From the Global Youth Forum to ILEAD
It’s been almost two years since you attended the Youth Global Forum in Dubai. And you have a lot of interesting news to share. Please describe briefly what are you working on currently?
Currently I am leading the Institute of Leadership through Education and Development – ILEAD, a youth-focused start-up which aims to empower individuals and organizations by bringing global learning to local stakeholders through bridging gaps and providing creative avenues which ensure effectiveness and foster collaboration.
ILEAD’s vision is to become a leading Educational, Entrepreneurial and Leadership Development Institute, which will transform ideas into innovation and ambitions into excellence.
My role includes providing strategic guidelines for leadership, communication and networking as well as resource generation.
When did you start working on the idea of the Institute of Leadership through Education and Development – ILEAD)? How did the process go from developing the idea through the final stage of implementation?
The idea emerged with the thought that talent is universally distributed, but opportunities are not. In every part of the world you will find amazingly talented people, but they don’t always have opportunities to utilize their talent. Following that initial spark in my mind, I along with some of my professional mentors and friends, did the necessary brainstorming on the philosophy of the organization.
Almost all of my friends advised me that ILEAD must not follow the conventional non-profit pattern, where they always begin by looking towards donors for funding. Later on, I analysed different social entrepreneurship models and came up with the idea of launching an Institute, which would thrive on innovation and entrepreneurship.
In the next step, I pursued registering ILEAD with the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan and acquired the legal status of a company to ensure our compliance with the country’s laws. I believe this will enhance external stakeholders’ confidence and encourage them to partner with us.
“It is very difficult to convince organizations to establish partnerships or contribute resources”
How did you manage to get funding for your start-up? Is it generally difficult in your region?
Let me tell you that the resource part has really been a challenge, so far. It is very difficult to convince organizations to establish partnerships or contribute resources, particularly because as an organization we do not bring years of experience to the table and do not have impressive audits or progress reports to show for our past work.
However, due to my association with a couple of the universities (where I teach as visiting faculty) I came across some very innovative and selfless students who were ready to volunteer their time and talent. Besides that, by completing a U.S. State Department sponsored fellowship in the U.S., I am now part of the Pakistan U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) as an alumnus, so based on my association with PUAN, I applied in their three rounds of Alumni Small Grants. Fortunately, out of three rounds, I won two rounds of grants, each worth $US 5,000.
I have invested these resources in designing and implementing initiatives for youth entrepreneurship.
Tell us a bit more about young people in Pakistan. How active are they in terms of start-ups and joining/organizing new enterprises, what are the main challenges they face?
I believe that Pakistan is among the youngest countries in the world, specifically speaking, around 64% of our total population is in the youth category, which has tremendous potential to bring lasting positive impact in their lives as well as in society but requires right direction, capacity building support, guidance and most important, opportunities.
Pakistani youth are so forthcoming when it comes to volunteering or joining start-ups, and a good majority of them are also motivated to organize new start-ups themselves and aspire to be job creators instead of job seekers. For example: While teaching Entrepreneurship at Iqra University, during every semester I come across impressive numbers of students who have brilliant ideas for the social and economic advancement of society.
The major challenges are;
- The dilapidated condition of educational and capacity-building institutes, which are starved for research and innovation
- The lack of forward linkages with investors and financial service providers
- In some situations, socio-cultural barriers, especially for young female entrepreneurs
Youth Entrepreneurship Summit 2019
18th of September you will open the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit – YES 2019. Is this a step forward on the way to dealing with those challenges? Tell us a bit more about the concept of the summit. Who is your target audience?
Since its inception, ILEAD has been engaged in doing training sessions and workshops in the areas of Education, Enterprise Development and Leadership with relatively smaller groups, in collaboration with other like-minded organizations. But the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit – YES 2019 will be our first event on a larger scale, where we are expecting attendance by more than 200 people.
Our primary target audience is youth between the ages of 18 – 30 years, who have some sort of entrepreneurial idea and who want to pitch that idea to potential investors. Besides young people, we have also engaged the business community, schools, colleges, universities, representatives from civil society organizations and the media. It is worth highlighting that the U.S. Mission in Pakistan is a key stakeholder in the summit.
One of the sessions at the summit is called Idea Lab Pitching. What will that consist of?
Recently, in collaboration with the Pakistan U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN), ILEAD started an initiative to facilitate more than 100 young adults aged 18 -30 (50% of them are women) from under-served areas of Karachi to gain entrepreneurial knowledge and improve micro/small business management and leadership skills to attain economic empowerment. This intervention will consist of three phases, i.e.; Classroom-based sessions followed by market exposure and mentorship and finally showcasing the business canvas and pitch in the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit.
As most of our registered learners have prepared a 4 – 5 minute pitch where they will share their business idea, its feasibility, its unique selling points while seeking venture capital investors. There will be a jury of five members (a combination of academia and industry) to evaluate the ideas pitched during the sessions. There will be an opportunity for groups to win an in-kind prize equivalent to Rupees 25,000, Rupees 15,000 and Rupees 10,000 respectively for ideas at first, second and third position.
To continue to explore avenues where young minds can be connected with suitable opportunities
Do you plan any further work with pitched projects?
I am pleased to report that ILEAD has established a partnership with the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (SMEDA), a public sector body governed by the Pakistani Government. During the current phase, ILEAD has provided sessions to these selected learners for eight weeks only, but SMEDA has shown an interest in promoting the selected pitched projects and providing further capacity-building support.
In addition to all of that, ILEAD will continue to explore avenues where these young minds can be connected with suitable opportunities for growth.
Do you plan to organize events in the future? How can young people from around the world or experts be involved?
First of all, ILEAD will continue to organize the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit – YES – every year. So this year it’s YES 2019, next year it will be YES 2020 and so on. I shall continue to explore opportunities to bring in international individuals and organizations to share best practices with our youth and also enhance the credibility of our program. In this regard, I would like to express my interest in partnering with Youth Time to become co-organizer/co-sponsor for next year’s summit, “YES 2020”.
In addition to that, on Sep 18, 2019 we shall be announcing another program – the “Inter-School Adolescent Entrepreneurship and Idea Pitch Contest” – which we shall launch later this year. It is important to highlight that, in addition to entrepreneurship, Education is another area where we focus so we are also open to partnering with academic institutes (Colleges and Universities) overseas where our youth can gain further knowledge and skills. So in this regard, Youth Time International can be a key partner.
Last but not least, I would like to say that; a truly meaningful life is nonetheless a blessing because when people ask you what you do, they really want to know what contribution you make towards the betterment of society. And this is what I came up with, that as a development professional, as a right practitioner, as a young emerging leader, I make a difference, I unlock human potential which has the power to bring dramatic improvement, I bring change, and each day I take a step towards achieving excellence.
And the last question, in just a few month this year’s Global Forum will start. Could you share with our future participants, your personalexperience with the forum. What did the event give you?
It goes without saying that when an innovative idea meets amazing opportunity, it certainly translate into extraordinary success. Exactly same thing happened to me when I attended Youth Global Forum, in November 2017 in UAE. I had great fortune to be surrounded by inspirational youth at the Forum, who stimulated thought provoking ideas and shared their unique perspective.I was especially inspired by Youth Time Ambassadors, who empowered all of us and encouraged to expand our horizon.
I must say, once you experience Youth Time International event and engage in professional and cultural exchange, you will never remain the same person. I am so grateful to the Youth Global Forum participants and most important Youth Time International team, for providing me depth of mission and breadth of vision for ILEAD.