• Published Date: 02/12/2020
  • by: UNDP

Learning journey of Youth Co:Lab 2020

Experienced by youth, Initiated by youth, and the solutions by youth is the idea of the Youth Co:Lab, the always sphere for youth to create social innovation.

​The severe global issues, the pandemic of the COVID-19, have made it easy for the organizer to select the theme that fits the society’s current challenges. The theme, the COVID-19 Recovery, has been initiated regarding the questionnaire responded by the youths across Thailand concerning their challenges during the pandemic of the COVID-19. Relatively, the sub-themes on social issues cover educational problems, economic challenges, mental illness, and gendered domestic violence.

​The whole process of Youth Co:Lab consumed several months, the situation of the pandemic of the COVID-19 has been changed. During the preparation stage of the program, the pandemic of the COVID-19 was severe in Thailand. In contrast, the situation has become better on the workshop day. However, the seemingly better circumstances on the pandemic of the COVID- 19 in Thailand do not affect the program’s selected theme as there are collective issues youths have faced regardless the COVID-19 situation. However, the pandemic of the COVID-19 and the new normal did accelerate and insist on the crucial demands to tackle these social issues.

The insights on the social issues during the development process of their project has become crucial to improve and advance their project. Most significantly, the program also aims to bring together all those new generations that share similar interests on social challenges as done by all previous programs. Therefore, this article is to conclude the lesson learned that made this year’s Youth Co:Lab program successful.


Online Classroom

Learning from the experiences of organizing the previous years’ Youth Co:Lab, the staff acknowledges that the three-day program was tense and intensive for the participant to learn, develop and pitch the project under the time limitation. Thus, it was hard to expect for an obvious learning curve. The organizers, therefore, have frequently been discussing and considering organizing the program online in order to lengthen the learning period. Responsively, this year is the first year that the Youth Co:Lab has been organized online.

The increasing use of online channels for learning and meeting purposes has become normalized during the pandemic of the COVID-19. Therefore, there are possibilities to change from organizing the physical workshop to the online one. This online workshop allows us to provide more inclusive information and learning materials to the participants. The program consists of a four-day online workshop and the physical workshop of two and a half-day. As a result, the participants have an opportunity to pitch their projects that they have been developing for the entire period of almost two months.

​The result of the online workshop is worthwhile, while there are some disadvantages. On one hand, the online channel offers more intensive content of the workshop. On the contrary, the organizers are aware that participants might feel more comfortable and safer to interact and exchange in person than online. However, it is found that hosting the workshop online and extending the workshop time allows the participants to feel safe to engage with each other. The continuity of the workshop eventually enhances the participants to interact, discuss, and share. The friendships, the shared interests, and commitment to transform to a better society even more greatly contribute to the relation of the participants overcoming the disadvantages of the online.

However, the online channel could not be in replacement for the in-person workshop. The organizers, therefore, decided to hold a physical workshop at the end of the programme to create a sphere for participants to exchange their interests and information, to draw out the lesson learned from the workshop and present their project that is developed according to what they have discussed and learned from the both online and offline workshop.

One more advantage of hosting the workshop online is that all the information and resources have been collected online, reducing the unnecessary repetitions of data collection. The online workshop, in addition, portrays more concrete improvement and commitment of all participants.



All support is Ready

Before the workshop starts, the organizing team has contacted the experts on several social issues to share their insights, their expertise, and to reflect on the projects, so the participants can advance their projects to be more efficient. Sanon Wangsrangboon, Co-founder of  Locall, has provided the suggestion on the employment creation in the restaurant industry during the pandemic of the COVID – 19. Dr. Rangsan Wiboonuppatum, an education officer from UNICEF, also provided consultations on educational innovation in the workshop.

​This year is the first year that the workshop has been supported by the Youth Co:Lab alumni to be the mentors or supporters for each group. The mentors are responsible for answering any possible questions that the participants might have, providing suggestions, and strengthening the group project.

One of the mentors who was a participant from last year Youth Co:Lab revealed that while helping and providing suggestions to improve the project, it is an opportunity to learn the more updated innovation, which is more intensive and different from last year.


What’s inside the online workshop?

Thank you to HandUp Network and ChangeFusion to help us facilitate in the processes of the four-week online workshop. In the first week, along with the ice-breaking activities to enhance the engagement and learning environment, participants have a chance to meet and introduce themselves. The first classroom’s main objective is to provide an understanding of the problems that their solutions are to be solved.

​The tool, problem tree, used to create an understanding of the problems does not provide only the current situations that the team is interested in but also the understanding of the root of the problems and a well-rounded understanding of their impacts.

After seeing through the problems, each group of participants was assigned to do the stakeholder mappings and figure out what each stakeholder does. This step helps the participants to appropriately situate themselves in the problem nexus and focus on the main problem.

​The session ends with solidating the problem statement to clearly define the territory of the project that each group is coping with.

​The first-day online class is very intensive and strict with a short break. The reflection on the program has been used to improve the next class to be more flexible.  

​The second online workshop is about ideation. Because all the team has already prepared their ideas since their application, the session focuses more on revising their ideas, finding pros and cons, and identifying the significance of their innovation.

​To make the participant not too exhausted with their project, the Ice Breaking activities have focused more on the interaction and share information of the participants on general topics so that they can be away from the central theme of their work for a short while.

​The third online class is about learning business plan through the Business Model Canvas. The content is sophisticated and complicated, so the session’s central idea is to remind the participants not to forget the business side of the innovation, which will ensure the creation of the innovation and sustain the innovation.

​When each team has a clear picture of the problem, finds some ideas to solve the problem, and recognizes the importance of the business part, the last online class discusses the social impacts under the Theory of Change.

Once each team can identify their expected social impact, each team is asked to make a reverse plan from one-year estimated outcomes to six months and provide more details on milestone activities and action plans that will bring success to the project.

​The online workshop does only aim for providing inputs to develop an innovative project for each team, but to build the social transformer network of the youth. During the workshop, the political movement in Thailand is very intense. Therefore, the organizing team provides the space for discussing the current situation under the safe and respectful environment to express opinions. The organizing team believes that creating social innovation while ignoring the current social issues may be unavailing.

Our First Meet

One of the purposes of the Youth Co:Lab is to create a network between participants, supporters, and all stakeholders.

​Even though the learning session about the tool used in developing innovation has been completed online, the meeting and exchange in person have been performed. This is the purpose of the organizers to bring all participants to meet in person.

​Almost all the participants agreed that meeting all the workshop participants in person is the most impressive part. Participants meet with diverse groups of people such as Pkakenyaw from Mae Hong Sorn province, Muslim youth from the three-southeast provinces of Thailand, and youth from the central part of Thailand. All the participants have different skills and interests so that they can share their views and experiences. This helps to broaden their viewpoints and to learn about different cultural contexts and backgrounds.

Ideas Become True

​During the meeting between the participants, the organizer team has invited the Social Entrepreneurs who have succeeded in business and created the social impact to share their experiences to inspire and become the participant’s motivation to continue their project. Some of the social entrepreneurs are the alumni of the Youth Co:Lab, such as Thanakorn Promyot, the co-founder of Yonghappy (Youth Co:Lab alumni 2017), and Sarocha Tiansri, co-founder of Pa’ Learn (Youth Co:Lab alumni 2019).  

​Before the last day of the program, each team reviewed the status of their projects and learned about the SDGs where each team got to apply the concept of inclusive society to their projects as well as considering the economic, social, and environmental impacts. Even though the SDGs are not obligated in this presentation, it increases each team’s awareness to review their project, whether it leads to sustainable and inclusive transformation.

​One of the participants mentioned that the session on SDGs is one of the most impressive sessions because it helps to broaden the direction of the project and find the possibility of the project to be more inclusive.


Project Presentation

The end of the first phase is when the participants pitched their project to the committee and other participants. The presentation provided crucial information to help the audiences understand and find social innovation, which has been eagerly developed during the program with the challenges on time limitation, beneficial.

Before presenting the project, issues that should be included, and examples of the effective presentation methods and strategies have been suggested. The suggestions will be only the guides that the participants can adopt, apply and design if they fit with their innovations. The presentation is not only for the contest, but the organizers hope that it will be an excellent opportunity for the participants to narrate the problems that they or their relatives or friends experience in their everyday lives. The organizers also hope that the participants can summarize the ideas and knowledge from the workshop and share it with other participants.  

All ten team have developed their projects, and they have their work plan ready to be implemented and eventually, achieve their goals. Even though only five out of ten teams will receive the funds to trial their project for three months, it does not mean that all the team will gain nothing from their work developed along with the program. They are able to further their projects in several ways, such as making a prototype from their idea, finding a new partner in the program to proceed with their projects, or making a proposal to the other activities or other opening opportunities.


This project could not be successful without the collaboration from the enthusiastic youth who apply for this program. We are thankful for our partners, Citi Foundation, UNICEF,Thailand Institute of Justice, True Incube, and the National Innovation Agency (NIA) for their collaboration on organizing the program, providing multidiscipline knowledge to the participants. We are very grateful to the facilitators from the Hand Up Network and the Changefusion for their hard work on instructing and supporting all ten teams throughout the program.

What are the stories behind the five selected team, who will benefit from their innovation, and how will the innovation solve these particular social problems? It will be narrated in the next articles. Please stay tuned!


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  • Published Date: 15/11/2019
  • by: UNDP

Youth Co:Lab Thailand 2019: What we learned from the social innovation challenge that Leave No One Behind

Youth is an age full of energy and creativity. Nowadays, youth is not only thought of as the beneficiaries, but also has a role as ‘Driver’ of sustainable development. One of the most important things that allow young people to take part as an agent of change is to create a space in the society where people can listen to their voices and enables them to show their full potential to shape the future they will live in. Hence, Youth Co:Lab is initiated with the intention of creating a social change from the youth level

Youth Co:Lab is an Asia-Pacific regional initiative co-leads by the United Nations Development Programme and Citi Foundation. The initiative is established with a common agenda for the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth, so they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation, and social entrepreneurship, as well as taking part in driving the economy and solving the region’s most pressing challenges. In Thailand, the initiative has been continued for 3 consecutive years.

The approach of Youth Co: Lab Thailand is to search for social innovation ideas from youth all over Thailand and bring them to the rapid-fire workshop to develop their capacity with a Human-centered Design process, and to also learn about the sustainability model, so that they can shape their projects before pitching to the judiciary committee to find funding for making their projects become real. This year, we are more ambitious than ever as we would like to cover more complicated and deeper issues. That is, to make the vulnerable youth fully understand the complex global challenges and to be able to concretely apply social innovation concept to solve those issues more sustainably.

We asked ourselves, what will happen if we choose to work with great ideal and abstract issues? Could the use of a social innovation approach and methodology make the abstract more concrete and tangible? To answer the questions, we decided to try it out, hence, “Preventing Violent Extremism, conflict management, and inequality” become the underlying concepts of Youth Co:Lab Thailand this year.

The substrate of the world’s violent extremism, conflict and inequality seem to be accumulated from people’s different thoughts and perspectives. Oftentimes, it leads to ‘judgement’ and ‘stereotype’ on others. To solve these problems, it requires a deep understanding of the context and its root cause, which individual can start from being open-minded and embracing diversity. Creating a society where all “Respect Differences and Embrace Diversity” therefore becomes a theme of Youth Co: Lab Thailand 2019. In the Kingdom of Thailand, diversity has caused and affected prejudice and segregation in many different social dimensions, including ethnicity, religion, political opinion, access to resources, etc. These differences are the beginning point of the cleavage, climbing over and pressing each other, to the confrontation and socio-economic inequality, which can lead to violence in order to confirm one’s standpoint.

With the theme of “Respect Differences and Embrace Diversity”, our work processes are required to reflect on this value as well. We, therefore, determined to reach out to various youth groups as many as possible. And because we believe that good innovation is the one that can actually solve the problems and better our society, and 99% of the time, it first comes from the understanding in the roots of the problem and the needs of the people, we would like to have young girls and boys who personally and directly experiencing the challenges to speak up, provide inputs, and submit social innovation ideas themselves. Also, because Youth Co: Lab is an initiative to help develop innovation capacity of youth, we believe that if we apply this tool to the youths experiencing those problems, they may be able to harness such tool to create the change in their area.

Even though Youth Co: Lab Thailand 2019 may have looked like just a 3-day-event, on the contrary, it is actually a process designed and operated over months to make the initiative a truly nurturing and inclusive program. In this article, we will talk about the methodology, process and lesson learned in 2 parts:  1) before and 2) during Youth Co:Lab Thailand 2019.


Before Youth Co:Lab Thailand 2019


Roadshow in each region of Thailand

In the North, Northeast, and South, we worked with partners to gain access to the network of youth working on peace, conflict and inequality. Each roadshow has a different approach and style depending on the context of the local area. For instance, in the South, we visited 4 different youth groups at their usual gathering location. In the Northeast, we organized the roadshow at the university to reach students who drive for human rights and social development through their club activities. As for the North, we coordinated with indigenous youth network in order to reach youth from various ethnic backgrounds. This format adjustment in different areas allows us to reach the vulnerable youth groups more appropriately and effectively. Nevertheless, the content of the roadshow still contains the same primary points – to let young people share and discuss the differences, and how it leads to a certain situation in their area, to introduce social innovation concepts, and to consult and give advice on their project development.

Hearing the stories young people shared during the roadshow gave us a deeper understanding of each context on diversity and how it links to the challenges and opportunities. It also makes us feel even more confident that we are actually reaching to the right persons we are looking for – youth who are ‘in’ the problems and whom their stories are not usually heard in the society. For example, the story of a young stateless youth and their effort to obtain Thai citizenship for over 11 years, or the female Muslim football team who does not dress according to religious principles due to the lack of sport-friendly and agility of existing garments which leads to some misunderstandings and negative feedback from the local people, etc. After we try to look through lenses from their perspective, the next step is to invite them to look through our lenses, from the social innovator perspective. Many may think that innovation is very distant and challenging because they feel that it is only a matter of futuristic and complicate technology, when, in fact, it is not. Therefore, we have to provide a foundation and the most basic definition to make them understand that that social innovation is actually “new things, new approaches, new methods, new process to solve the same old problems to meet the social need in a better way than the existing solutions” which it could be something they are already doing. We also gave an example of case studies from around the world to help illustrate and create a clearer picture of the practice.

However, even they started to embrace social innovation to heart, “Will my project be good enough to compete with the other talents?” is the question we seem to hear from every youth in every region. And every time, we would smile back and tell them “You are a person ‘in’ the problem meaning that you know the problem better than anyone else, and when you rise to solve yourself the problem, you are nothing more than the expert.” The questions reflect a lot on their lack of self-confidence, and that is why we want them to see what we see of how brave and powerful they are. Hence, at the end of the roadshow, we help increase their confidence by providing them opportunities for consultation concerning what projects they want to do or currently work on, and how they should further develop in order to apply for Youth Co: Lab Thailand 2019.

At the end of the application period, we were pleased to see all the youths we met have overcomed their fears and decided to submit the project for this initiative.


Homework and Preparation

As the duration of Youth Co: Lab Thailand 2019 is rather short, developing and changing a project within 3 days is almost impossible. Therefore, it is necessary to give some homework to prepare and get the participants ready first. Although the proposed projects are in different stages of development, some projects are just starting with ideas, while some projects have prototypes or already put the products out to the market. Still, in order to actually carry on with the project, every project, regardless of any stage must have a clear answer on and understanding of the users or someone they want to resolve the problems for. Therefore, the 10 finalist teams were instructed to interview the beneficiaries and those involved, then analyze those data and compile with the goals and vision that each team wants to achieve for the better future through the “Theory of Change” in order to review their determination and objective of the project.

The homework given encourages young participants to deepen their understanding and testing their assumptions on what works and what doesn’t. We did not expect that every team would come with an accurate answer because we know that it is impossible as the social innovation process must be done repeatedly and continuously. Therefore, the hidden purpose of this homework is to help young people to break out of their comfort zone and the old way of thinking, to see in the perspective of users, and to get familiar with the tools before coming to the 3-day-event.

What happened during Youth Co:Lab Thailand 2019



exchange of experiences of youth who have common value and determination to solve social problems to learn from each other.  The sharing of experiences hence creates a strong youth network, as well as nurtures changemakers at the local level. For this reason, we give priority to creating a space for participants to build a relationship and learn about each other’s nature with respect and tolerance. The activities on the first night of the event, therefore, focus on creating a relaxed atmosphere, networking, and getting to know each other. Of course, a bit of knowledge on SDGs and social innovation are always integrated here and there.

The activities are divided into 3 parts consisting of:

1) Learning about SDGs through case studies of social innovation in both Thailand and abroad. The content is communicated through game-playing, the Giant Jenga, which must be played in harmony as a team, allowing youth to start opening up to each other.

2) Sharing of experiences from youth speakers from the North, Central, and South on their motivation, challenges and opportunities, as well as success and failure working on social innovation for peacebuilding. Followed by networking dinner where participants get together with new friends and have a chance to casually exchange discussion with the speakers.

3) Getting to know friends’ identities through games such as ‘I am… but I am not…’, to open up conversation while dining, and ‘Common Ground’, to find common/different areas or traits of each person to make them get familiar with each other, feel comfortable enough to reveal their thoughts and opinions, and be able to understand and embrace those who are different.


Creating a safe and comfort zone

The networking on the first night may be the first door to embracing diversity, still, creating a safe zone before starting the intensive workshop is also as important. Our approach begins with emotion and expectation checking, allowing young participants to pour out their “fear”, concern, and pressure on what will happen during the event. By opening up, participants feel more connected to each other as they start to understand the nature of human emotions, and shift their mindset from Youth Co:Lab as a competition to Youth Co:Lab as collaborative learning.

Creating a safe zone does not only occur at the beginning of the workshop, but repeatedly from start to finish. The role of facilitators is not just teaching and designing the process but must also be someone who always keeps an eye on and recognizes participants’ feeling and emotion during the whole process. If the facilitator feels the conditions of oppression or worry from the participants, it may be necessary to take a short break to release anxiety or to share feelings with each other again so that participants’ learning experience can flow in balance.


Deepen the understanding of the problems

Almost half of the workshop is spent on Theory of Change, deepening the understanding of the issues and its context, and reviewing the solution if it aligns with the team’s future goal. Also, through the iceberg Model and systemic thinking, participants went back again to seek for the root cause behind actions and behaviours. For example, the system that causes such behaviours, and what is it that one believes and values that influences their actions.

Taking the time in this process does not only help each team to have a clearer picture of their ideas, but also create a feeling of connectivity as they see that the phenomena that happened, although in different form and different places, have a common underlying cause – people don’t see and treat everyone as ‘equal.’ Understanding the problem in interrelated dimensions reduces competitive barrier, propel friendship, and make them realize that “We are not tackling this big and difficult problem alone.”


Project development through Peer-to-Peer learning.

Continuously in every step of the workshop, the practice we used to help participant build their capacity and advance their projects is the Peer-to-Peer learning. Participants have the opportunity to present the project to their peers, as well as providing feedback and recommendation in return. The process brought back participants from the overwhelming of their own issues and encourage them to look at the other aspects of the problem as well as expand their perspective, which may be useful for their project development. This process also emphasizes on the agenda of Youth Co:Lab, that is to make realized that the problem today is a shared problem which needs the hands of everyone in the society and that we cannot change the society if we focus only on our own problem. Youth Co:Lab is the safe space of collaboration, hence, the money reward is not the main goal.


Consulting with Mentors

In the application form for Youth Co:Lab Thailand 2019, we asked the applicants about the area in which they would like to seek consultation and mentorship as we believe that by meeting and talking with an experienced expert will definitely help strengthens their capacity and integrate wider knowledge for more sustainable development. For this reason, we brought together experts from different industry including business, media, law, naturalization, technology, gamification, partnership management, learning process design, peacebuilding and conflict management, and participatory democracy to give creative advice. This learning process helps participants’ idea to get closer to the truth.



This last session with no less important than the others is the storytelling for pitching. Learning to design one’s own narrative is not only to win the prize money but also to speak up and voice out to the general public about the problem they have been facing in their communities, which may be unknown to the outsiders, as well as showing their passion and determination on solving these problems. Although the pitching technique that we taught is effectively structured and very usual for most of the pitching stages, we always emphasize that if participants do not agree with the example given, they don’t need to follow at all. Only do what they think is best for them. The most important thing is that they get to express their story and the public become more aware and collectively start to do so as well.



At this point, we can see that behind all the process happened in Youth Co:Lab Thailand 2019, the innovation competition is only a door to invite people to take interest and apply for the program. The heart of the initiative is nevertheless “a platform for collaboration among youth to lead the social change,” which contain the exact meaning of Youth (young people) Co (Collaboration) Lab (Laboratory – experimenting with new things). At the end of the event, we feel very proud to see the result we hope for – a strong youth partnership and the passion and determination on solving the World’s most complex challenges in order to sustain peace in their local communities. We heard loud applause and cheering of youth for the other teams during the pitching. We see the development of a friendship that even after the event, they all still keep in touch with each other and sometimes gather to do good or to do new projects. These are our indicators of the success of Youth Co:Lab Thailand 2019, which we have proved that the competitiveness in the collaborative atmosphere can happen. In fact, it is better that competition and collaboration happen at the same time. Indeed, ‘peacebuilding and sustaining peace’ is a difficult, complex and interrelated challenge which must be solved through a collaborative model in order to create sustainable development for the better future.



Finally, Thailand Social Innovation Platform under the United Nations Development Programme would like to thank all of our partners for making Youth Co: Lab Thailand 2019 happened:

–    Citi Foundation, our regional co-leads;
–    The European Union, National Innovation Agency, and Air Asia for sponsoring Thailand’s event;
–    Office of National Security Council – we are very honoured that you joined the judging committee;
–    Thailand Institute of Justice, our absolute amazing facilitators;
–    All mentors who passionately gave invaluable advice to our young participants;
–    Mr. Wannasingh Prasertkul for being our ambassador and took part in filming the promotional video;
–    Our young participants – for your passion and giving us hope for the brighter future.


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There are many innovation platforms all over the world. What makes Thailand Social Innovation Platform unique is that we have created a Thai platform fully dedicated to the SDGs, where social innovators in Thailand can access a unique eco system of entrepreneurs, corporations, start-ups, universities, foundations, non-profits, investors, etc. This platform thus seeks to strengthen the social innovation ecosystem in Thailand in order to better be able to achieve the SDGs. Even though a lot of great work within the field of social innovation in Thailand is already happening, the area lacks a central organizing entity that can successfully engage and unify the disparate social innovation initiatives taking place in the country.

This innovation platform guides you through innovative projects in Thailand, which address the SDGs. It furthermore presents how these projects are addressing the SDGs.

Aside from mapping cutting-edge innovation in Thailand, this platform aims to help businesses, entrepreneurs, governments, students, universities, investors and others to connect with new partners, projects and markets to foster more partnerships for the SDGs and a greener and fairer world by 2030.

The ultimate goal of the platform is to create a space for people and businesses in Thailand with an interest in social innovation to visit on a regular basis whether they are looking for inspiration, new partnerships, ideas for school projects, or something else.

We are constantly on the lookout for more outstanding social innovation projects in Thailand. Please help us out and submit your own or your favorite solutions here

Read more

  • What are The Sustainable Development Goals?
  • UNDP and TSIP’s Principles Of Innovation
  • What are The Sustainable Development Goals?


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