The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Seeds for the Future small grants competition provides funding to Southeast Asia’s most promising young leaders, enabling them to carry out projects that uplift communities across the ASEAN region through civic engagement, education, economic growth, and sustainable development.
Being involved with the competition has helped me realize that building the leadership capabilities of young social innovators, leaders, and agents of change is one of the most effective ways to overcome the world’s biggest challenges.
This year, 21 projects were selected from over 400 applications to be implemented over the course of nine months. While some of these are small initiatives affecting lives in local communities, others are ambitious programs with an impact that can be felt across borders.
Read on to learn about five of the unique initiatives that are positively impacting Southeast Asia’s future.
Thailand’s New Wave of Social Entrepreneurship
Seeking government support for sustainable development is inadequate. Citizens should act on the challenges they face in their local communities for a lasting impact. This is the belief of RISE Impact from Thailand, one of the 21 Seeds for the Future grantees that engages young entrepreneurs in Thailand through a social innovation development process.
RISE Impact offers a unique mentor-driven incubation program, educational workshops, and an impact venture clinic. Besides being a free professional consulting service for social entrepreneurs, RISE Impact hosts Social Innovation Workshops, a series of two-day events offering hands-on tools for boosting business capacity and creating sustainable social impact.
Another element of this initiative is the Social Innovation Incubation Program, a four month in-depth wholesome scaling program for selected ventures that offers training, networking events, and mentorship services. The Social Impact Forum is a signature event of RISE Impact aiming to bring together all participating business ventures to celebrate the next steps in the social innovation development process in Thailand.
Scuba Diving for Conservation
The OCTO Mission is another recipient of small grants funding representing team-members from Brunei, Thailand, and Malaysia. The 10-day academic fellowship program in Kao Lak, Thailand hopes to educate young leaders on marine conservation through scuba diving training. A mix of adventure and education, this fellowship includes workshops, opportunities for experiential learning, community service, scuba diving training, and small post fellowship projects for participants giving them an opportunity to implement their lessons and contribute to the awareness cycle.
The coastal town of Khao Lak was specifically selected for this fellowship as it is the main port of departure for diving companies to the world-famous Similan Islands and Mu Ko Surin National Parks. Over the years, there has been a massive increase in marine debris and plastic pollution in the region.
Mapping for the Visually Impaired
Imagine a world without navigation. Can’t? It’s not your fault.
The world is growing at a pace faster than ever before. Every few months, new things open up making the same old streets look different. At the same time, technology advancement has made us rely heavily on navigation. With Google and Apple maps, who needs to learn directions?
But what about the visually impaired? How do they navigate? These last two questions are seldom asked, and where TuneMap comes in.
TuneMap is an Indonesian mobile app that helps visually impaired people navigate the city. While there are similar apps all around the world, TuneMap also includes features that raise awareness about accessibility and help report obstacles and pavement imperfections to the city authorities.
In addition to enabling visually impaired people to live an independent life, Tunemap also encourages community members to take part in mapping events to create awareness in a country that has the second highest rate of blind people in the world.
Cultural Exchange and Life Skills with Rugby
Life skills are crucial to raising better leaders. In Laos and Vietnam, Rugby for Development Life Skills builds workshops that provide cultural exchange and life skills education through rugby competitions among young leaders.
An interesting element of the Rugby for Development Life Skills initiative is that it builds on an innovative regional sport for development program called ChildFund Pass it Back. This program is designed carefully to help the youth develop capacity and knowledge on topics like leadership, planning for the future, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The YSEALI Laos-Vietnam Friendship Cup was a signature event of the project that gathered 96 young leaders from both countries for two days of fun, learning, rugby, and new friendships. The Friendship Cup was not only a great way to unite participants from different communities and cultures, but also to demonstrate the power of sport for developing valuable life skills. The U.S. Ambassador to Laos was one of the honorable guests at the event.
Helping Cambodian Students Excel in Math and Science
In some parts of Southeast Asia, students underperform in math and science because STEM is not widely taught. Fortunately, a few social innovators in Cambodia understand that this puts students at a disadvantage during the National High School Exam and when applying for jobs after graduation. They developed Tesdopi, a mobile app that helps increase student performance in STEM subjects.
Designed for high school students, Tesdopi uses workshops, video tutorials, and behavior change campaigns on social media to promote STEM education and help students study math and science in a fun new way. It gives students access to data-driven, timely, and personalized tools which help to diagnose, study, and assess their STEM competencies. Tesdopi uses its ICT tool in combination with a series of workshops and social media campaigns equipping high school students with STEM learning strategies. The project expects to reach 2,000 high school students directly through Effective Learning Workshops, and 300,000 students via a social media campaign.
In Cambodia, Tesdopi has already been named “The Best Social Innovation of the Year” and received prestigious awards like “The Startupper of the Year” and ‘The Top Female Entrepreneur” awards.
This is just the beginning of a STEM-excelling Cambodia.
Planting More Seeds for the Future
With 66% of ASEAN’s population under the age of 35, the answer to most of the region’s challenges lies in strengthening and investing in young leaders.
The 2019 YSEALI Seeds for the Future initiatives profiled here are just five of the 21 projects that are shaping the ASEAN’s future by making a difference in local communities and working across borders to solve some of the world’s most crucial development challenges.