I had the pleasure of having breakfast with one of the Singaporean delegates, Muhammad Afzal, who also happens to work at Reactor. As an experienced trainer at Reactor, Afzal is well equipped with entrepreneurial knowledge which happened to be one of the topics covered at the Summit. He shared with me his experience and takeaways from his involvement in the India-ASEAN Youth Summit.
The India-ASEAN Youth Summit was organised by India Foundation and Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ASEAN-India Dialogue Partnership. This year’s theme was “Shared Values, Common Destiny” to reflect the close cultural and civilisational links that India and South-East Asia have enjoyed over 2 Millennia.
There were 4 main topics of discussion: Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UN SGDs (United Nations Sustainability Development Goals), Policy & Governance and IT & Digital connectivity. During discussions, common topics included Education for Youth, Entrepreneurship helping countries move forward and policies related to the India and ASEAN relationship.
An interesting observation from Afzal was that out of the 10 countries involved in the summit, only Singapore, Brunei and Philippines sent down delegates who were within the youth age range of 15 – 24 Years old. The rest of the countries sent down delegates who were much older but involved in making youth policies. This provided an interesting dynamic to the group present in the Summit. The Singaporean delegates consisted of individuals from Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), as requested by the National Youth Council (NYC).
Youth-related Policy was the bulk of the discussion at the Summit as it is recognised that the youth are next generation, or as Afzal termed it “new blood” of the country. They will be the ones responsible for moving the country forward. However, between the older and younger generation, there was an evident difference in mindset towards change.
“The Youth today use their phones too much and are thus unable to connect with people,” was a point shared by an older delegate.
This statement was countered by Mr Shaurya Doval, the brain behind Youth related activities (especially policies) in India who said, “connections are connections. The Youth are using their phones to connect with other people.”
Indeed, it is true that everywhere you turn these days, you can spot not just one but many millennials tapping away at their phones. As unsettling as it may be to observe a group of people standing around using their phones instead of interacting with each other, it has to be understood that in today’s digital age, people are more likely to connect and stay relevant through the use of technology.
Mr Shaurya Doval, Director of India Foundation
Another insightful point Mr Shaurya Doval made during discussions about Innovation and Entrepreneurship discussions was that the problem about Asian youth is that they are so fixated on not challenging the system because that was how they were brought up. Values such as filial piety and following the systems have been ingrained into them as young children. Unfortunately, these values are what hinder innovation. The question now is “how do we keep our values and move forward at the same time if they are so conflicting?” Mr Shaurya Doval is also the Director of India Foundation.
While all these discussion points made were very stimulating, I ended off my conversation with Afzal by asking him why he was chosen to be a delegate. He went on to say, “I enjoyed myself and to be honest I was surprised to be chosen to represent Singapore in this Summit. I was nominated by Youth Corps Singapore despite having only been a part of this organization for 1 and a half years. However, I believe that if you are committed to something, good things will come.”
Indeed, Afzal has proven to be a valuable addition to our Reactor Training team, showing dedication to his work due to his passion for reaching out to Youth. We hope that our students can be inspired by Afzal’s experience and start solving the world’s biggest problems through innovation and entrepreneurship to help Singapore move forward.
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