is done by caring enough to listen, feel and understand one another.
    Peace is not just about reduction of Ultra Vires. It is also about equality and harmony.

    Forest came back again to give a great summary; that it is the illusion of separateness that keep us from coming together to build peace. And if separateness is removed, it is impossible to harm one another.

    There were a lot more sharing and exercises from the different speakers, but one of the most interesting exercise; was the speakers facilitation of words which describes conflicts, and then words to describe peace, so to communicate the emotions and picture of what conflict/peace looks like.

    The conclusive lessons are the 4 factors in resolving inter-group conflicts:
    1. Be impeccable with your word (Words creates reality)
    2. Don’s take anything personally
    3. Don’t make assumptions
    4. Always do your best!

    Social Media Communication

    Pros: More reliability, community inputs rather than institutional inputs
    Cons: Skewed stories presented only by people which you are connected to

    Various functions, potentials and dangers of social medias were discussed, but I will only share the key pointers of interest.

    a. Why Social Media?
    Because it gets noticed!  

    Whether it influences someone else or leads to a change in a person’s behavior, it is of another story.

    b. Issues in Digital Social Media
    - Exploitation of children rights in communication collateral
    - We should share more facts than just opinions
    - Beware of who will be viewing your post, and for what purpose
    - Think about broader issues and use them to influence online sentiments

    Leadership Training
    Not of significance.

    IDB Youth Steps to Creating Young Change-makers

    IDB creates change by providing youths with connections to entrepreneurship, volunteerism, technology and resources.

    These are the 6 step procedure for creating a change agent:
    1. Become acquitted with your reality
    2. Imagine a better world
    3. Find your space to take action
    4. Get a group together
    5. Establish an action plan and execute it
    6. Reflect upon and evaluate the impact (Back to 1)

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Define: Social Entrepreneurship

    Hi all

    I am really privileged to be selected by UNESCO, to represent Singapore in the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum, and will be sharing Singaporean views on various social issues surrounding the youths at Paris next week.

    During one of the many discussion online prior to the actual event itself, I was motivated to share with the other delegate, clear and concise information defining social entrepreneurship, obtained from the Singapore's SE Association (SEA) website, and I will like to share it with you all.

    Taken from:

    Social enterprises are, first and foremost, businesses. The term refers to any non-profit, for-profit or hybrid corporate form that utilises market-based strategies to advance a social cause. Like any other business, it aims to create surpluses, but seeks to reinvest those surpluses to achieve its social objectives. Social enterprises are not businesses driven by a need to maximise profit for their shareholders or owners. 

    The social needs addressed by social enterprises and the business models used can be extremely diverse (such as environmental, social issues and healthcare etc). Social enterprises can be said to pursue double or even triple bottom lines, implying that beyond financial outcomes, they also seek to accomplish their intended social and/or environmental cause(s).

    From the report of the Social Enterprise Committee published in 2007, there are four broad models of social enterprise that we can find in Singapore today, although this is not an exhaustive taxonomy of the complex and varied ways in which social enterprise can be conducted.


    Business Model


    Plough-back-profit Model
    The objective of these social enterprises is to generate profit to fund the social programmes of their affiliated or parent charities. This helps VWOs or charities reduce their reliance on donations and enhance their financial sustainability.
    Subsidised Services Model
    These social enterprises provide subsidised services to needy and/or disadvantaged clients, and charge commercial rates to mainstream customers. This ensures that the people who could not usually afford certain services have access to such services to improve their quality of life.
    Work Integration Model
    The Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs) provide skills training and/or employment opportunities to the needy disadvantaged (i.e. those who have higher than usual barriers to employment, such as ex-offenders) as a means to reintegrate them into society and encourage them to be self-reliant. They give an opportunity to people who may not find employment on the open market.
    Social Needs Model
    These social enterprises are designed to serve society's social needs or address certain social issues. These issues can include community bonding, family bonding and racial harmony.