2.7 Where Do We Go From Here?

By necessity, YED encompasses a broad array of approaches and models, given the varying needs and contexts of youth entrepreneurs.  However, the 2013 Conference confirmed that there is convergence among practitioners as to the capacities that disadvantaged youth need to succeed as entrepreneurs, with most initiatives including entrepreneurship support packages combining business and/or technical training with life skills, savings-led financial services, and start up assistance. Questions remain as to how to define and measure success in YED interventions in terms of sustainable enterprise creation vis-à-vis providing youth with skills and experiences they can employ to become successful economic actors.  The answers to this debate will likely not be black and white, given the variety of contexts and youth targeted so practitioners will need to look at how to continue to build the evidence base as to when and how sustainable enterprise creation, versus experiential learning and ultimately workforce development are the better investment.  There is also increasingly fertile ground for collaboration with the private sector and indeed the presence of private companies and social enterprises was very visible at the 2013 Conference, with participation among presenters on par with more traditional development organizations.  The diversity resulted in rich conversations and the emergence of a new track in YED on social innovation, as new efforts in social enterprise start to provide a compelling story in terms of new business models with compelling impact.

Going forward, there are three priorities in which there is a need for more experimentation and a learning agenda to move forward practice in the YED field.

  1. Better mapping of youth’s context and aspirations, linked to the support of suitable long and short term YED models

For many reasons, youth as a population may not always be in a position to set up a sustainable enterprise.  In many developed contexts, this is accepted with programs focusing on enterprise simulations and/or shorter-term business models supporting youth to experiment and to build up entrepreneurial skills, that they can then use in future enterprises and/or as employees.  However, in many developing countries, where employment opportunities may be sparser, practitioners have focused on enterprise creation, which may not always synch with youth’s needs.  For example, youth may migrate prohibiting participation in sustainable enterprise creation, or they are, as highlighted in the 2012 Conference a necessity entrepreneur, investing in one enterprise until a better opportunity comes along.  There needs to be a more explicit mapping and contextualization of different categories of youth that could participate in YED programs, looking at their constraints and aspirations.  This could then be synched accordingly with the development of short and longer-term enterprise models that support these needs.  For example, youth in “Yes Youth Can!” (YES) participate in shorter term concerns such as fattening animals for sale to gain YES experience, while Digital Divide Data, offers opportunities for youth to take leadership roles in marketing and other projects allowing them to gain experience in an ongoing concern, from which they may then graduate. 

2.   More discussion between practitioners and donors as to what constitutes success in YED programming, supporting by reflective targets and impact systems

Given the increasing recognition that success in YED programs should not always result in sustained enterprise creation, this needs to be better reflected in program targets and impact measurements.  TechnoServe’s STRYDE program for example, is measuring the change in the percentage of students before and after program participation who are enrolled in higher education, as well as participants’ perceptions as to what elements of the STRYDE process they are most likely to use in their professional and personal development.  Most students cite the life skills gained in the process, as important to their long-term success as the opportunity to participate in creating and managing an enterprise.

3.  Identifying and leveraging collaboration opportunities with private and social enterprise, particularly in more challenging rural and/or conflict environments

Some of the most exciting and impact interventions highlighted in 2013 were programs leveraging private sector partnerships and/or business models to link youth into high potential markets.  MEDA and the Fabretto for example, sought to encourage youth’s integration into value chains, while impact investors including Digital Divide and Samasource have created growing concerns employing youth at scale.  The potential of these models is limitless and in the 2013 Conference, practitioners highlighted how they are facilitating such collaborations as well as the processes to start up social enterprises. Presentations by Jaccob Korenblum of Souktel, highlighting the establishment of a mobile job information service in the West Bank and Kiva’s plans to expand youth SME loans in Lebanon highlight the potential.