Muhammad Shiab Khan
Social Entrepreneurship is a fast growing field in the world. However, this very concept has not yet arrived at a full understanding in Pakistan, but it is the need of time at a crucial time when one takes into consideration the point that 68.4% of the country’s total population comprises of individuals below the age of 30. The fact that 30% of this group stands illiterate and 32% comprises of those with no vocational and life skills, makes this segment of population one in need of urgent and immediate assistance.
In the given state of affairs what is required are: (a) substantial growth in the number of decent employment opportunities available to young people; and (b) giving youth the skills & knowledge required by the current and future labor market. And the best way of ensuring this is by supporting Enterprise Education and promoting Social Entrepreneurship among young people, thereby enabling them to create jobs for themselves as well as for others. Enterprise Education with its focus on developing attitudes, personal qualities, knowledge and skills that individuals may need to begin their business, also improves their employability skills. By doing so it supports young people in either starting their own enterprises or gaining productive employment. Whereas, Social Entrepreneurship stimulates young people to develop a new mind-set for overcoming unemployment and poverty, thereby ensuring their own as well as others economic survival. More importantly, it enables them to build home grown solutions to various social problems plaguing the society.
Today, jobs in the country’s private and public sectors are not growing fast enough to keep pace with the growing youth population. More and more young people now find themselves unemployed, and without knowledge of and training in social enterprise development they also remain unable to start their own enterprises. Needless to say, disengaged and frustrated youth can be exploited and represents a serious threat to peace and security whereas, meaningfully engaged they become a source of creativity, strength and unity. In the given circumstance what is required is institutional support for developing enterprise and employability skills among young people and promoting among them social entrepreneurship as a possible career option. Given the above it is indeed regrettable that only a handful of universities in the country have attempted to actively engage in supporting entrepreneurship education. There are only a few established entrepreneurship professorships, departments and institutes for entrepreneurship that feature as integral parts of the internal support structure in most universities in Pakistan. Scribe had a chance to attend the event held by YES Network Pakistan with the students of higher education institutions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Baluchistan regarding explaining the concept of social entrepreneurship. Ali Raza Khan CEO of YES Network in his address said that his non-profit organization has played a pioneer role in introducing and institutionalizing the concept of social entrepreneurship in the leading youth-serving institutions across Pakistan. He explained that his organization has implemented the project titled ‘Advancing Youth Social Entrepreneurship in Higher Education’ funded by USAID’s Small Grants & Ambassador’s Fund Program. The objective of the project is to develop partnerships with 10 educational institutions (colleges and universities) based in Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan to set up Youth Social Enterprise Generators at their campuses for providing social entrepreneurship education, services and opportunities to young people.
We must admire such great initiatives which provide the guidelines, encouragements to the youth to become constructive citizens. Participants while sharing their experiences of the event to the scribe said that they learnt about self-employment and social
entrepreneurship as possible career options, they learnt new concepts of social entrepreneurship with practical opportunities. Ali said that integrating the concept of social entrepreneurship into the curriculum building-up an entrepreneurial culture in the higher education institutions by starting enterprise competitions each of these areas faces economic and social challenges. The political and security situation in Baluchistan and GB impacts the area’s overall stability and ability to address challenges in relation to economy, internal political legitimacy, and its youth. To address this gap YES plans on focusing on and building partnerships with 10 educational institutions in the area, with the objective of offering thereat dedicated start up services for would be entrepreneurs comprising of social entrepreneurship education, skills training, business management skills, access to credit, markets and peer networks. While talking to the scribe, Ali Raza Khan said: “YES Network Pakistan firmly believes in building educational institutions from inside out in order to make sustainable and real change. Peace and prosperity can only be ensured in Pakistan if we have local people working on it and not just service providers.”