» YOUTH ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
In January 2010, EPF launched Youth Economic Development Program to create economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for young community members in rural areas of Azerbaijan. Through this program young people acquired leadership and entrepreneurial skills while gaining hands-on experience in starting their own businesses and implementing small economic projects.
In partnership with BP and co-venturers, the program covered 10 communities in 5 regions along the BTC pipeline, with the goal of supporting and creating local employment opportunities. The program’s main beneficiaries included 35 young leaders who comprised YFs and a number of rural youth who received business trainings and participated in business plan financing competition which provided young people with the opportunity to set up their businesses.
Young people in targeted communities lack resources, entrepreneurial know-how, job opportunities, and practical experience. In order to realize their full potential and improve both their region’s and their own socio-economic well-being, they must both gain job skills that make them more employable to potential local businesses and also become skilled themselves in business identification and startups. The rural communities of Azerbaijan need localized solutions to their economic issues. These solutions must offer young people the opportunity to be successful in communities. If young people remain locally and gainfully employed (either through becoming more employable or starting their own businesses), the entire local community benefits. The family bonds are traditionally strong in Azerbaijan. A local “brain drain” (i.e., migration of young people to seek employment in other countries) is less likely to occur if young people have local economic and business opportunities in nascent communities. Besides, economic solutions rooted in entrepreneurship centralize financial resources within communities.
The program delivered exactly the above-mentioned missing elements by utilizing the unique approach and methodology of Youth Fund, a proven and tested successful model of youth engagement and development, piloted first in the Northern Ireland (Youth Bank Ireland) and subsequently used by EPF to train youth in addressing issues in their communities.
• Install a culture of financial independence among community members;
• Establish a core group of young rural entrepreneurs along the BTC pipeline with the business knowledge and practical skills to start their own businesses;
• Instill in community members a belief in community involvement and addressing economic issues locally;
• Establish a network among community members;
• Establish connections with local and regional business communities, private partners, and financial institutions