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YouthActionNet Blog

What YouthActionNet Looks for in Young Social Entrepreneurs

Lisa Jones | February 23, 2016

As someone who has served as a judge to help select the past four classes of Laureate Global Fellows, I know that the process is considered a great responsibility—and incredible inspiration—for my colleagues at the International Youth Foundation, the external selection committee, and the current class of fellows. We work to identify not only the most successful young social entrepreneurs, but the ones who are poised to benefit most, and give the most of themselves, to this transformational opportunity.

Every year at the fellowship’s leadership training and retreat, I am amazed at what is possible when you bring together 20 young visionaries who are not only passionate idealists, but pragmatic doers.  Each fellow arrives ready to share failures, identify synergies with ventures operating in vastly different contexts, and kindle deep friendships which evolve into a community of support they’ll call on often in the challenging months and years ahead.

To help us create that same magic year after year, we’ve learned to seek out young social entrepreneurs with these characteristics:

1. Innovation

Innovation is a buzzword that is tossed around often in the social entrepreneurship space, so it’s important to clarify what we mean when we say it. We believe innovation takes many forms—from creative business models for sustainability, to new uses of technology, or even being the first to address a particular problem in your city or country.

Innovation can be about cutting-edge solutions, but it can also mean applying an existing idea in a new context. If you are solving a social challenge in a way that’s more efficient, sustainable, or impactful than solutions that existed in your community before you launched your venture—that’s innovative.

2. Reflection

Successful fellows find value in looking inward to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses in leadership. During the training and retreat, fellows are challenged to think deeply about how their leadership style affects their teams, their venture's success, and even their own personal happiness and fulfillment.

Nafula Wafula, women’s rights activist and 2015 Fellow, shares: “Through the Fellowship, I have learned to appreciate myself as a leader and reach for new heights. I have overcome barriers I had set for myself without even realizing it. I have learned that I cannot create the impact I want to if I do not consider my own wellbeing as a leader."

3. Hungry Minds

YouthActionNet looks for young leaders who are lifelong learners. Fellows should be open to new ideas and experiences, and also willing to share their knowledge with peers. They understand the value of exchange among people with diverse backgrounds, and are able to be vulnerable and open to new perspectives, focusing on connection rather than competition.

“The Fellowship elevated the capabilities I had honed in my work while pushing me out of my comfort zone—in the best way possible—to consider other facets I had to develop to become a better leader” says Arundhuti Gupta, 2011 Fellow and founder of Mentor Together.

4. Passion

When you’re excited about what you do, it excites us too! Passion is where many young leaders start their journeys, and it is often what sustains them through challenging times. The video component of the application is where we first have the opportunity to see young changemakers’ passion come alive as they describe their work and what inspired them to take action.

5. Clear Visions

YouthActionNet supports young people at a critical stage in their social change journeys—they have at least one year of impact, but often hold a larger vision of change they are working toward. We equip them with the tools, resources, and connections to take their ventures to the next level, but it is up to them to guide the way.

6. Resilience in the Face of Failure

Failure is inevitable. Those who aren’t afraid to admit failures, who are happy to share those moments of defeat and transformation, are celebrated at YouthActionNet. By discussing failures, we accelerate the learning process for others, and we begin to see the positive role of failure in helping us shift our approaches in new and important ways.

Does this sound like you?

While innovative, impactful ventures will certainly capture judges’ attention, and are important to your fellowship eligibility, YouthActionNet does not simply evaluate ventures. We place emphasis on selecting individuals who will be positive contributors to our community of 1350+ changemakers. They may not all lead the same venture for life, but they will be lifelong learners, community builders, and advocates for social change.

Learn about the fellowship experience first-hand in these blog posts:

Apply now to become a Laureate Global Fellow! For more tips on applying, read How to Take Your Fellowship Application to the Next Level.