UPSHIFT - Empowering young change-makers

UPSHIFT is a collaborative effort, with UNICEF convening global, regional, and country-level partners from the private sector, government, and civil society to fight youth unemployment by fostering social entrepreneurship. The program's core content is modular, adapting it to different contexts ranging from schools to non-formal education centers. Initially developed in Kosovo in 2014, it is adaptable for different contexts and is now implemented in 38 countries.

In human-centered design workshops, Mentorship & Coaching, and, in some cases, seed-funding, participants gain problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and leadership skills. UPSHIFT offers young people both the training elements and the opportunity to work collaboratively in a supportive environment to identify and solve social problems.

UPSHIFT programs look different depending on context and location but generally focus on four areas: Fistly on building of transferable skills, including problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, and leadership skills; secondly on adolescent and youth empowerment, including confidence, resilience, and a sense of agency; thirdly on civic engagement, with young people engaging in their communities and earning respect and fourthly on entrepreneurship, as both a skillset and a mindset.

By design, UPSHIFT explicitly seeks to engage disadvantaged communities, including girls, young people with disabilities, refugees, and ethnic minority communities. 

The program is recognized as a promising solution for youth employment within the World Bank's Solutions for Youth Employment Impact Portfolio, is recommended by Generation Unlimited, and has formed the basis for developing the Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge. The program is currently a priority project for the global scale within the UNICEF Learning Innovation portfolio.

UPSHIFT argues that nearly 90 percent of young people today live in low and middle-income countries, and 13% of those out of school are unemployed. It sees the source of this high unemployment rate in a lack of opportunity and systems that fail to provide skills for work and life. The program is meant to initiate positive social and economic change, contributing to a competitive labor force, sustained economic growth, improved governance, and vibrant civil societies by empowering young people to identify challenges in their communities and create entrepreneurial solutions to address them.

Find more information on UPSHIFT here.