January 28, 2021
Member Spotlight: Youth Business International

From its global newsletter, to its major annual events, ANDE members have access to a multitude of platforms for promoting their work and co-creating knowledge with other members. The ANDE Member Spotlight is a series of short interviews highlighting an ANDE member organization and any new projects, recent investments, or ongoing research with interesting learnings that add value to the ANDE community.

Read the transcript below.

Hi everyone, and welcome to 2021. Welcome also to what I think is one of the first ANDE Member Spotlights being done by video. So not quite an armchair chat but not far from that.

I’m Anita Tiessen and I’m the CEO at Youth Business International (YBI). I’d like to share with you three priority areas for YBI in 2021: 1) inclusion, particularly for refugees and migrants, 2) responsible business with a focus on decent work, and 3) the economic response to COVID-19.

Before diving into our priority areas, I’d like to tell you a little bit about our network. Youth Business International has been an ANDE member, I think, nearly since the beginning. We’re very proud to be members, and like ANDE, we are a global network in some 50 countries around the world with a focus on supporting young people into entrepreneurship. In our network, there’s a focus on learning, innovating, and influencing within the network, as well as the wider ecosystems in which we all operate.

I think there’s two things that really stand out to me about YBI. The first being our focus: its youth, 18 to 35, but particularly disadvantaged youth. We really believe that entrepreneurship is a powerful part of the solution to the unacceptably high levels of youth unemployment around the world, which of course has just been exacerbated in the last year. And then the second is that we are a network of delivery organizations who really want to focus on support excellence. By learning from each other, as well as global programs, we really help them to constantly develop and adapt their programs. We’ve got experience in developing really strong mentoring programs. More recently, embedding soft skills into training work, and also spurring digital solutions and wider innovation. That is the YBI network in a nutshell.

And I’d now like to turn to some of our priority areas, starting with inclusion. As I said, our focus is on disadvantaged young people. Effectively, economic inclusion has been at the heart of our network since the beginning. I think that we all know that entrepreneurship can be difficult, more so if you’re a young person and even more so there are other barriers in your way. If you’re a refugee or migrant, for women, for people from racial or ethnic minorities, or people living with disabilities. Like I said, inclusion, particularly economic inclusion, has been at the heart of our network but really, we’re redoubling our efforts to make sure we are as inclusive as we can be for the people who really need support to start businesses.

I’d like to tell you particularly of the work we’ve been doing about entrepreneurship support for refugees and other migrants. It was our focus in 2020 and will continue to be in 2021 onwards. And the reason we looked at this area, what we call youth on the move, is because about half of our members across the network are already supporting refugees and other migrants into entrepreneurship. We really wanted to understand better the wider landscape, but also what’s working, what is the learning that we can share with others in this space.

We developed our report, which we launched last year during the Global Entrepreneurship Week. You can get it on our website called “Beating the odds: Supporting youth on the move to become successful entrepreneurs.” We looked at the wider landscape and then practical suggestions. The wider landscape was looking at some of the global trends: the rise of displacement, as more young people are leaving their homes, either for political conflict reasons or for economic migration. The insufficient policy or legal frameworks which create unnecessary barriers to entrepreneurship, but also looking at the opportunity presented by an increasingly digital world, particularly in opening up new markets for youth on the move. I think really what we found is entrepreneurship can be a powerful lever for both economic inclusion, as well as social inclusion, but it’s really not tapped into enough. So, the bulk of the report looks that on what we can do to support more refugees and migrants into entrepreneurship in poor areas and we arrived at four main takeaways.

  1. Expand and adapt entrepreneurial support services to youth on the move. Building on what a good core program looks like and then how do you adapt that specifically for refugees and migrants, in our case young ones.
  2. Support integration connection with host communities.
  3. Develop strong and effective stakeholder relationships.
  4. At the big picture level, improve the policy environment and ease some of the legal restrictions.

For ANDE members who are already working in this space, who are supporting refugees or other migrants, we’d love you to read the report and to reach out to us. If you’re interested in exploring this as part of your work, we’d love to connect with you.

The second area, I’d like to look at is responsible business, which we all know is really kind of accelerated or risen up the agenda in 2020 as you know companies, large and small are really thinking about how can they make a better contribution to the world post-COVID. For us, we look specifically at decent work, which is one of ANDE’s three global urgent issues. As part of our partnership with the IKEA Foundation in 2020, we began to explore the topic of helping entrepreneurs to embed decent work principles into their businesses. Again, many of these businesses will be starting small, as micro-enterprises moving into small and medium sized enterprises. So really looking at what is decent work mean in that context.

We worked with our members in Bangladesh and India to understand the decent work context in those countries to create the business case for why decent work is important to young entrepreneurs. We then turned that into a curriculum which can be used to train trainers and mentors and indeed young entrepreneurs themselves. The curriculum covers issues like Occupational Health and Safety, labor issues and employment practices relating to contracts, wages, benefits, and working hours. This is a new area for us. We’re currently piloting the curriculum and will be rolling it out across our network. This is an area of work that you are entering into or you’ve got some experience, we’d love to share what we’re learning. We’d love to learn with you and again, we’d love to partner with ANDE members in developing this area of expertise.

Finally, I’d like to turn to COVID-19. We are starting 2021 with kind of mixed messages: the hope provided by vaccines, but also the worry of new strains of the virus and ongoing negative economic impact of the virus. So, along with other ANDE members, we’ve been working on supporting our members and businesses to survive the economic impact of the pandemic.

We delivered a rapid response and recovery program with support from Google.org and Accenture. Through that work, we’ve reached about 130,000 entrepreneurs with services that are supporting business adaptation and increased resilience to shocks. We’ve captured our learning from the first wave of the program, which is continuing into 2021, in this report, “Responding to the Needs of Young Entrepreneurs.” Our learnings from that program can be divided into four key areas. And many of you will also have been learning through your work but we wanted to share the headlines of what we’ve learned because clearly, it’s not over yet.

  1. How to effectively stimulate and support business pivots that are essential for survival and growth. We’ve done that through webinars, expert sessions, strong metrics support and so forth. Everything from minor pivots to businesses into digital for example, or really rethinking your business if suddenly the market has disappeared. But that support has been absolutely crucial.
  2. How to effectively enable digital solutions that can offer the promise of survival and new ways of working. For YBI, one of the standard learnings is that clearly not all businesses are simply going to become online-only businesses. But for many of the businesses that didn’t even have a basic online presence or online ability to operate, developing that is a critical part of their resilience into the future, even as face-to-face services become possible again in future.
  3. Prioritizing emotional resilience to make sure that no one feels alone on their journey. So much of the feedback that we’ve had is about the importance of the mentoring relationship. The one-on one-coaching, the feeling that you are simply not alone in trying to not just adapt your business but also change your whole life in a COVID context. It’s always true that you’re supporting people as well as the people as business owners, when you’re doing entrepreneurial support, but I think that’s become even more critical in the COVID context. Really prioritizing emotional resilience, which we’ve done some mentoring through soft skills provision which of course can be done effectively virtually as well.
  4. Investing in and developing fully inclusive outreach programs for underserved groups. It can take more time. It involves thinking differently about how to deliver programs, particularly when everything has to be done virtually and digital access is not universal. But just really to say that if there’s a mission focus on underserved groups that needs investment as well.

Some of the learnings will hopefully resonate with what you’ve been doing yourself, and other learnings may be new to what you’re doing. We hope that across inclusion, responsible business, and the COVID response that this is valuable for you and of course we would be delighted to collaborate with anybody who wants to talk further about these areas.