It is not often you get to travel to Caribbean for work, but in December 2014 that is exactly what I was lucky enough to do!
I was invited by the Commonwealth Secretariat to take part in a 3day visioning workshop they were running in Barbados. The purpose of the workshop was to pull together key youth organisations from across the Caribbean region and Canada, (I have put a full list at the end of this blog), to see if there was a way they could work together to create a strong regional voice for young entrepreneurs. I was invited to share the lessons I have learnt through my work with the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance and the European Confederation for Young Entrepreneurs.
Although the temperature was 30degrees+ and we were surrounded by beautiful beaches and stunning scenery the 3days the workshop ran over were hectic with 7am starts and 10pm finishes. The group of individuals present were all extremely motivated and dynamic, they had never met each other before but all got on like long lost friends. All conversations were extremely productive with a huge drive towards working together and sharing of best practice and it really struck me how they were all facing very similar issues:
- Education and skills, especially those focused towards entrepreneurship and enterprise
- Access to finance, hardly any available funding for startups in the region
- Regulation and taxation environment not conducive to supporting startups
- Lack of a joined up ecosystem to support entrepreneurship
- Cultural issues with starting out on your own not being seen as a viable career option
These are very similar issues that we face across Europe and the G20.
At the end of the 3days the twenty organisations present had agreed to form a regional alliance of young entrepreneurs. The group will be called the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs-Caribbean & Canada (CAYE-C&C).
The Alliance will be modelled on the Commonwealth Asia Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs (CAAYE), which was formed in 2011 and brings together young entrepreneurs from Commonwealth countries in Asia.
This is a hugely positive step forward for young entrepreneurs in the region and the provisional mission of the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs-Caribbean & Canada (CAYE-C&C) is to:
- Empower and nurture young people through access to essential resources including entrepreneurship training, financial and technical support, networking and mentorship opportunities;
- Advocate for policies conducive to creating a strong entrepreneurial culture and ecosystem; and
- Gain global recognition as the voice and face of young entrepreneurs in the Caribbean and Canada.
The Alliance itself will focus on building support for youth entrepreneurship, promoting knowledge-sharing among member organisations and stakeholders, providing information to young entrepreneurs, and facilitating regional trade for young entrepreneurs.
Although it is early days for the new Alliance, it is a great step forward and really fantastic that the Commonwealth is supporting such an initiative. As I have seen with the different networks I have been involved in over the years setting up and running these regional type bodies are not easy, there will be challenges, but the impact that their success can make can be far reaching and I really feel this new Alliance has exactly the right type of people involved and leading it. To give you insight into why I feel this I thought I would finish this post with quotes from two of the participates at the workshop.
Matt Sweeting, Chairman of the Organization of Young Professionals in The Bahamas, said: “As we strengthen our resolve to empower youth entrepreneurship nationally our partnership in the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs is a tremendous value-add in that direction. We equally see the value in creating working international relationships with other Commonwealth Caribbean countries to share in best practices.”
Erica Wynter, President of the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Jamaica, added: “YEA Jamaica is very excited about this great initiative. We look forward to many years of successfully connecting young people to business and advocating for them across the Caribbean region and Canada.”
Countries represented in the Alliance are: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, The Bahamas, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and St Vincent & the Grenadines.
List of signatory organisations:
- GET SET Entrepreneurial Programme (Anguilla)
- GARD Centre (Antigua & Barbuda)
- Barbados Youth Business Trust
- The Barbados Vagrants & Homeless Society
- Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme, Barbados Ministry of Culture, Sports & Youth
- Dominica Youth Business Trust
- Grenada Young Entrepreneurs Project
- Dynamic Youth of Grenada
- Grenada Junior Achievement
- Guyana Youth Business Trust
- Jamaica Youth Business Trust
- Young Entrepreneurs Association of Jamaica
- Saint Lucia Youth Business Trust
- St Kitts & Nevis National Entrepreneurial Development Division
- St Vincent & the Grenadines Youth Business Trust
- Youth Business Trinidad and Tobago
- Organisation of Young Professionals (The Bahamas)
- Futurpreneur Canada
- Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihoods (Barbados)
- Youth for Epic Change (Barbados)