Founder of: YEP – Stimme der Jugend. Youth Empowerment & Participation.
Favourite Quote: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea*.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
Pioneering in: bridging generations through impactful participation
Recipe for success: Be bold, cheeky, and tenacious. Be empathetic.
“What If You Could Change Anything In This World, Where Would You Start?”
Almost 2 years ago, Rebekka Dober founded YEP – Die Stimme der Jugend (Voice of the Youth). It’s a social enterprise that, on the one hand, enables institutions and corporations to understand the needs and the mindset of the future generation through impactful participation processes. On the other hand, YEP empowers young people to be leaders of change through teaching them social entrepreneurship.
It all started with a simple question
Before her time as an entrepreneur, Rebekka travelled the world with a mission where she asked everyone she met the same question: “What if you can change something in this world, where would you start?” No matter if it was Columbia, India, or the Middle East, people answered that in their opinion education is the most powerful leverage point. Rebekkas conclusion: “In this rapidly changing world there are so many problems – climate change, discrimination, wars. To face them, we need a strong civil society. And if we want to transform society, we have to start early – with the youth.”
If It’s About Them + Don’t Do It Without Them = The Yep-Effect
Between her trips, she was working as an educational designer for different companies and NGOs with young people when she found out that the young people’s answers to that question were never ego-focused, but always with a social, environmental impact. They could identify the worlds’ biggest challenges and create solutions – but felt powerless, because they weren’t able to raise their voice and all the decisions for their own future were made without them. To change this, Rebekka founded YEP.
From mission to business
Rebekka was astonished how many stakeholders have a hard time to understand this 20 percent of the population, the youth: For politics, they are the future voters. For corporates, they are the future employees and customers. For society, they are the ones who are facing the consequences of the decisions made today.
Bringing In The Independent Voice Of The Youth
The social startup YEP sets up participation processes with a range of diverse activities: bringing young people on stage to discuss with decision holders from economy and politics, facilitating co-creation workshops, and creating inclusive, “youthified” events to remove the barriers between the generations. The output for YEPs customers: reports to catalyze the needs and ideas of the youth for specific topics like sustainability, new work, and equal opportunities.
Within a few months only, YEP has transformed into an active crowd of young changemakers who combine the art of co-creation with society’s actual needs. YEP operated more than 35 participation processes in the last year.
This journey brought the 28 year old entrepreneur to events like “European Forum Alpbach”, where she was invited as an expert for youth participation in the educational field to talk about YEPs’ report “Skills to be fit for the future” in front of the economical and political elite. Other successes were bringing the voice of the youth to the Austrian Parliament and the Council of Europe. The “YEP Youth Reports” were presented by highschool students, who were empowered by several YEP-programs that enabled them to raise their voice professionally.
Rebekkas days differ very much from one another – the common ground is the stakeholder meetings, conceptual work, and not checking emails first thing in the day. She loves to develop ideas “from something crazy in the head to something down to earth” with like-minded people who give her energy.
Entrepreneurial methods became a way of tackling those societal challenges in the world. “The mindset of a social entrepreneur is her hands-on tool to change the world. I didn’t choose the industry “education”, neither did I want to strictly become an entrepreneur. I just followed my path and my vocation to change the world – and entrepreneurial methods are a way to get there.”
Zebras are the new unicorns
When it comes to growing her company she sticks to the concept of zebras: Slowly, but sustainable and steady. Without the desperate race of raising investors money fast and eliminating opponents. Rebekka has a strong antipathy against hustling, faking and bubbling entrepreneurs. She wants to grow her business like her personality is: “authentic, empathetic, straight forward – but never forget to also enjoy that chaotic rollercoaster.”
Pivoting while lockdown
During Corona, Rebekka and her crew co-created the “Weiterlernen Report”, a gap analysis about Remote Learning and the schools’ handling of technologies during the lockdown.
“I can’t just sit back and watch. As an entrepreneur you have to be flexible and on point where change is needed. So we started with the ‘Weiterlernen Report’ and instead of a dead end, which Corona meant for many startups, an opportunity arose.” The report was presented in front of the ministry of education, many ed-tech startups and 1000+ teachers.
Fighting for a new digital humanism
Collaboration is her key to success: “It doesn’t matter if you are a teacher or part of a corporate. We all have the urge for the endless sea*, our mission. The digital revolution is not only about the tools and giving out laptops. It’s about the skills on how to use those devices meaningfully. Digital technology can be a tool to achieve digital humanism.”
Rebekka is a mission-obsessed person that puts her team above everything. If someone wants to change something, she suggests to “be bold, cheeky and tenacious, and keep the focus on the mission. If you have an idea and feel the urge to do something and your heart is aching for it, do it. If not now, when then? Always remember, that if you don’t change something, nothing will change.”
Next Week: Summary post
In our weekly interview series, we will be featuring various inspirational entrepreneurs of the Austrian startup scene. Each Monday, you can expect useful insights into their lives and practical tips that you can follow in order to walk your entrepreneurial path. Like, share, comment – and feel free to reach out to us. Suggestions, ideas, remarks are all welcome – let’s shape the ecosystem together.