One year on: YBI network supported over 160,000 young people to help keep their businesses running through COVID-19

Anita Tiessen
Anita Tiessen Chief Executive Officer Youth Business International

A year ago, as countries around the world announced restrictions and lockdowns, our 52 members across 45 countries on six continents were united around the challenges of continuing to provide support to young entrepreneurs. Regardless of geography, size or sector, there wasn’t a business unaffected. The YBI network mobilized to collaborate, support, share and innovate to the challenge and pivot our services to respond to the urgent needs of young entrepreneurs across the globe.

A year on and over 160,000 young people have received support to help keep their business running during the pandemic. Around 90,000 young people received training and 13,000 were matched with mentors. 66,000 young people were provided with business advice and 19,000 were helped with access to finance.

This means during a time when businesses around the world were forced to cease trading – thanks to the support of the YBI network – over 18,000 young people started new businesses, 13,000 strengthened their business, and over 9,000 young people secured new employment.

The scale of the support provided and its impact is a testament to the dedication, ingenuity, and commitment of our members and the tenacity and resilience of the young people they support.

YBI had already been delivering its Digital Accelerator programme in partnership with Accenture and with support from IKEA Foundation: our members were in an excellent position to pivot their services to digital. YBI supported Accenture on the creation of the Virtual Ways of Working Playbook which covered best practices for social impact organizations virtualizing their operations. YBI and Accenture were able to create the playbook and deliver online training to our members to help them adopt virtual approaches.

Our network was positioned to provide rapid direct support to those hardest hit by the pandemic and in April 2020, we partnered with Google.org to support micro, small- and medium-sized enterprises in 32 countries to survive the economic impact of the pandemic. With members and delivery partners we implemented a holistic package of emergency support, which to date has reached more than 250,000 entrepreneurs, including young people and other underserved entrepreneurs, across the EMEA and APAC regions.

In April 2020, we launched our global SOS Mentoring initiative with the aim to enhance established volunteer business mentoring programmes and equip mentors around the world with the information, knowledge and skills they need to most effectively support young entrepreneurs through the crisis. 

We also provided direct support to entrepreneurs through our Growth and Performance Skills (GPS) Training. We provided free online soft skills training to entrepreneurs supported by the network to help them navigate the challenges facing them.

We further expanded our response and recovery work in 2021 with a new programme funded by Standard Chartered Foundation as part of Futuremakers by Standard Chartered. The programme is providing crucial support to over 33,000 young entrepreneurs in six countries across Africa, Asia and Europe.

Looking forward

In a year that has changed the face of business for the foreseeable future it has been crucial for our members from across the network, along with the entrepreneurs they support to adapt and pivot to enormous change.

As we look forward to the future and the role that young entrepreneurs will play in shaping future societies and economies it’s just as crucial that our support continues, deepens and evolves.

Reflecting on the achievements of the past year I’m excited to see the extraordinary resilience, innovation and skill of our network to ensure that young entrepreneurs will contribute towards a richer and more resilient economy for everyone.

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Those who make it possible

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Citi Foundation

Citi Foundation



JPMorgan Chase & Co.

JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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