Beyond Borders Project

YES is expanding its Youth-led Changemaking model internationally through open sourcing, training and strategic partnerships.

Germany: Thomas G. Jakel from Germany has recently launched the “YES Founders Foundation” to take theYouth-led Changemaking Model innovated by Ali Raza Khan to countries and communities worldwide. Read his inspirational story below. 

Zimbabwe: Moud Chinembiri  launched first-ever Youth-led Changemaking Program in Zimbabwe. Moud organized a series of Youth-led Changemaking Competitions to unlock the changemaking potential of under-served young people. In the words of Moud , “What a self-discovery and adventure for our kids? They became aware of new possibilities without feeling ashamed. I will dedicate myself for it.” Young people did not only meet the needs of the society but also made a profit of 145% on the investment in a short period.

South Asia: Mr. Ali has shared his model of Youth-led Changemaking with young people and representatives of several youth-serving organizations based in South Asia.

Mr. Ali was invited to speak at Frugal Youth Innovative Forum 2019 in Bangladesh.

He recently spoke at South Asia Youth Resilience Summit 2020 organized by BYLC in collaboration with Harvard University and Ashoka Global.

Singapore: Mr. Ali gave a talk to the students of the National University of Singapore on Youth-led Changemaking.

Mr. Ali participated in a panel discussion entitled “Can we trust our young people to lead” held at Singapore Management University.

Mr. Ali spoke at the opening ceremony of the Social iCon 2016 in Singapore. This sold-out conference was full of inspiration and new connections.

Mr. Ali was invited by ILO to serve as a Resource Person in a seminar on Youth Development held in Tokyo, Japan.

An international delegation comprising of representatives of 30 countries visited YES office to learn about the model of YES Network Pakistan. Mr. Ali gave a detailed briefing on Youth-led Changemaking Model. Participants applauded the efforts of YES to inspire and engage young people in changemaking innovatively.  

An Insprational Story of Thomas Jakel from Germany

I  am  a  great  believer  in  destiny.  I  believe  that  everyone  has  a  purpose  in  this  lifetime  and that, if we live from love and not from fear, if we overcome doubt and trust our higher mind and intuition and follow our hearts, only ‘good’ things can come from it. Coming from the same line of thought and conviction, I believe that some people are supposed to meet. 

The encounter I had in February 2017 with Ali Raza Khan is one of these encounters that I believe was supposed to happen, and I want to tell you how it came about. 

Shortly  after  I  started  my  entrepreneurial  journey  as  a  23-year-old,  fresh  out  of  college,  I realized that there was an entire world out there that had thus far been completely hidden to me. 

The world of entrepreneurial endeavor. A world in which you decide how far you can go, how you contribute to your community and a world in which you decide when you get out of bed, how much you earn, and which idea is becoming translated into physical reality. As obvious as this may seem to the veteran entrepreneur, it was exciting news to me. Also,  I  learned  that  social  entrepreneurs  use  the  vehicle  of  business  to  create  economic value  AND  tackle  social  and  ecological  challenges.  Again,  this  was  big  for  me  and  a revolutionary  idea.  And  as  soon  as  I  had  built  my  first  company  with  my  co-founder, automated the business by hiring a management team, and taken half a year off to celebrate my  new-found  freedom,  I  thought  that  more  young  people  should  know  about  this opportunity ‘hidden’ in plain sight.  Formal education is not the be all and end all goal that it is made out to be. You don’t have to be a busy worker bee all your life, realizing someone else’s dream instead of implementing your own ideas. Everyone has the necessary toolkit to create and think. And anyone can design his or her life in the way he or she wants to and be a changemaker and  creator.  As  soon  as  we  DECIDE  and  BELIEVE  THAT  WE  CAN  and  SET  THE INTENTION that we ARE going to walk the path, the success is already ours. If we trust the river, knowing that eventually we will learn and succeed in our efforts, this is exactly what is going to happen. 

Why did no one ever talked about this in school? Why hadn’t it even been mentioned in my business administration degree at college? And why  was the only thing I ever  heard about growing up: Be good at school, get  a degree and then get  a job. Work all  your life.  Retire. Die?  Tainted  with  the  underlying  message  that  if  you  are  not  good  at  getting  acceptable grades, you’ll be condemned to a life in poverty, relying on welfare or underpaid jobs. What an enticing outlook. 

Why wasn’t there a single mention that our ideas have value if we trust our God-given ability to manifest them in the material world, to be changemakers?  And  finally,  why  were  we  trained,  systematically  trained,  to  look  to  others  for  solutions  to problems instead of creating practical solutions in the real world to problems and challenges, be they social, economical, spiritual or ecological? From these contemplations came my desire to change the education system or establish a parallel  system,  allowing  young  people  to  make the  entrepreneurial  experiences  that I  had gotten. We started hosting workshops and conferences encouraging young people to start a business.  Looking  back,  I  barely  knew  what  I  was  doing  but  still,  several  ‘successful’ businesses came forth from our workshops. However, a real change in the education system was  nowhere  in  sight.  Our  model  just  wasn’t  the  right  one,  considering  the  size  of  the challenge. 

Additionally, the vision of me and my team members wasn’t well aligned. But my interest in the topic and the nagging feeling that it wasn’t right to leave all these young people growing up  in  the  dark  about  their  opportunities  and  their  latent  potential  and  their  changemaking skills kept me investigating.  At first, my  research  approach  was  very  haphazard,  asking friends from different  countries about projects on the ground that were trying to help young people start their changemaking journey. When my random search and interviews didn’t give me a clearer idea of where to get  involved,  I  started  ordering  books  about  social  entrepreneurship,  hoping  to  find inspiration in them. And inspiration I found. Although I never actually got to the real reading of the books, there was a book that made a big  difference.  Actually,  that  is  imprecise.  The  foreword  of  the  book  is  what  made  all  the difference to me. In  it,  Bill  Drayton,  the  founder  of  the  international  Ashoka  Network,  wrote  about  a  social entrepreneur from Pakistan, Ali Raza Khan, who is changing thousands of young people’s lives by telling them that they CAN, that they were born great and that they have all it takes to become changemakers. But  not only that  – he challenges them to start businesses and, not  to  his  surprise,  the  overwhelming  majority  of  these  kids  that  are  regarded as ‘difficult cases’  by  the  government,  succeed  with  flying  colors,  earning  profits  and  challenging everyone’s belief system about what young people are capable of if they are trusted enough and are met with high expectations. Wow. After reading the foreword, I knew that I had to get in touch with Ali. I sent him an email asking him for a Video Interview. His staff got back to me asking me for the interview questions and that he would fill them in in writing as he was in Singapore at the time. I managed to postpone sending in the questions for about a week. Then I got an email from Ali, personally letting me know that he was back from Singapore and would be open to doing the interview at any time. We arranged the interview and got on the call for about an hour.  If you could have seen my face during that interview. I was brimming with inspiration. Here, it seemed, I had finally found someone who had hacked the system and identified a systematic  approach  that  helped  young  people  start  their  changemaking  journey.  And  he didn’t do it by throwing money at the problem, building big infrastructure, setting up tech incubators, bringing on board investors, or looking for ‘fledgling potential’ and all these other approaches  that  are  nice  but  are  no  model  to  scale  to  reach  the  hundreds  of  millions  of young  people  at  the  ‘bottom  of  the  pyramid’,  who  most  need  this  experience  and encouragement. 

Not  only  did  it  seem  that  Ali  had  come  across  a  workable,  scalable  model  to  give  young people a practical entrepreneurship and changemaking experience, but he also managed to have stellar success rates AND have the majority of the kids and youth earning a profit on their projects. AND, on top of that, he manages to facilitate this experience within two to five weeks. This was insane. I had more questions on my mind than we both had time for during the interview. So, I asked him whether I could go visit him in Pakistan and see the project for myself. I wanted to see every detail of how Ali’s organization worked. ‘Sure, be my guest.’ said Ali. So, I booked my ticket to Pakistan on new year’s evening, 2016, and got the opportunity to accompany Ali for almost  two  weeks,  to  different  Universities  and  Vocational  Training  Institutes  in  Punjab, speaking with hundreds of students, dozens of teachers and professors, and taking a bunch of random selfies with the students that wanted a picture with the brown-skin German mister that  had  come  to  see  their  enterprises.  The  trip  was  not  only  inspiring  and  fun  but  also heartwarming  as  I  heard  the  stories  of  some  of  the  students.  I  could  literally  pick  up  how much  this  short  experience  had  already  changed  their  lives,  their  self-esteem,  and  their prospects for the future. At times, I had tears of gratitude in my eyes, for what I saw was way beyond what I could have hoped for. If it takes only two to five weeks to massively change a young person’s life and mindset and his or her prospects for the future and you even earn a return  on  investment  while  facilitating  them  the  experience,  why  weren’t more institutions and edupreneurs facilitating this experience?

The projects and the results from the projects, in terms of monetary return and social impact often blew my mind. Think about it: This was only the very first, minuscule, entrepreneurial experience these youngsters had. Yet, it made a huge difference in their consciousness and how they saw themselves. Young girls who had never spoken to strangers had learned how to  sell  their  products.  Kids  from  poor  families  made  a  profit  in  two  to  five  weeks  that  was beyond what many of their parents would earn in several months. And as I have observed, in myself  and  others:  Once  a  changemaker,  always  a  changemaker.  This  is  a  primary  shift from victim mode to creator mode and is likely to pay social dividends again and again, not only  in  the  lives  of  these  young  boys  and  girls,  but  also  in  their  communities,  for  their country, and, finally, for all of humankind. Imagine  what  will  happen  if  this  kind  of  experience  is  facilitated  not  only  to  the  tens  of thousands of young people that YES Network has reached thus far, but to the hundreds of millions  of  young  people  growing  up  all  over  the  world.  What  if  we  awaken  all  the  latent potential? What if we allow everyone to become citizens in constructive action? What if we all have a practical experience in using our natural capabilities of imagination and creativity  and  empathy  to  create  social  and  economic  value?  Not  only  as  ‘passive’  labor  but  as changemakers, regardless of whether we are working for someone else or building our own businesses.

So,  to  make  a  long  story  short:  I  hope  you  will  find  the  story  and  the  stories  of  the  young people of Pakistan and Ali’s journey as encouraging and inspiring as I found them when I first heard about them. And I hope that even if all you do is read this foreword, you are by now convinced that the Youth is a huge, untapped goldmine in terms of their size as a population and their untapped potential to create value and solutions for themselves and all of us. I  hope that getting  an  entrepreneurial  and  changemaker  experience  early  in  life  will  not  be the exception but the absolute standard and that you will be a part of this development as a changemaker in your own right.