Social good with revenue: Incubating youth action in Armenia

Social business idea development through teamwork

It was just a couple of months ago that Kolba Labs hit the road and visited all of Armenia’s ten regions.

The objective was to get youth to design, test and lead what could become much bigger initiatives. One simple rule of thumb: All ideas should aim to resolve a social issue but also generate revenue.  Social good + business.

The response was overwhelming. Our e-mail was showered with ideas from 144 applicants

To just say 144 is one thing, but to review all those proposals in detail and choose the best is another. Well, I didn’t do it personally (phew!), but a panel of judges including business consultants and representatives of NGOs went through them one by one and chose 26 ideas to take forward.

The next stage of the incubator is live!

Two kick-start camps in Vanadzor and Yerevan built teams around these rough ideas - and then basic prototypes. Over ten intensive hours, the ideas began to turn into actions. 

The mood of the events and the friendships gained through the teamwork eased the sadness of those who did not progress to the next stage of the incubator and only ten bright-minded teams went home with big hopes for their venture.

It’s been a bittersweet journey, as all 144 ideas were awesome to begin with, but only a few of them got the next stage.  With all the setting up, traveling and organization, perhaps the most difficult task was placed on the jury’s shoulders: So many youngsters, coming from different communities with diverse backgrounds, who encounter a lot of similar yet different social issues in their day to day lives, presented their ideas.

Out of the ten ideas, three that stood out for me:

1.     Seeing hands – A massage parlour with massage therapists with visual impairments. This idea stood out for me because not only is it unique in Armenia, but it will also address a very sensitive social problem – the employment of people with disabilities.

2.     FastEco – Supporting the development of ecologically clean and organic food. The social aspect of this project is not only for Armenia, but the entire world - supporting farmers to grow organic, pesticide free and non-genetically modified vegetables, not using plastic disposable bags and containers and instead introducing natural and recycled materials and promoting all this by using bicycles for delivery.

3.     Byurakan fruit drying – Setting up a fruit drying operation and exporting the goods. The idea was conceived after Anna noticed that the market for fruit from their village is too small and much of it goes to waste. The social objective of the project is to ensure consumption that can be supported by the land, and help the villagers stay and farm the land, instead of migrating for work.

So I’m thrilled that Kolba Labs has officially entered the next phase – iterate. This means the owners of the most promising ideas and their teammates will take part in a series of training workshops and gain access to our network of mentors.

Watch this space for updates!

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