Bringing the UN and youth together through technology and innovation to create social impact

UNV and Cisco have been partners since 2012 and set out with the early objective to increase Information Communication Technology (ICT) access in under-served populations across Asia and Latin America. The partnership in Asia and the Pacific was renewed in 2016 and since then, has focused on supporting UN innovation efforts to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by leveraging the power of volunteering and technology while supporting the leadership and inclusion of young people.   

Since 2016, 13 volunteer graduates have served in Asia: Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka under the collaboration. As national UN Youth Volunteers, they have served with UNICEF, UNV, UNDP, UNFPA and Pulse Lab Jakarta, to support ICT incubators and labs, apply technology to solve problems, undertake institutional audits of networking and technology needs and train others to develop their ICT and networking skills.

"The UNV-CISCO partnership is a very successful initiative for empowering youth and increasing employability through the spirit of volunteerism," says Md Aktar Uddin, UNV's Country Coordinator in Bangladesh.


Photo: Under the UNV-CISCO partnerhsip, former UN Volunteer Ralani Weerasinghe (centre) served with UNDP in Sri Lanka, and pioneered various iniatives to empower youth through technological solutions  ©UNV, 2020
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Farhana Sarwar serves with UNV in Bangladesh as a UN Youth Volunteer, and provides communications support, helping to increase awareness of activities in the country by improving social media content and leading communications and outreach interventions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Farhana’s creative and innovative ideas have been instrumental in creating various online awareness campaigns. She also supports Cisco, by arranging youth-led engagements and events.

“A unique part of interacting and collaborating with Cisco is that I get to organize live broadcast sessions for students. These events come with opportunities for me to be innovative and think of new ways to engage young people. These sessions help participants learn about emerging technologies, access relevant courses offered through Cisco Networking Academy and discover career strategies,” Farhana says.


Photo: Farhana Sarwar, UN Youth Volunteer supporting communications, research and innovation with UNV in Bangladesh. ©UNV, 2020
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Ralani Weerasinghe joined UNDP Sri Lanka in 2016 as a national UN Youth Volunteer as a part of the regional partnership between UNV and Cisco. She worked on numerous breakthrough initiatives under UNDP’s youth and innovation portfolio, notably the Technopreneurship for Social Change  programme, serving as a UN Volunteer until 2019.

She is now the Learning and Skills Programme Associate as a part of the Policy and Engagement team at UNDP Sri Lanka and leads UNDP’s HackaDev Academy of Learning and Skills. The Academy offers a range of future-fit skills such as technopreneurship, digital skills, financial literacy and civic education, to provide a richer learning experience for the youth of Sri Lanka.

She works to both strengthen the innovation and entrepreneurship eco-system and to empower fellow youth generation of Sri Lanka to contribute to the development of the country.


Photo: Former UN Volunteer Ralani Weerasinghe (Sri Lanka) conducitng facilitaing a programme for youth. The Technopreneurship for Social Change programme she was a part of has reached more than 4,000 young people from across the country, including marginalized youth with disabilities, people in conflict with the law and young mothers in the estate communities, exposing them to entrepreneurship opportunities. ©UNV, 2020
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“Building a meaningful career in the field of technology and innovation is a challenge that proves to be of special relevance to women and girls. Entering and successfully thriving within a predominantly male industry is not an easy task. At the time, I had been searching for an opportunity where I could learn and improve my skills whilst making a meaningful contribution in the technology and innovations industry here in Sri Lanka. Becoming a UN Volunteer undoubtedly opened up new avenues for me and it was a perfect fit. I have worked with other UN Volunteers in my positions as a colleague and a supervisor both, which has given me tremendous opportunities to learn from each other and develop myself professionally and personally.” - Former UN Volunteer Ralani Weerasinghe, UNDP Sri Lanka  

“What is exciting about the partnership with UNV and the United Nations Development Programme is that it enables young people to bring together the skills and knowledge learned through the Cisco Networking Academy and apply them to addressing real social problems and challenges in this region,” said Kalhari Kaluarachchi, CSR Manager, Cisco Networking Academy


Photo: During her time as a UN Youth Volunteer, Ralani Weerasinghe conducting a training programme for young mothers in the estate community to be Mumprenurs. The training focuses on enhacning their business and personal skills, financial literacy, and included an entrepreneurship course that outlined the intricacies of starting up a business, following it through and bettering its prospects through the use of technology.. ©UNV, 2020
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Yos Fahleza Rahmatullah supports youth economic empowerment, entrepreneurship and innovation with UNDP Indonesia, under the Youth:CoLab Project. Through this work, he has supported efforts in empower the youth entrepreneurship ecosystem in the country. Yos has also contributed to supporting various activities to help youth entrepreneurs survive during the Coronavirus pandemic.  

"Volunteering brought me to where I am right now, and I started volunteering as a student. The fulfilment that comes with helping others, the satisfaction from knowing you’ve made a difference, are just a few reasons once is never enough. This feeling recurs every day in my daily life and my surroundings. --Yos Fahleza Rahmatullah, UN Youth Volunteer with UNDP, Indonesia


Photo: Yos Fahleza Rahmatullah is serving as a UN Youth Volunteer in Youth Economic Empowerment, Entrepreneurship and Innovation with UNDP in Indonesia. ©UNV, 2020  
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We are proud to see the contributions UN Volunteers have made under the UNV-CISCO partnership, supporting concrete development initiatives and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), through their work with the UN system. For these graduates, this is also an opportunity to get a better understanding of development issues and challenges. We look forward to further strengthening this partnership to empower youth through technology and innovation. --Shalina Miah, Regional Manager, UNV Asia and the  Pacific  

UNV and Cisco aim to deepen private-public-community partnerships that empower young people and harness technology for social change, innovation and the SDGs.


Photo: UN Volunteer Farhana Sarwar (far right), at the singing of a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen the partnerhip beween the Goverment of Bangladesh and UNV in February 2020. Also in the picture are Shalina Miah, Regional Manager, UNV Asia and the Pacific (centre right), Md Aktar Uddin, UNV Country Coordinator in Bangladesh (centre left), Karen Fornzler, UNV Partnerhips Specialist (far left), fellow UN Volunteers and the UNV Team in Bangladesh. ©UNV, 2020  
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