30 November 2020

ASEAN’s Youth Leaders Rise to the Occasion

As the world grapples with the challenges brought on by COVID-19, youth leaders from ASEAN reflect on how they can collectively do their part for the region.

ASEAN Youth Fellowship Dialogues 2020
ASEAN Youth Fellowship Dialogues 2020

In light of the ongoing global pandemic, what is the “new normal” for ASEAN? What role can youth play in helping ASEAN emerge stronger from the crisis? How can ASEAN youth collaborate to uplift the region?

These were the salient questions framing the ASEAN Youth Fellowship (AYF) alumni dialogues held from June to October 2020. Organised by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) in partnership with the National Youth Council (NYC) Singapore, the AYF is a leadership development programme that was inaugurated in 2018 to commemorate Singapore’s Chairmanship of ASEAN. An exclusive programme, AYF aims to connect next-generation leaders from diverse sectors to build relationships and establish a strong network of youth leaders who can effect positive change in the region.

As the 2020 programme was postponed due to travel restrictions, SIF and NYC took the opportunity to catch-up with programme alumni to discuss possibilities for collaborations amid crisis. There were three sessions in total: an online get-together lunch, a panel dialogue on Business and Entrepreneurship Opportunities in ASEAN, and a closed-door dialogue with SIF Chairman and former Secretary General of ASEAN Ambassador Ong Keng Yong.

Business and Entrepreneurship Opportunities in ASEAN – 19 September 2020


Dr Doan Duy Khuong, Chairman, ASEAN Business Advisory Council and Vice-President, Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Ms Dione Song, Chief Commercial Officer, Love, Bonito
Mr Achmad Zaky, Founding Partner, Init 6 and Founder and Adviser, Bukalapak


Martino Tan, Deputy Managing Director and Managing Editor, Mothership.sg and AYF 2018 Fellow
Dian Permata Sari Mashari (2019), Project Economist, SKK Migas, SIF Representative in Indonesia and AYF 2019 Fellow

With COVID-19 affecting many jobs, businesses and the global economy, there is an increasing need for youths to be resourceful, think creatively, and challenge conventional concepts of work. The dialogue aimed to shed light on emerging opportunities during this time, and how affected youths can leverage on them to recover from setbacks. Panellists expressed that despite disruption to global economies, the pandemic also created opportunities in other areas, such as the digital economy. The shared challenges faced by Southeast Asia will also be a test of the region’s solidarity, and an opportunity for ASEAN to strengthen its relationships.

Closed-Door Dialogue with SIF Chairman Ambassador Ong Keng Yong – 17 October 2020

Guest Speaker

Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and Chairman, Singapore International Foundation


Ian Matthews, Doctor, National University Health System and AYF 2018 Fellow

The discussion centred on how ASEAN can strengthen its position in a post-COVID world, deal with the implications of global developments in the United States and China, and the role of youth leaders in helping their communities emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis. As Ambassador Ong expressed, “ASEAN youth should continue to be positive and enthusiastic. Youth carry our countries and population into the future. Continue to be exuberant in whatever chances that you have, ask good questions and if you have good proposals, come together and organise them and there will be potential for your ideas.”

This sentiment on the of the importance of collaboration was echoed by several Fellows. Reflecting on his experience in AYF and the three reengagement sessions, Filipino McRey Banderlipe II, Founder and Proprietor, M.R.S. Banderlipe Business Solutions and 2018 AYF Fellow shared: “AYF 2018 gave me the opportunity to expand my horizons as I meet like-minded peers who share in a noble cause of contributing to the future of ASEAN. Despite the current situation, having virtual re-engagement sessions enabled us to strengthen our connections and level-up the discussions towards something that we can work on together even now and in the future when borders finally reopen again.”

“The reengagement sessions by SIF and NYC provide a good platform to reconnect and get updates about what fellow alumni are thinking about in response to the changes happening in the region,” concurred Singaporean Veerappan Swaminathan, Founder and Director, Sustainable Living Lab and 2019 AYF Fellow.

Platforms such as AYF are important to connect international communities and facilitate greater understanding through knowledge-sharing and cross-cultural dialogues. Stay connected with us on social media for updates on the AYF and other similar programmes!