Reflective Teens is an organisation working with teenagers to help transform their passions and hobbies into professions. Its emphasis is to encourage teenagers to pursue their passions which may range from writing, photography to even painting. Professions not traditionally valued in Bangladesh.
The founder and CEO of this venture is the 18 year old Yusuf Munna, who started his journey as a social entrepreneur in 2014 at only 14 years old. Officially described as a ‘‘non-profit and research-oriented teen based creative platform to expose, incite and incubate teenagers passion and hobbies’’. Reflective Teens designs programs for teenagers to enable them to turn what they love doing into a skill which they can use to earn money.
The organisation provides a 5-step program for teens to achieve their passions. It encourages them to think about 5 different areas of an idea; source, platform, incite, level-up and awareness. Every year, teenagers go through these 5 steps in the form of different activities. Through campus ambassadors, teens send their work to the organisation, which provides a platform to showcase their talents. These works are published in the online magazine, and at the end of each month the top 3 works are selected in 3 categories, namely: creative writing, photography and painting.
Every month, 9 individuals receive a prize along with being given the opportunity to attend ‘creative camp’ held at the end of the year. The week long ‘in-house incubation camp’ hosts 108 individuals in total in 3 separate camps where they are constructively taught by people who are experts in relevant fields. At the camp, peer-to-peer review and mentor review is used to judge and select 3 individuals from the 3 categories and arrange an internship for them.
Successfully operating over 4 years now, ‘Reflective TEENS’ presently are affiliated with 13 campuses across 2 cities- Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar. So far, they have completed 24 projects through which they reached 32000 children and teens. A recent addition to the organisation is the ‘RT Creative lab’ working as a wing of ‘Reflective TEENS’. It is a research oriented lab where they brainstorm ideas.
Today, ‘Reflective TEENS’ provides a platform for children and teens to raise their voice along with encouraging them to reach their full potential. But this journey started many years ago when in 6th grade, a chance encounter with a local divisional-editor enabled Yusuf to get his first article published.
Yusuf has always enjoyed writing, a skill he got from his father. However, he never got the chance to publish his articles. He realised how difficult it is for budding writers to get published after he received multiple rejections. He wanted to create a media platform that published based on creative skill rather than access to resources or networks.
Using the money he received from a scholarship Yusuf bought a domain and designed his web magazine by watching tutorials on YouTube. The online community started with his school friends but slowly grew until many people were involved.
Yusuf’s journey as a social entrepreneur hasn’t been easy. He faced objections from his family and also lacked financial support needed at the early stages of his journey. Furthermore, his age had led to some funders being reluctant to donate. Yusuf understands
these obstacles are extremely common for teen entrepreneurs and changemakers around the globe. However, Yusuf believes that one must try and use opportunities they have no matter how small it seems, in order to achieve their objectives. He thinks belief in your work is the most important quality of a Changemaker.
He aims to help nurture and enable everyone’s individuality to help them reach their full potential. In 2017 he joined Ashoka as a youth venture and says that alongside numerous workshops and networking opportunities, it provides him with opportunities to directly learn from social entrepreneurs.
Recently Yusuf conducted a survey where he found that people who had been active in co-curricular activities at school and university were more productive at work than those who were not. For Yusuf, it shows that it is not necessary for a teen to pursue their passion as a profession, but rather nurture their passions to gain a perspective which they can bring into the profession they choose to work in.
If you or someone you know is, like Yusuf, making a big or small change in their community, and is between the ages of 12 and 20, then get them to apply for Ashoka’s Youth Venture program. Apply here.