21 May Diversity drives innovation: How the EQWIP HUBs project models the positive impact of cultural collaboration
What do you get when you bring together Canadian youth, local youth and local youth institutions across 6 countries, and two leading development agencies? Answer: the EQWIP HUBs project!
This International Day for Cultural Diversity (for Dialogue and Development) we reflect on what can happen when diverse groups get together and collaborate to create lasting social change through the EQWIP HUBs project.
Powered by Canada World Youth (CWY) and Youth Challenge International (YCI), EQWIP HUBs creates a global community that unites young people around the world in partnership with local organizations providing youth programming, in order to address the global issue of youth unemployment. Funded in part by Global Affairs Canada, as part of the Volunteer Cooperation Program, the project aims to increase the ability of local partners to deliver innovative solutions in response to local needs.
EQWIP HUBs has locations in Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Indonesia, Bolivia and Peru, where the average age is 22.5. With such young populations and global youth unemployment rates at their highest yet – 13%: 4 times higher than the adult unemployment rate – offering employment and entrepreneurial training to local youth is necessary and essential.
By including a focus on environmental sustainability and gender equality, the project also directly addresses the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) 1: No poverty; SDG 5: Gender Equality; SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; and, SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.
Developed for youth and by youth, the EQWIP HUBs project is built upon the collective commitment and dedication of local and global organizations and individuals with a shared goal, to propel 100,000 youth forward by 2020. But how exactly does diversity lead to innovation and solving the issue of youth unemployment?
Driving youth economic empowerment
In addition to low youth employment rates, the number of overall employed individuals still living in extreme to moderate poverty indicates a serious problem with the quality of work they are engaged in: this is especially true for women and youth labourers.
Seeking to empower these vulnerable groups to achieve economic freedom, the EQWIP HUBs project harnesses the talent of a diverse collective. Bringing a combined 70+ years of global development work, the project is powered by two leading international agencies, CWY and YCI.
The technical expertise of subject matter experts in education, programming, youth development and gender equality is leveraged to build out significant training programs. Canadian volunteers add value by fundraising for the seed-funding initiative, the Youth Innovation Fund (YIF), and sharing their time and education in adapting and running training workshops and activities. Local youth add their voice and experience to ensure the project provides training that directly addresses their concerns. All of which is made possible by the contribution of in-country partners to sustain and carry out the programming.
This approach allows the project to provide real solutions to the unique problems that each community faces. And it is this diversity that contributes to the success of the project: to date, 96% of the youth entrepreneurs funded by the YIF are still operational!
Making sustainability a practice
Leading the charge through the collaboration of global and local staff with Canadian volunteers and local youth, EQWIP HUBs conducts robust environmental sustainability trainings that host activities designed to educate and facilitate youth in becoming more environmentally conscious in their daily lives and in their business practices.
Workshops that look to reduce consumer impact and market analysis to identify business opportunities are complimented with one-on-one mentorships and consultations with successful business owners operating in the local market with shared eco-conscious values. Through these activities, youth participants learn everything from composting and upcycling, to creating reusable or biodegradable packaging, and to completely holistic products or services.
Community outreach activities such as beach and river clean-ups, help drive home the impact our consumerist behaviours have on our environment and help identify potential opportunities for green businesses.
The project further supports the development of eco-friendly businesses by reserving 25% of the YIF to put towards green ventures; however, some countries are identifying nearly all businesses as either green or with a green component. Ex. laundromats using biodegradable soap and landscaping companies that upcycle used metals and tires to create garden boxes. In Bolivia, 23 out of 23 businesses launched in year three of the project are recognized as eco-friendly. Averaging over all six countries, a total of 63% of businesses have claimed the green label.
Equity in action
An important goal of the project is to create opportunities for young women so they can fully realize their potential. Traditional gender roles and stereotypes make it difficult for girls and women to secure quality employment. EQWIP HUBs drives change through the creation and implementation of outreach activities, ensuring a 50% participation rate of women in all of its training programs: employment and entrepreneurial. Working alongside the women, it seeks to empower them. Championed by the many different stakeholders – partners, business mentors, in-country and Canadian staff and volunteers – each HUB addresses these barriers in response to the cultural context.
But the work doesn’t stop there. By running gender responsive training, EQWIP HUBs is teaching the young leaders of tomorrow the importance of equity in the workplace and in society. By achieving economic empowerment and freedom for women, the whole community wins!
And the result is undeniable. Young entrepreneurs are breaking down barriers and, through innovative products and services, are “paving the way” to a better and more just future for themselves, their community, and the world.
Case Study: P&B Paving Blocks
Paul and Bruno were friends who both participated in the EQWIP HUBs entrepreneurial training at the Mwanza, Tanzania HUB. Paul and Bruno had a background in construction but due to the lack of job opportunities in their local community, both were unable to find stable employment.
After the training, they were also concerned about the amount of plastic waste released daily in the environment. But Paul and Bruno saw all this plastic waste as an opportunity. They had the idea to make pavement blocks out of used plastic material like disposable water bottles and shopping bags. They were also able to offer the installation of their products.
After completing the EQWIP HUBs entrepreneurship program, Paul and Bruno applied for the Youth Innovation Fund and were granted $1,600. This was enough to launch their project, bringing their idea to life.
Now P&B Paving blocks is a fully operational and successful company, establishing itself as a key player and member of The Ward Environmental Committee, which has led to greater connections and business opportunities.
“EQWIP HUBs taught me how to turn challenges into opportunities as an entrepreneur. When I incorporated what I liked doing with challenges my community faces, I decided to make paving blocks from plastic materials. Now I can stand on my own feet and be an independent person, providing all that my family needs.” – Paul Gidion Lulakuze, co-founder and co-owner of P&B Plastic Paving Blocks