UNDP Youth Solution Trip Inspires Young Leaders to Solve China’s Pressing Social IssuesJan 16, 2017
16 January – Submissions for the first phase of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP’s) ‘Youth Solution Trip’ have officially ended. Four driven and determined young leaders have now completed the three-week research programme in Guizhou, Southwest China, and have submitted their innovative ideas for solving local challenges.
“Youth Solution Trip” is an initiative by UNDP China to support youth leadership and engage younger generations in solving the social challenges facing China today. With full support from UNDP and its’ partners, talented young people passionate about development issues now have the opportunity to visit UNDP programme sites across the country. Gaining a deeper understanding of local social and economic contexts, the young leaders are expected to combine their expertise and experiences obtained from the trip to produce solutions for the most pressing local challenges.
Last December, the four youth representatives were selected out of over one hundred diverse applicants, becoming the first group of practitioners to embark on a UNDP ‘Youth Solution Trip’. The first phase of the trip kicked off in Guizhou Province.
’Smart Travel’ in Guiyang City
UNDP is currently implementing the ‘Guiyang Smart Cities and Social Governance Index’ Project in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou. The initiative aims to provide a strategic direction for developing inclusive, sustainable cities and communities through public participation. Xingyue, currently studying towards a master’s at Wuhan University of Technology, and Xuemei, an Oxford University graduate, devoted themselves to this project, focusing on alleviating Guiyang’s problematic traffic congestion.
After visiting UNDP’s partner in Guiyang, Guizhou Wing Cloud Big Data Service Co. Ltd., to learn about the role of Big Data in smart city development, they conducted interviews and research on all UNDP pilot communities. Findings showed that citizens’ traffic ethics lie at the root of congestion problems. “Drivers cut lines, park randomly, and frequently exceed speed limits. Sometimes, bus drivers even skip some stations”, Xingyue and Xuemei discovered. “Whether it is parking violations, line cutting or pedestrians crossing the greenbelt of roads, uncivilized behaviour and violation of rules is still the underlying problem here.”
Targeting these behavioral challenges, the young graduates initiated a plan, with emphasis on the important role of technology for smart city development. This included an educational video for citizens, emphasizing the need for improved driving etiquette, and creation of a cartoon traffic mascot, which has received positive feedback from the local government.
A key highlight was a Virtual Reality (VR) ‘Smart Travel’ platform for citizens, allowing people with limited opportunities to travel a holiday experience from their own home. Xingyue and Xuemei believe, ‘Smart Travel’ can not only improve citizens’ lives by giving a chance to explore exciting places, but also serve as a tourism advertisement platform, boosting the region’s tourism sector in the long run.
Kaili: Connecting Culture and Business
Approximately 200 kilometres west of Guiyang is Kaili, Hongwei and Yixue, the two other selected young leaders, engaged their efforts in conserving and promoting local ethnic traditions.
‘Weaving into Happiness‘ is UNDP’s demonstrational project under the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, supporting poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment in ethnic minority regions. In Kaili, UNDP works to enhance local capacity building and business incubation, and promotes cultural industry development. Their ultimate aim is to engage and empower women, improving their livelihoods in the process.
As founder and CEO of her own E-commerce company, Hongwei created a detailed business model for selling Miao embroidery products, a key cultural tradition of the local Miao people. Having realized the uniqueness of these ethnic art products, she plans to create a ‘village brand’, which can boost cultural tourism and attract potential buyers of embroidery. With cooperation from government, media and electronic business platforms, she hopes to expand the brand, directing more attention to embroidery products. “In addition to preserving this traditional form of art,” said Hongwei, “the universal goal is to increase income, help women to achieve equality and realize sustainable development.”
Fudan University graduate Yixue, who chose a career in rural development and public services, proposed to open a community university in Maomaohe village of Kaili. Yixue hopes to “cultivate women’s business sense and knowledge of local challenges, developing a new generation of business entrepreneurs.” This project holds promise for improving the competitiveness of the region's economy and helping women to make ends meet. “Going out to work, living in an unfamiliar environment while having no technical skills just makes you become an ordinary worker on an average salary”, Yixue sums up. “However, as long as there is a market, these hardworking people can earn a living in their own homes, using cultural skills passed down over generations.”
The first Youth Solution Trip has come to an end, but preserved from the three-week experience are feelings of optimism in the four young leaders. “Submitting my final proposal, I will now leave town, but for me, this is just the start.” Hongwei says, “As a woman, I am now determined to continue promoting women’s empowerment, fighting poverty in the process. I am very thankful to UNDP for the opportunity.”
UNDP firmly believes that the younger generation should not only be pure beneficiaries of prosperity but also key collaborators for promoting sustainable development. The results of the first Youth Solution Trip have proved this concept, and UNDP China hopes that the Youth Solution Trip can grow into a model for projects further afield, raising awareness of the importance of youth leadership in forming more inclusive, prosperous societies.