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For Immediate Release Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C)

Five Youth-Led Social Enterprises Recognized at Inaugural Forum to Address Youth Unemployment Challenges in Asia

March 30, 2018


Showcasing social enterprise models that aim to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the five winners were felicitated at the inaugural Asia Pacific Youth Co:Lab Summit in Bangkok

Bangkok – Concluding the inaugural Youth Co:Lab Summit 2018, five social enterprises founded by young people across the Asia Pacific region were recognized for their innovative approaches to helping to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The five winning teams prevailed against 16 other finalists at the Summit's Regional Social Innovation Challenge, which marked the closing of the event March 28 in Bangkok.

Launched in 2017 by UNDP with support from the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab* is a regional program that aims to tackle social and unemployment challenges by harnessing youth's leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation. The program is part of Citi and Citi Foundation's Pathways to Progress** initiative to prepare urban youth to thrive in today's economy.

More than 30 young people representing 21 finalist teams from nine countries battled it out at the Challenge following two days of dialogue, capacity-building and mentorship leading up to their final pitches. Finalists were grouped into two categories: 11 in the Start Up track and 10 in the Scale Up track. Two winners were selected from each group, and a fifth team was named the most popular having been voted as a favorite on the Youth Co:Lab Facebook page during the course of the event.

The five winners are:

Start-up Track:

  • LawKo from the Philippines: LawKo is a social media chatbot that aims to bridge the knowledge gap between a legal system shrouded with complicated terms and processes and a general public that needs to understand the law. It aims to be a one-stop shop to address questions about legal and government processes.
  • Arooga Health from the Philippines: Arooga Health aims to provide users with convenient access to trusted care providers for their emotional and mental wellness. The start-up is currently applying for incubator programs in the Philippines and is aiming to launch a pilot of their platform within a private company for use by its employees.

Scale-up Track:

  • Phinix from the Philippines: Phinix is a textile recycling center that collects textile waste and transforms them into higher value products such as footwear, fashion accessories and lifestyle pieces. It is a fashion social enterprise that aims for the triple bottom line—planet, people and profit.
  • Hands On from China: Hands On utilizes 3-D printing technology to produce affordable prosthetics for children and young amputees in China. In the past year, the social enterprise has made more than 50 robotic hands for beneficiaries in 14 provinces in China.

Popular Award:

  • Blue Hearts from the Maldives: Amassing over 900 Likes on Facebook, Blue Hearts is an online platform designed to provide young people in the Maldives access to psychological care by connecting them to psychology graduates who are also seeking work experience. The graduate volunteers will be supervised by registered professionals in the Maldives. Once formally launched, the platform will also be used to raise awareness about mental health and wellness.

Presenting to a panel of esteemed judges, the finalists were evaluated based on a number of criteria that included contribution to relevant Sustainable Development Goal(s), viability and potential to scale social enterprise models, team capability and innovation including potential to pioneer impactful change.

Judges included David Galipeau, Chief Impact Officer, UNDP SDG Impact Finance; Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation and Director of Corporate Citizenship at Citi; Chinawut Chinaprayoon, Director of New Venture and Entrepreneurship at National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office, Thailand; Elsie Tsui, Project Director, Hong Kong Social Enterprise Challenge; Sujiva Dewaraja, Former Executive Vice President, John Keells Holdings, Sri Lanka; and Chiratas Nivatpumin, Assistant Chief Operating Officer, Newspaper Business, Bangkok Post.

"We are really ecstatic and excited. This gives us validation that even at the regional level, issues on mental health are really something to look at and innovations that address these issues are really important as well," said Samantha Sanchez, Co-founder of Arooga Health.

Hanyao Gu, Co-founder of Hands On, said, "I believe that one does not need a reason to do something meaningful to help those with disabilities. All of us need to work together so that no one is left behind and to achieve the SDGs."

The winning teams will be given the opportunity to participate in a youth entrepreneurship forum in China in August 2018.

The Regional Social Innovation Challenge, part of the inaugural Asia Pacific Youth Co:Lab Summit marks the first year of partnership between UNDP and the Citi Foundation. The program has reached out to over 1,700 young people and led to the launch and further development of over 140 social enterprises across a total of 11 countries. These countries include Thailand, the Philippines, China, the Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Pakistan and Vietnam.

Building on these milestones, the scope of the Youth Co:Lab program will be widened to include 16 countries over 2018 and 2019.

"We are here to support young people. While we do not doubt the ability of young people to lead innovation, we know that the systems that have been conceived for their economic and social empowerment often fall short […] We will only be able to work for the good of the region's social entrepreneurs if we solidify our partnerships. We have to realize that driving this from the regional scale, leveraging the benefits of country level networks, including the new partnership between Citi Foundation and UNDP, and connecting with ongoing national level initiatives will be crucial to this success," said Haoliang Xu, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Director of the United Nations Development Programme for Asia Pacific.

"Youth Co:Lab is enabling young entrepreneurs to be at the center of efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals," said Brandee McHale. "Congratulations to all of the youth who participated in the Regional Summit, your social start up ideas and passion are helping build a better world. The Citi Foundation is looking forward to continue our work with the UNDP to help more young people across the Asia Pacific region achieve their full potential."

For ongoing updates on the Youth Co:Lab program, follow #YouthCoLab and visit youthcolab.org and the Youth Co:Lab page on Facebook.

*Introduced in 2017, Youth Co:Lab comprises National Dialogues and Social Innovation Challenges to promote youth leadership by harnessing youth entrepreneurship and social innovation.

National Dialogues bring together delegates from private and public sectors to identify challenges and solutions that can improve the support and ecosystem for youth entrepreneurship in the region. Social Innovation Challenges, which are structured similar to start-up hackathons, enable participating youth to showcase their social enterprises, ideas and solutions to tackle some of the world's biggest social challenges.

In the first year of partnership, Citi Foundation and UNDP launched Youth Co:Lab in Thailand, Philippines and China. To date, a total of 72 social enterprises have been launched or further developed in these countries and a number of government and private sector investments have been confirmed.

Outside of the partnership with Citi Foundation, the program was introduced in eight other countries in the region: Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Pakistan and Vietnam.

In its inaugural year, the Youth Co:Lab initiative has reached out to over 1,700 young people and led to the launch and further development of over 140 social enterprises. A total of 15 government and private sector investments have also resulted from the initiative.

** Pathways to Progress is Citi and the Citi Foundation's response to the persistent issue of youth unemployment globally. Led by the philanthropic efforts of the Citi Foundation, and strengthened by the active involvement of dedicated Citi volunteers, the Pathways to Progress initiative supports programs that help young people, ages 16-24, build an entrepreneurial mindset, acquire leadership, financial and workplace skills, and begin to engage in the formal economy through a first job.

In February 2017, the Citi Foundation announced it would expand its philanthropic commitment to empowering urban youth with an additional $100 million investment to impact the lives of 500,000 young people in cities around the world by 2020. To support these efforts, Citi is mobilizing 10,000 Citi volunteers to serve as mentors, coaches, and provide professional advice to help young people move towards their career goals.

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Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. We invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant cities. The Citi Foundation's "More than Philanthropy" approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfill our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation. For more information, visit www.citifoundation.com.

UNDP works in about 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion. We help countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities and build resilience in order to sustain development results. This is a critical time for the world. At UNDP, we see this period as a huge opportunity to advance the global sustainable development agenda. In September 2015, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. We support countries' efforts to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, which will guide global development priorities through 2030. UNDP focuses on helping countries build and share solutions in three main areas: Sustainable development; Democratic governance and peacebuilding; and Climate and disaster resilience. In all our activities, we encourage the protection of human rights and the empowerment of women, minorities and the poorest and most vulnerable. The Youth Co:Lab project is run out of the Effective Governance team at UNDP's Bangkok Regional Hub for the Asia-Pacific. Additional information can be found at: http://www.asia-pacific.undp.org/.

Media Contacts

Yibin Chu, yibin.chu@citi.com, Tel: +65 66575241
Harsha Jethnani, harsha.jethnani@citi.com, Tel: +852 28687738

Beniam Gebrezghi, beniam.gebrezghi@undp.org, Tel: +66 23049100
Cedric Monteiro, cedric.monteiro@undp.org, Tel: +66 23049100

JC&Co Public Relations
Thanat Neovakul, thanatn@jcpr.co.th, Tel: +66 814863407
Artitaya Sujirasakul, artitayam@jcpr.co.th, Tel: +66 876752365

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