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Nonprofit looks to harness the ingenuity of young people

By Xing Wen | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-29 09:46
Chen Yi (second from left, back) and her team, who won with their project that aims to improve the quality of art education in China, receive certificates from Dai Kai, managing director of the nonprofit Young Sustainable Impact's China branch.[Photo provided to China Daily]

On Sept 25, 2015, the 193 countries of the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 development agenda featuring 17 sustainable development goals.

The following year, a group of students and entrepreneurs in Norway decided to go a step further - they founded a nonprofit organization named Young Sustainable Impact, a platform that brings together smart young minds to develop innovative ideas. YSI helps them turn those ideas into viable startups aimed at solving sustainability problems. This year, the Norwegian-initiated movement has reached out to China for the first time, as the 2018 Young Sustainable Impact China Summit was held in Shanghai earlier this month.

Generally, YSI screens all the program applicants by assessing their educational background, previous accomplishments and passion for sustainability via online interviews, then selects a group who will go on to create several business prototypes supported by YSI's mentorship and advisory board, which consists of experts and entrepreneurs. A fully-fledged startup is usually incubated within a short period of time on the YSI platform.

"Mentors who are adept at investing, counseling, financing and marketing offer YSI teams practical advice and draw upon various resources around the globe," says Dai Kai, 21, managing director of YSI's China branch.

Dai, a sophomore at Minerva Schools at KGI, believes that it is feasible to fuel sustainable development by offering young people an opportunity to produce sustainable businesses, adding that they would give priority to prototypes that could solve China's sustainability challenges.

This time, 21 talented young people - most of whom boast an overseas education - were selected from 602 participants and then attended the Shanghai summit, where they displayed their nearly-completed projects for evaluation by government officials, entrepreneurs, industrial professionals and other young representatives of the organization.

One such project was Yiquan Art Edu, conceived by 24-year-old Chen Yi and her teammates over the course of two months. The quality-education project, an online platform, is designed to improve Chinese people's sensitivity to art by providing them with interactive online courses.

"I hope the platform will connect people to paintings and other art pieces and help to foster their aesthetic appreciation," says Chen, a graduate of the University of Rochester.

Working in New York as an educational consultant in the art industry, Chen found that, on one hand, many Chinese students who study art abroad find themselves at a loss when seeking a job in their adopted country, while on the other hand, the domestic market lacks systematic courses on art and its history.

She then struck upon the idea to create an efficient way to connect art students in foreign universities with children in China who long for art-related knowledge.

"The framework of the platform has already been set up," says Chen. "In our team, we complement each other while sharing the same passion for quality education. Hence, we can work together and make it happen."

Gong Yunya, who is in charge of the nonprofit's brand promotion in China, says that witnessing these sustainable projects grow from scratch and ultimately come to fruition has inspired her.

That partly explains why the 24-year-old resigned from a program counselor's job at a Shanghai-based company to throw herself into running the Chinese branch of YSI.

"I found that there's something that these young people have in common - they want to create something and help others," observes Gong. "I'm attracted by their infectious enthusiasm for change."

She adds that her experience working for the nonprofit has more or less shifted her mindset. Before she joined YSI, she used to think that to realize an idea required, first and foremost, the accumulation of capital. However, her peers in the organization have taught her how to find the necessary resources, such as financial support, by using creativity and social networking.

"It has broadened my vision, especially during the five-day summit where I could communicate with our brilliant guests and representatives," says Gong. "I feel that there is an exciting road ahead waiting for me to explore."

 

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