Forging an ASEAN Youth Changemaker Network - Inaugural ASEAN Youth Fellowship 2018

40 young leaders from all 10 ASEAN nations across the private, public and people sectors gathered in Singapore for the inaugural ASEAN Youth Fellowship (AYF) from 10 to 16 November 2018. The AYF was jointly organised by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and the National Youth Council Singapore (NYC) to commemorate Singapore’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2018.

A celebratory moment at the closing ceremony of the week-long inaugural ASEAN Youth Fellowship with Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu.

Conceived not only as a platform to foster greater intercultural understanding and sharing of knowledge among young ASEAN leaders from diverse backgrounds, the Fellowship also sought to build a network of young changemakers who could explore opportunities to work together as part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between SIF and NYC in June 2018.

Focused on the theme “Innovation for One ASEAN Future”, this year’s AYF programme featured several senior policy-makers and thought leaders as well as immersive institutional visits and learning journeys. These sessions facilitated discussion on how innovation can guide the future of ASEAN.

Highlights of the programme include being treated to a sweeping overview on the development of ASEAN, as seen first-hand by the former Secretary-General of ASEAN and current Chairman of the SIF, Ambassador Ong Keng Yong. Ambassador Ong’s sharing set the context for an engaging Q&A session with Deputy Prime Minister & Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, Tharman Shanmugaratnam. The Fellows were earnest in their queries and sought his views on a wide range of topics from education, economics, innovation and smart cities to furthering people-to-people ties among the ASEAN youths.

Deputy Prime Minister & Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, Tharman Shanmugaratnam engaged the Fellows during a dialogue on ASEAN, which was moderated by Chairman of SIF and former Secretary-General of ASEAN, Ambassador Ong Keng Yong.

Throughout the week-long exchange, one could see palpable consensus amongst the Fellows on the need to come together for collective impact for the ASEAN bloc. Myanmar ASEAN Youth Fellow Naing Ye Lin shared that he saw ASEAN as an integral part of the future of youths in the region and building partnerships amongst the 3P (private, public and people) sectors would only help to create greater social cohesion and social good within the ASEAN communities.

His views were echoed by both Malaysia ASEAN Youth Fellow Danni Rais who said that a lot more can be done at the societal level apart from official government-to-government relations, while Singapore ASEAN Youth Fellow Maisha Reza added that identifying similarities and common ground amidst the ASEAN diversity was essential to building collaborations.

Besides their interactions with policy makers and thought leaders, the Fellows also gained insights into some of guiding principles undergirding Singapore’s social innovation policies and plans for urban sustainability, heritage preservation, social entrepreneurship and healthcare. 

Learning journeys to cutting-edge private companies in the fields as varied as telecommunications, social media and transportation catalysed conversations with the respective honchos on how they innovated to capitalise on digital and technological disruptions.

The busy week of networking, discussions and visits culminated in the closing ceremony where the Fellows shared their learnings and insights with Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu. They collectively undertook a Call to Personal Action, where they pledged to continue to build a strong network of ASEAN youth leaders and collaborate to achieve sustainable social impact in the region.

The week-long inaugural AYF is only the beginning. As future leaders of ASEAN, there is much hope that the friendships forged amongst the Fellows would further enhance the people-to-people relations among the ASEAN countries and open up collaboration opportunities leading to positive change in the communities. As the participants departed home, many did so with a conviction to influence a better future for the region. Some ideas have already started brewing – we look forward to these collaborations!

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