The all-Asia delegates at TYF16 n Bangkok
The all-Asia delegates at TYF16 n Bangkok Photo: Telenor

What do the Nobel Peace Center, global mobile network operator Telenor and UNICEF innovation have in common? For starters, a shared commitment to young people as powerful and positive social change agents and the the idea that communication is key to the betterment of society.

The Telenor Youth Forum Asia (#TYF16) held in Bangkok brought together youth from across Asia — Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Thailand — in a two day human-centred design process to explore five of the region’s most pressing social challenges for youth. Teams of young leaders tackled youth joblessness, getting more girls in schools, educating young labourers, youth and mental health and engaging youth voices and priorities into national dialogues.

Warm support for the innovation principles from the youth delegates. Photo: Telenor

Tanya Accone, Senior Adviser on Innovation who leads UNICEF’s scale up of successful innovations across the world guided the teams through UNICEF’s Innovation Principles. These were used throughout as guiding standards for the forum and as a yardstick against which to evaluate emerging ideas on how the challenges might be tackled.

“Collaborating with a diverse group of people, who come from different backgrounds and places and bring different ideas will make your ideas stronger,” said youth forum alumna Nowshin Chowdhury from Bangladesh, speaking to the innovation principle of collaboration.

The five teams brought tremendous energy and passion to the challenges. They also surfaced learning, such as that applying the principle of designing with the user results in an invaluable asset: empathy. 

“Using empathy we got insights,” explained a member of the team getting to grips with educating out-of-school youth. “Poverty isn’t just a lack of wealth, it’s about a lack of dignity.”

Accone gives an innovation principle prescription in closing the forum's feed forward to the teams on how to take their ideas forward.
Accone gives an innovation principle prescription in closing the forum’s feed forward to the teams on how to develop their ideas further. Photo: Telenor

While all the challenges have connection to UNICEF’s work, the organization’s success in engaging youth voices in national dialogues through innovative platforms like U-Report made this a natural fit. Brian Cotter, Innovation Lead in UNICEF Vietnam, mentored this team, bringing to the role insights the organization has gained from the more than 2 million young people in 24 countries who use U-Report.

A panel of judges pronounced the work of team Spark as the most compelling. The group explored the idea of “eliminating joblessness before it begins” by distilling research and workforce analysis to provide school students with forecasts of future demand for different jobs. This would enable students to make their subject and university decisions with future employability in mind. The team will take their idea forward to the global Youth Forum to be held in Oslo at the end of the year.

Telenor Group is a global partner of UNICEF, providing financial support and access to a range of mobile technology solutions that will help advance children’s rights.