Throughout the world, the level of investment in the wellbeing and intellectual development of a community’s youth serves as an important proxy for the future sustainability of that society. Young people are the backbone of a nation. Through courage, innovation, and forward-thinking, youth are capable of making a positive change for their communities. However, many societies are incapable of fostering a positive environment that allows children to fulfill their potential. Research shows that when children do not have adequate education, they succumb to destructive habits, such as substance abuse and violence, all of which can continue into adulthood. Failing to break this cycle of untapped potential has devasting impacts across generations.
In Cambodia, about 30% of the total population is 15-30 years old, while approximately 35% are children younger than 15 years old. Cambodia has the largest proportion of young people to its total population in Southeast Asia; creating robust educational programs for this subset of the population is crucial. In the right enabling environment, youth can act as change agents and play an essential role in entrepreneurial work from the local level to the national level. Young people have the potential to be the greatest resource for the country’s growth.
After the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country desperately needs more young people than ever before to help rebuild its economy and strengthen its capacity to meet future challenges and to thrive.
Our Responsibility Initiative (ORI) seeks to train young people to be agents of change, social entrepreneurs, and community leaders in Cambodia. Rather than imposing ideas from the top down, we encourage trainees to identify the issues they want and need to address, and support them in developing their own independent projects. Their local knowledge will allow them to base their activities on the needs of their communities and tailor their focus to local circumstances.
Our program’s primary focus is on entrepreneurial-based education. Initially, we want to train potential and young talents to become entrepreneurs, civic leaders, and change-makers, so that they can go back to their community to help solve problems and develop programs.
Our training program starts with a one-month intensive course training that includes the following modules: effective communication and advocacy, leadership and change management, project management, and social entrepreneurship. We will engage college professors, business and NGO leaders, and social entrepreneurs as instructors and coaches for these modules. The next phase of the training helps each trainee plan and complete a three-month project to address a particular problem in their community, which is itself identified through a participatory methodology taught in the training program. Trainee’s solution proposal must fall into one of these categories: Education quality improvement, Healthcare reform, Agriculture modernization, Rural Development, Environmental protection, and Climate Change.