ThinkYoung is the first European think tank that has been focusing on young people since 2007, by involving them in decision making processes and providing decision makers with high quality research on youth’s conditions.
Founded in Brussels, where it has two offices, it has opened an office in Geneva and one in Hong Kong. It is made up of young people under 30, who are recent graduates or engaged students.
ThinkYoung is a nonprofit online think tank that lobbies for young people and provides them with a platform to make their voices heard.
Up until now, ThinkYoung projects have reached over 600,000 young people.
It is one of the best practices in the area of research on youth, and makes studies, surveys, documentaries, policy proposals and organizes conferences on and about young people in five fields of research: entrepreneurship, education, EU-Asia relations, EU enlargement, and environment.
The three founders of the think tank, Andrea Gerosa, Azzurra Giorgio and Stefano Benini, started to conduct research and carry out surveys on young people with only a computer and 25 Euros in order to register the website.
The world economic crisis proved to be a favorable opportunity for start-up cost reduction, and for growing attention towards new economic subjects.
ThinkYoung started dealing with youth before the youth issue burst into the media, and this has given the NGO a strong competitive advantage.
Now ThinkYoung is made up of a vast multicultural and multinational team, and it also has an extensive network of online personnel who help to advise and contribute to the policies of ThinkYoung.
As of 2011, the NGO has also created The Entrepreneurship School, which is expanding from Brussels and Hong Kong to other regions around the world, such as India and Spain. The next Entrepreneurship School will take place in Greece from the 30th November to the 4th December 2015.
The Entrepreneurship Schools give students from all over the world the opportunity to learn from the direct experience of successful entrepreneurs every year.
They are created in partnership with Google, Huawei, Amway, Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, and The Coca Cola Foundation.
Entrepreneur by vocation, and founder of ThinkYoung at the age of 25, Andrea Gerosa has created a consulting company in Geneva that focuses mainly on student housing (www.kefren.ch), as well as a co-working space for start-ups (www.tunnel15.ch).
We met Andrea Gerosa to speak about ThinkYoung’s innovative experience.
- How was the idea to found ThinkYoung born?
After my graduation in Economics at the Bocconi University of Milan, I started working in Brussels for JADE, a nonprofit organization of European enterprises created and managed by students. There I observed that youth were not involved in decision making processes, and that there was a lack of representation of young people within the European institutions. Therefore, together with my friends Azzurra Giorgio and Stefano Benini, we founded ThinkYoung in order to fill this gap. We decided to found an online think tank where young poeople were asked, through surveys, what they thought about European integration.
- How is your lobbying activity structured?
We conduct research on the condition of young people. On the basis of this research, we then carry out two activities: we organize campaigns, and we present law proposals to either the European Parliament or the Commission.
Our research on the telecoms single market definitely provided the final argument needed to convince the European Parliament, which has now voted to end roaming surcharges.
- ThinkYoung has grown a lot in the last years despite the crisis. Why?
The first reason is our business model. Unlike other think tanks, that look for funding independently from projects and fundraise at the beginning of the year, we work on projects. Therefore, sometimes projects are financed, and sometimes they are not. It is more uncertain, because we only have funding for 16 months, but, if we do good work, they are rewarded. In the long term, this model gives us more advantage.
The great majority of ThinkYoung’s budget – about 50-60%- comes from private and bank foundations, such as Open Society Foundations and Erste Stiftung. The rest comes from private companies, like Google, Tata and Halldis. We don’t get public funding.
The second reason is the high level of motivation of the people who work with us. We managed to open an office in Hong Kong in 2013 thanks to the initiative of two young members of the team who had a lot of passion and knowledge about Asia. They left on their own and started their own project, without a budget.
After 8 months we had the budget to open the office in Hong Kong and start the first projects. ThinkYoung’s business model gives the young people on the team the freedom to take more entrepreneurial initiative than other organizations.
- What is the goal of the Entrepreneurship School?
The goal of the school is to show young people the life of entrepreneurs, and therefore to give exposure to entrepreneurs.
As a matter of fact, companies are statistically created by those who have had contacts with entrepreneurs either in their own family, or in their own geographical environment.
You can’t imagine climbing a mountain if you haven’t seen someone do it before you. In much the same way, if universities, high schools and media don’t deal with the topic of entrepreneurship, no one thinks about being an entrepreneur. That is why we organize the Entrepreneurship Schools: to fill this gap.