IYF and Laureate Education Inc. bolster support for region’s young leaders 

Since establishing its first national youth leadership institute in Mexico in 2006, the International Youth Foundation’s YouthActionNet® program has expanded to eight additional Laureate International Universities in six Latin American countries. Through a signature partnership with the Sylvan/Laureate Foundation, these locally-rooted, globally-connected institutes are now recognized leaders in the field of youth social entrepreneurship in the region. 

They are among 19 local institutes that currently comprise the YouthActionNet global network. In 2013, YouthActionNet partners in Latin America produced comprehensive surveys and analyses to inform the youth social entrepreneurship sector as a whole. Most recently, the ACCIONJOVEN program, housed at Universidad Andrés Bello in Chile, published a study highlighting core characteristics of young leaders in that country, including the focus of their work, their motivations, and backgrounds. In response to one question, respondents identified their priority needs as funding, mentoring, training, and greater confidence to overcome challenges. Similarly, the Premio UVM program in Mexico published its research findings on the status of the nation’s young social entrepreneurs. 

Each of these local institutes has created vibrant networks among the public, private, and civil society sectors to support youth-led social innovation. In early 2013, fellows representing the Premio Yo Emprendo program in Honduras met with the nation’s president and his cabinet to discuss their work and needs. In Costa Rica, Microsoft is providing pro bono tech support to local fellows, and in Peru, El Comercio, the nation’s largest newspaper, will share fellows’ stories to amplify the voices of young social entrepreneurs in the country.  

Some of these programs’ deepest connections are occurring at the university level, where students are engaged in two-way learning with fellows. In Costa Rica, students at Universidad Latina collaborated with the Premio Yo Creo program and its fellows to host a national conference on youth-led social innovation. Similarly, in Chile, ACCIONJOVEN was instrumental in launching a new course in social entrepreneurship at Universidad Andres Bello. And in Brazil, local participants in the Premio Laureate Brasil program have received scholarships for continuing education or graduate degrees at Universidade Anhembi Morumbi. All these efforts are better aligning the entrepreneurial spirit with social consciousness.  

In 2013, YouthActionNet selected and trained 60 extraordinary young social innovators from across Latin America who now benefit from being part of one of the world largest networks of young social entrepreneurs. In early 2014, new fellows will be selected through a special technology-focused initiative carried out through Universidad Tecnológica de Mexico (UNITEC). Plans are also underway to partner with members of the Laureate International Universities network to expand the program to Manaus and Salvador, Brazil.