Thimphu, Bhutan - The UNDP Bhutan Country Office, in collaboration with local partners, hosted the first ever Youth Co:Lab National Dialogue. The national event was part of the broader Youth Co:Lab, the UNDP and Citi Foundation Asia-Pacific youth entrepreneurship initiative, which seeks to position young people front and center to solve the region’s most pressing challenge, and instigate, catalyze and sustain youth innovation by supporting youth-led startups and social enterprises.
The Event was held at Thimphu as part and parallel to the Druk Tshongrig Gatoen (DTG), or Bhutan Entrepreneurship Festival - pilot localized version of Global Entrepreneurship Week led by Loden Foundation and 7th edition of Startup Weekend on Food and Agritech (College of Natural Resources, Wangdi Phodrang) led by Thimphu Techpark.
Opening Bhutan’s first DTG, Dasho Penjore- Governor of Bhutan’s Central Bank, underlined the importance of supporting future social enterprises and bringing the different stakeholders to the same page. He said, “Bhutan is relatively new to the concept of entrepreneurship and we are catching up smartly with the rest of the world. We are at the right moment with the right conditions - government, development partners, private sectors and young talents are taking up the initiatives. We need to bring all the stakeholders and policies together to further accelerate our individual efforts towards better change”.
The event attracted over 250 youths. Through a policy dialogue, a breakout networking session, an entrepreneurship ecosystem SWOT analysis workshop and Startup Weekend, the event helped to keep young people effectively informed about the opportunities and different players in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. It also helped to promote:
- An ecosystem to foster opportunities for young entrepreneurs, social innovators and youth-led networks and organizations, with special focus given to young women and men.
- Capacity-building and mentoring opportunities Young entrepreneurs and social innovators are provided with;
- Coalition-building and networking among young entrepreneurs/social innovators, with leaders/experts in the fields of development, business, technology and innovation.
As part of the talks and panel discussions, Aum Damchoe, founder and CEO of Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs remarked, “There are on unemployed youth, but only unengaged youth. The number of youth unemployment will only grow if we fail to engage our them.”
Jigme Singay, founder LDPE Electric Fencing Poles and winner of the Startup Weekend valued his experience with Youth Co:Lab Bhutan. He said, "attending this Startup Weekend has inspired me to learn more about the model that is social enterprise. I am encouraged to learn more about how to thrive at the intersection where people, profit, and planet collide. It was an eye-opening experience for young farmers like me."
Over 60% of Bhutanese population is 30 years and below. While youth unemployment rate is 10.6% against the national average of 2.4%, the youth literacy rate stands at an impressive 93.1%. Bhutan’s demographic dividend of a young population therefore presents a huge opportunity to drive country’s development brand of Gross National Happiness. Youth Co:Lab and UNDP Bhutan will work with the government and partners to cultivate an enabling environment for young change-makers to drive social change in their communities and their societies.
For more information contact:
Bishnu Chettri, UNV National Youth Programme Coordinator, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tashi Dekar, UNV National Youth Programme Coordinator, email: email@example.com