Young innovators forward inclusion amid pandemic in UNDP hackathon

In a time when rapid digital transformation is required, how do you leave no one behind?

This was the question over 100 young Filipino innovators from different sectors across the country sought to solve in the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) first virtual Social Innovation Lab.

Presented by Youth Co:Lab Philippines, a program jointly led by the UNDP and the Citi Foundation with makesense, the four-day hackathon – which took place December 1, 2, 3, and 7, 2020 – featured ideas addressing social protection, the digital divide, and the green economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 28 participating teams came from diverse backgrounds, including out-of-school youth, youth affected by conflict, LGBTQIA+, differently-abled youth, and ethnic and religious minorities.

Winning teams

Formally awarded February 2, 2021, the 5 winning teams were given grants to further develop their enterprises and be part of the Youth Co:Lab Springboard Programme, a follow-up business incubator to further support the young entrepreneurs.  

The winning pitch came from WeMind, "a digital mental health platform that empowers individuals, fosters caring communities, and facilitates access to resources." The startup aims to help workplaces by providing accessible and affordable resources for employee mental health and well-being. 

Second prize was given to Eunoia, an SMS-based learning platform intended to facilitate effective feedback in modular learning. COVID+Fun, an enterprise focused on creating interactive board games that educate children and youth on basic concepts and relevant information about COVID-19, came in 3rd.

Fourth and 5th place were given to Team Maharlika and GoodGov PH, respectively.

Team Maharlika, composed of Ramon Magsaysay (Cubao) High School students, is developing devices that handle both voice-to-text and gesture-to-voice (sign language) messaging system.

GoodGov PH, on the other hand, is the advocacy network behind Bantay Chatbot. This AI software simulates conversation and delivers real-time assistance to users on questions/concerns on the government's social welfare programs (SAP, social pension).

In his message to the participants, UNDP Philippines’ resident representative Selva Ramachandran underscored the significant contribution of the Filipino youth’s innovative ideas.  

We target young innovators and entrepreneurs, particularly those who belong to underrepresented sectors, said Ramachandran. 

"Abiding by the principle of leaving no one behind, we must reach the farthest first and bring these opportunities to them, from starting a small community project to developing a business model to attracting investors. A big return is expected not just to young social entrepreneurs but to the communities and stakeholders that they serve."

Youth Co:Lab

Co-created in 2017 by the UNDP and Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth, to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation through leadership, social innovation, and entrepreneurship. 

By developing 21st-century skills, catalyzing and sustaining youth-led startups and social enterprises across the region, Youth Co:Lab positions young people front and center to solve the region’s most pressing challenges. 

"Your participation in this initiative for our future speaks volumes of how much you care about the world we live in and the future generations," said Citi Philippines Citizenship Officer Jacqueline Ampil as she addressed the participants in the virtual event. - Rappler.com