Reflections from Young Entrepreneurs Respond to SDGs & ESG: Global Knowledge Exchange and Capacity Development

Adam Goudjil Blog

The following article was written by Cami Doo, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in political science in the College of Arts & Sciences and concentrating in legal studies at Wharton.

On April 23, the Wharton Zicklin Center and the Tanoto Foundation hosted an event called “Young Entrepreneurs Respond to SDGs & ESG: Global Knowledge Exchange and Capacity Development.” The Friday event had opening remarks from Mari Pangestu, the Managing Director of the World Bank, and closing remarks from Erika H. James, the Wharton School dean. Panelists J. Satrijo Tanudjojo, the global CEO of the Tanoto Foundation, Janice Bellace, the director of the Wharton-Tanoto ASEAN Initiative, and Djordijia Petkoski, Wharton School lecturer and Senior Fellow of the Zicklin Center, also contributed to the conversation.

Divided into two sections, the event first had a plenary session in which the audience of over 110 people heard from the panelists and then moved to breakout rooms where Wharton LGST 230 students and I4A Club members gave feedback to the winning Ideas4Action (I4A) teams of the Incubator Competition in Indonesia, organized by the Tanoto Foundation. They also identified “capacity gaps” that need to be addressed to facilitate the design and implementation of scalable and more impactful I4A projects.

Introducing the event, Pangestu reviewed the history of the I4A initiative, which the World Bank and the Wharton Zicklin Center created six years ago to encourage young people internationally to develop innovative ideas for achieving the UN SDGs. She praised the leadership role Wharton has played in bringing together cutting-edge research from academic institutions with the goal of solving real world problems. Pangestu also congratulated the five winning I4A teams from Indonesia and detailed what each project is.

The BIAMON group recommends a way to repel insects during crop production without pesticides by using a bioacoustic monitoring system. CARI! provides free and open disaster knowledge services, helping clients plan their resilience agenda. MAGOODS builds a website platform that met the requirements of maggots breeders and organic waste suppliers who can sell their organic rich waste, which previously had no selling value. StarGro promotes zero waste in agriculture by transforming waste from the agriculture and livestock sector into useful products. Lastly, Voluntreep combines tourism and volunteer work in a novel way that empowers the local community.

Pangestu noted, “I really appreciate all these efforts in improving the quality of education in Indonesia and developing innovation and creating creativity for its young entrepreneurs in the spirit of development. So, in other words, you could say, it is about better business and [a] better world.”

Bellace touched upon the collaboration between the Tanoto Foundation and the Wharton School. She said that the I4A initiative sparked her idea to connect Wharton undergraduates with young people in Indonesia, which would help Wharton students learn more about Southeast Asia and vice versa.

Bellace said, “Because you can hear lectures, you could do readings, but it’s really different than being able to talk to people of your same age group and understand how they view a situation and the challenges they see and work together.”

Petkoski built on Bellace’s comments, providing more context to the importance of youth entrepreneurship. He spoke about cross-generational responsibility, saying, “Young people cannot just wait and critique my generation for the mess we have been creating. We are helping [to] support you to really not only take the initiative but [to] bear the responsibility for the future of the planet.” Petkoski also noted the influence I4A has had on Wharton classes and the way some courses have been designed and delivered.

Tanudjojo discussed the purposes of the Tanoto Foundation, which are to nurture the leaders of tomorrow and to accelerate the discovery and development of contextualized solutions for the realization of the SDGs. Referring to the foundation’s role in hosting the I4A competition, he said, “Nobody left behind is no longer only a slogan, but it is put into action.”

Petkoski then elaborated on the idea of contextualization, which he said was a relationship with people in a locality and collaborating with them. This creates a two-way street for exchange of ideas, he said, and the partnership between the Tanoto Foundation and Wharton demonstrates that it is important to provide a platform where young people can interact and share experiences among themselves.

After some Q&A and introductions from the leaders of Penn’s I4A club, James made closing remarks. James recapped the history of the I4A initiative and Bellace and Petkoski’s role in realizing the synergy between the Tanoto initiative and I4A. James said, “Today’s session has demonstrated that by working together, these two groups of young people can create sustainable solutions to the world’s greatest social and environmental challenges.”

She concluded the plenary session, “Our students are our future, and Ideas4Action shows that young leaders from around the world, not only dream of what is possible, but also have a willingness, insights, and ability to make those dreams a reality.”