What happens when the brightest minds of the next generation team up to find innovative solutions to development challenges? It can mean a fresh, new perspective on problems that countries face.

UNDP Sri Lanka’s Youth Leads Programme allows youth to experience the daily goings-on of UNDP, and support various initiatives contributing to sustainable human development and volunteerism. This programme was shortlisted for the Best Team Under 35 award at the GovInsider Innovation Awards, held at Innovation Labs World in Singapore on 26 September.

Over the course of a year, four Youth Leads supported youth-related policy, programming, advocacy, innovation, outreach work and the promotion of volunteerism. This was when the Youth Leads came up with the idea for HackaDev, a series of hackathons aimed at finding innovative solutions to development issues.

In that year, the Youth Leads also played a hand in hosting Sri Lanka’s first National Summit on Foresight and Innovation for Sustainable Human Development, according to the award submission. It is important that countries use foresight planning, which can help them to “consider multiple alternative scenarios” and “make proposed policies future-proof” in the face of uncertain times.

As a result of the summit, UNDP Sri Lanka, in partnership with the government, recently announced the establishment of a Social Innovation Lab – the first of its kind in the country. Once approved, it will be a rapid prototyping facility for development policies, and will be able to comprehensively assess an initial idea within a given timeline.

The Youth Leads were also involved in regional training workshops for government planning officials across Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs, Department of National Planning, Fields of View – India, MDF Training & Consultancy, and Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The success of these workshops led to a request from the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA) to conduct similar trainings for their officials. Most recently, discussions are taking place with SLIDA to introduce an Executive Leadership Module on foresight and innovation for government officials.

It seems that when countries invest in youths, grooming the leadership and critical thinking skills needed to solve complex challenges, there is a chance for real change in communities.

This article is part of a series that GovInsider is running on the best government innovations in APAC.

Image by UNDP Sri Lanka