KARACHI: The British Council, British Deputy High Commission and SEEDS Ventures organised a ‘Commonwealth Big Lunch’ at the British Council Library on Monday.
The gathering in Karachi was one of the many Big Lunches taking place in 53 Commonwealth countries to celebrate Commonwealth Day. The Big Lunch is a community engagement programme whereby people are encouraged to interact over a shared meal. This Commonwealth Big Lunch was centred on the role of youth in social entrepreneurship.
The event was attended by British Deputy High Commissioner in Karachi Elin Burns, British Deputy Head of Mission Mark Rakestraw, students from five schools in Karachi and members of the business community.
The guests received a warm welcome by the deputy high commissioner, which was followed by a brief introductory presentation of the ‘enterprise challenge’ whereby youth between the ages of 13 and 18 participated in self-executed social business ventures. The programme was stated to have reached 28 cities of Pakistan and engaged over 10,000 students and 700 participants.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Burns elaborated on the design of this programme and its successes. “One of the exciting things about the way in which the programme is run is that we have grown from being largely based in the main cities to last year reaching 28 cities and it will be up to 30 cities from this year onwards,” she said.
Stressing the need for social inclusivity across Pakistan, she said, “I think the great thing is that the project is reaching out beyond the traditional centres of population and into and across areas that are less well served or less developed and that is incredibly important because while talent is equally distributed, opportunity is not.”
The students attended mentorship sessions over lunch. Each group of students was introduced to a mentor of the enterprise challenge.
In a mentorship session with students from a private school, Fawad Soomro from the Engro Foundation engaged in an un-moderated question and answer session. Students took the lead and posed innovative business ideas. They were given information regarding scalability and sustainability of business models.
Sharing his thoughts with the students, Soomro said “We have worked with students from Lyari, we have worked with students from many locales of Karachi and it is regrettable that ours is quite a divided society. As part of the project, we visit schools and train students.”
Speaking to The Express Tribune he said, “Our organisation has been associated with SEED for the past couple of years. I have been speaking as a mentor, addressing students from public and private schools in order to encourage them to innovate.”