Jargalsaikhan/Photo by UNDP Mongolia

By Natalie Bye, Youth and Private Sector Officer at UNDP Mongolia

Every day at work Jargalsaikhan – a young Mongolia barista –  used to throw away several kilograms of used coffee grinds.

He did this with a pang of regret, because he cared about the environment.  Throwing away the coffee grinds was at odds with his desire to live a more sustainable life. Then he had an idea, about using the old coffee grinds to start a business.   

After giving it some thought he came up with the plan to create a body scrub. But it isn’t easy to turn that idea into a viable, sustainable business? While his friends were optimistic, his parents spoke of caution. He would be better off getting a government job, they told him. But Jargalsaikhan persisted. With no collateral to borrow from a bank he turned to family and friends.

It wasn’t easy, as he and the friends who partnered with him came across hurdle after hurdle. They thought about giving up, but kept going. Today Jargalsaikhan produces and sells coffee body scrub, as well as candles, and is looking for new product ideas.

This is a story I have heard repeated by many young Mongolians. Unable to find good jobs, they’re trying to generate an income. However, they are often told, and feel, that entrepreneurship is not a viable option in Mongolia.  Statistics show the situation is tough, nearly 1 in 3 Mongolian’s are considered youth -- between 15 and 34 years old -- more than 1 in 5 of them are unemployed, and nearly a third of all Mongolians live in poverty.

Nine out of ten young Mongolian’s who participated in a recent survey said they are optimistic about their future earning potential. However, almost two thirds say they rarely implement their ideas, and when they try they often fail. In late 2017, UNDP in Mongolia initiated ‘Activated2030: A Youth Enterprising Project’ to better explore why this happens.

The team administered an online quiz designed to measure the ‘General Enterprising Tendencies’ of young people in Mongolia. The quiz was a Mongolian version of the ‘GET2’ test developed in the UK by Dr Sally Caird and Cliff Johnson in the late 1980s. With over 1400 young Mongolians from all 21 aimags (provinces) completing the quiz, it is a representative sample that provides valuable insights into the mindset and behaviors of young Mongolians in relation to entrepreneurship.

These insights and the knowledge gained from undertaking the scoping and baseline study has led us to believe we need to change the way we think about entrepreneurship. We need to recognize that being enterprising is not just for entrepreneurs.

UNDP in Mongolia will now work with individuals and organizations from a broad range of sectors to design and test ways to support the development of enterprising tendencies, in young people. in Mongolia. We are hoping this project will transform the way entrepreneurship is used in addressing development challenges.

You can follow our progress on Facebook at Activated2030 or UNDP in Mongolia or at www.mn.undp.org.

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