Changing the course of life of young people through 21st century skills

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  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Artak Ordyan

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative’s representative gender

  • Man

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • Armenia

Where are you making a difference?

Regions near the capital city where youth activities are not covered by development organizations

Website or social media url(s)

When was your organisation founded?

UNICEF was founded in 1946, while UNICEF Armenian in 1994

Focus areas

  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce

Project Stage

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways) 

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $50k - $100k

Organisation Type

  • United Nation's Fund for Children

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

UNICEF was created in 1946 as a emergency response to the dire need of children after the Second World War, later UNICEF expanded to become a worldwide organization with both emergency and development programs for women and children and their families. UNICEF works to protect the rights of every child in Armenia through its education, health, child protection, youth empowerment and disaster risk reduction programming.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

In Armenia, there are more than 356,000 adolescents (age 10-19) 12% of the total population. Every 3rd young person (age 15-24) is either not in school, nor in employment (36.6 per cent). The majority of adolescent girls and boys feel that they are not included in decision making processes in their communities, experience hardship in school-to-work transition and many express the desire to be given an opportunity to make the change.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

UNICEF connects non-formal education to employment and entrepreneurship, empowering every young person to thrive in the 21st century. UPSHIFT helps marginalized youth become social innovators and social entrepreneurs, enhance their participation in their own communities by providing experiential learning, understanding of community challenges, 21st century skills and abilities. These skills then enable them to build social capital, define their education aspirations and find their place in the labor market, and be more proactive in practicing civic engagement to bring about positive changes at local and national levels. UPSHIFT enables young people to understand and apply critical thinking and innovation, which can lead to design and building solutions, as well as to become a social entrepreneur or lead the ventures that deliver them. This is done through the young people submitting their ideas, participating in a boot-camp, and the winning teams supported by training mentors who support them in the project design and project management, financial management, networking, reporting and other social entrepreneurship and business processes.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

In 2019, UNICEF reached out to 570 adolescents informing of the launch of UPSHIFT in Armenia. 63 teams applied, and 10 teams were selected. 50 adolescent girls and boys came together in the first round of UPSHIFT program for adolescents (12-18) to present their ideas and projects. For many of them, this was the first time that they had a chance to develop an idea that grew into a project, and then a reality that is already changing their community. Adolescent girls and boys learned how to design a project, implement with a small investment, advocate for their projects to local authorities, get support from their community members, parents and media. They learned how to pitch their ideas to decision makers, media and businesses.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

UPSHIFT focuses on building the capacities of youth on the skills and capabilities in addition to formal education, and thus connects non-formal education to employment and entrepreneurship. This is done through: -Boot-camp focusing on developing ideas, projects and pitching for a grant -Mentors who support groups of vulnerable adolescents -Training in project design, project pitching to find supporters and funding, and project management -Increased resilience (sustainable livelihoods, competence, confidence, connection) of youth -Training on financial management, reporting and other business processes -Methods for business strategy development, modelling and communication -Creating new links between decision makers and engaged adolescents. Also, an effort is made to reach adolescents from marginalized backgrounds (poor families, youth with disabilities).

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

The expected tangible outputs for UPSHIFT are exact numbers of adolescent reached and trained (data disaggregated by age, sex and other factors), adolescent-led social change projects initiated, proposals submitted. Intermediate and longer-term outcomes are: -increase in personal empowerment (personal growth, self-management, resilience, communication) -increase in learning (critical thinking, problem solving, curiosity, creativity) -increase in employability (negotiation, decision-making, technical skills) -increase in active citizenship (respect for diversity, empathy, participation).

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Government of Armenia plans to change the educational system in order to have better match with the job market. At this stage there is a huge gap between new graduates and market demand. Most of the youth selects professions with no prior assessment of future job opportunities. Continued information sharing and discussions with the Ministry of Education, Governors offices and municipalities ensure Government's ownership and support to UPSHIFT in Armenia. That is one of the main differences from the youth development activities conducted by partner organizations.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

The UPSHIFT model has been piloted in many countries with success. The project was carried out in Armenia in 2019 and 50 adolescent boys and girls designed and implemented a project that changed their community. As a result of UPSHIFT Project most of the participants confirmed their wish to stay in their communities, while most of the adolescents and youth from distant communities of Armenia see their future in capital city or abroad. So, UPSHIFT provides skills and capabilities to adolescents for improved employability and changing their own communities.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

UNICEF is part of a broader EU project on deepening democracy in Armenia which will ensure implementation of several UPSHIFT cycles in the northern regions of Armenia for the upcoming 2 years. This proposal to Ashoka is for involving adolescents in 3 more regions that are neighboring capital city Yerevan. Further, engagement models are developed to engage private companies to fund the initiative in communities of their business interest and with industry interest. Long term, UNICEF advocates for local government to continue implementing the model at local level and fund it through the municipal and community budgets, as well as for the government at national level to integrate this model in its programs for sustainable funding streams.

10. Team

The UPSHIFT program is carried out by professionals in the field of adolescent and youth empowerment and professional trainers in their fields, as well as linking with private sector and government institutions. The program is overviewed and managed by the UNICEF Armenia Deputy Representative with a team of program officers, one specialized adolescent officer will lead the work with partners. UNICEF has capacity to implement the project in 3 more regions without a need of new staff recruitment.

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • Disability (including: physical, intellectual, and/or mental disabilities)

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?

As a person with a physical disability I encourage young Armenians with healthy lifestyle on daily basis. Namely, I train by swimming, cycling and running despite having 2.7 cm shorter leg and curved back. In 2019 I became an IronMan (triathlon achievement of 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42km run) and Armenia being a small country, youth find about other people very easily. During all gatherings with youth I try to set an example of following dreams with hard-work and that everything is possible.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • HBSC page or contact

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

UPSHIFT theory of change posits that, through training, mentorship, and the experiential learning of building social entrepreneurship and impact initiatives, the project can strengthen young people’s professional readiness and entrepreneurial skills, thus enhancing their successful transition to the labor market and participation in decision-making. The UPSHIFT activities are split around provision of boot-camps, intensive mentoring and skills for social entrepreneurship and employability, project design, project pitching and project management, financial management, reporting, as well as small seed funding, etc. Namely, young people 1) submit their ideas, 2) participate in a boot-camp, 3) winning teams get supported by building skills and abilities, 4) winning teams get seed funding and 5) mentored for project implementation and monitoring the results.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Accounting & Finance
  • Monitoring Impact
  • Project Management

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments․ UNICEF Armenia has only recently started resource mobilization efforts from individuals and private companies: thus most of the funding comes from national committees of USA and EU countries. Those countries, on their turn, raise funds from private sector, individuals and foundations. 

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

One of the strengths of UNICEF Armenia is the partnership with the Government of Armenia. Special attention will be paid to documenting and evaluating results of the project to make the case for greater government ownership and scaling up at a later stage. The Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports is engaged in overall process of the project implementation. Besides the Ministry, local authorities will also be included in the activities in order to have the ownership over the implemented social projects. In 2019 UNICEF used its regular resources and implemented the first round of UPSHIFT. UNICEF received funding from EU to implement several UPSHIFT cycles in the northern regions of Armenia for the upcoming two years. Following the evaluation of the results of EU and Ashoka (if successful) projects, UNICEF will recommend Government gradually take over of UPSHIFT project.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

UNICEF plans to expand UPSHIFT throughout the country during the next Country Program Plan. This will be reached by step-by-step spreading the project with specific attention to the disadvantaged groups (youth with disabilities, poor households, distant communities). Training sessions for different winning teams may differ based on the needs of the communities and outcomes pursued. 

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

The skills that UpShifters learn and practice are of vital importance to navigate a changing environment and engage in civic activities. This set of skills and actions in their turn will get young people into job market and will enable them to develop their own business ideas being while becoming active citizens. The whole process from identifying the idea, developing and finalizing takes around 5 months. Young people get 5 months of mentorship are also exposed to various change-makers, businesses and individuals who support and coach them for getting better results and sustainability.

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

UPSHIFT is a global tool – adaptable and flexible to different contexts. UPSHIFT is now being implemented in more than 22 UNICEF Country Offices worldwide — championing the idea of youth and adolescents as the main actors of social change.

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

UNICEF implements its UPSHIFT projects in collaboration with local non profit organizations. A telling example is previously implemented projects, wherein UNICEF and the Youth Initiative Center of Gyumri NGO launched boot-camp at the Gyumri Technology Center. All these skills and capacities remain in the communities with implementing partners and are key to further scalability.  

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

Evaluation results

2 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

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No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

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No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

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4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

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Yes, absolutely! - 100%

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6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 100%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 50%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 0%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 100%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 0%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 50%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 100%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 0%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

Other option - 0%


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