LAHORE: The finale of Elevate The Youth Accelerator and a social innovation competition was held on Saturday at Plan 9, Arfa Technology Park.
Punjab Technology Board Chairman Umar Saif on the occasion gave a keynote speech highlighting the power of entrepreneurship and technology, while UN Women Country Representative Jamshed Kazi presented his ideas on the potential of youth in Pakistan, especially young women.
The ETY fellows presented three social innovation projects to a team of panellists, which included Sofizar CEO Zafar Khan and Microfinance IFC Global Head Momina Aijazuddin among others. The projects ranged from empowerment of transgender communities, mental illness to economic livelihoods. The project highlighting economic opportunities for the transgenders’ community was selected as the best project in the finale.
Elevate The Youth Accelerator was launched this summer with an aim to provide a dynamic platform to youth and build their capacity to solve Pakistan’s challenges using entrepreneurship and technology. The accelerator has been providing workshops, seminars, TED style inspirational talks and internships to 16 fellows. The internships include start-ups like Beauty Hooked, Taza Daily, corporations such as Nestle, Berger and social enterprises including Kashf Foundation.
“We are thrilled at the response to the youth accelerator and based on growing interest, we will be taking this to four other cities of Pakistan and also explore regional growth,” said CIRCLE co -founder and brainchild behind the accelerator Sadaffe Abid.
She said that the accelerator has shown the potential of youth, adding that the future lies with experienced individuals working collaboratively with the youth. Sadaffe previously served as the CEO of Kashf Foundation, a microfinance organisation she helped grow from two rooms to serve 300,000 women clients. Talking about CIRCLE, she said that CIRCLE was a leading social enterprise with the mission to develop, support and build entrepreneurial and leadership capacity of women and youth in Pakistan. “When women grow, communities grow and nations progress,” she said, adding that CIRCLE aims to contribute to Pakistan’s progress through its innovative initiatives with women and youth.
Sadaffe revealed that another initiative in the elevate campaign includes male and female leaders supporting the inclusion of women’s perspectives on panels and forums, with the idea of having more gender diversity in leadership and boards. The campaign has been joined by seven CEOs of leading companies including Telenor, Mitsubishi, Bayer, Aman Foundation, Coca Cola, Abacus, Gul Ahmad ideas and others, she informed.
MIT Enterprise Forum Vice-Chairman Azhar Rizvi on the occasion said, “I have had the privilege of training over 10,000 students and 500 firms on innovation and entrepreneurship. However, the ones who have inspired me the most are social innovators.”
AlfalahGHP Asset Management Chief Executive Maheen Rehman congratulated the ETY fellows for completing the programme and applauded the efforts of CIRCLE for giving the youth much-needed oxygen for their entrepreneurial passions. “To the fellows, be persistent, work hard, remember the details and yet always, always dream big!” he concluded.