Cambodia Laos Young Leaders Programme


The Cambodia Laos Young Leaders Programme (CLYLP) is a capacity building programme for emerging young civil society leaders, managed by UnionAID in collaboration with Khmer Farmer Products (KFP) in Cambodia, the Participatory Knowledge Development Agency (PAKA) in the Lao PDR and Auckland University of Technology (AUT). The programme enables participants from Cambodia and Laos to further develop their knowledge, skills and confidence so they can enhance their contribution to the sustainable development of their community, country and the wider Southeast Asia region.

CLYLP offers young leaders the opportunity to explore new ideas and approaches to sustainable development both in their own country and Aotearoa New Zealand, inspiring them to think creatively about the challenges in their own communities. Participants follow a group programme and work together on an inclusive, cross-ethnic basis. Each young leader will explore a specific development challenge affecting their community, develop and refine a research question on this topic, and prepare a proposal for a participatory action project to address the challenge.

CLYLP is run by UnionAID, with support from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The programme has been developed for young community leaders from all provinces in Cambodia and Laos.

CLYLP Content

The study component of the CLYLP involves approximately 200 hours of online learning and 14 weeks in person. It includes two courses: Sustainable Development and English for Development. Both courses combine theory and practice, with an emphasis on applied learning.

Sustainable Development Course (SDC):

The Sustainable Development Course (SDC) will be delivered in two parts. SDC Part 1 is a part-time online course of approximately 150 hours delivered while participants are in their home country, commencing in August.

Online learning is complemented by a two-week, in-person residential workshop to be held in Cambodia and Laos during SDC Part 1 for participants to meet their peers and teaching team, and to learn intensively. SDC Part 2 is a full-time, in-person course of 12 weeks which takes place in Aotearoa New Zealand, commencing in March the following year.

The Sustainable Development Course will enable participants to:

  • explore the principles and practice of sustainable development in their home country and Aotearoa New Zealand
  • apply systems thinking to understand complex development challenges
  • develop skills in research and design thinking, and apply these to gain a deeper understanding of a specific development challenge
  • understand how to achieve development goals in different ways, with a particular focus on participatory approaches
  • apply learning on cross-cutting issues including human rights, gender and social inclusion, and environmental impact
  • build the skills required to develop and manage a project, including proposal writing, project management and MERLA (monitoring, evaluation, research, learning and adaptation)
  • improve their proficiency in English for professional and academic purposes

SDC Part 2 in New Zealand will include:

  • exposure to a range of New Zealand institutions, policies and practices that are relevant to sustainable development, such as human rights, democratic processes, and community development, through classroom learning and field trips
  • visits to governmental and civil society organisations, such as community development organisations, the Human Rights Commission and Parliament
  • Māori approaches to development, introduction to Te Tiriti o Waitangi – the Treaty of Waitangi and the opportunity to stay on a marae (traditional Māori meeting ground)
  • leadership skills workshops, such as organisational management and advocacy skills
  • a schedule of visits with organisations addressing similar issues to participants’ development challenges, either individually or in small groups

English for Development course

Participants develop their English language proficiency for professional and academic purposes through the English for Development course (EDC). The EDC runs alongside the Sustainable Development Course, commencing online in April and continuing in New Zealand.

The EDC course supports participation in the SDC by teaching:

  • language specific to sustainable development
  • formal English suitable for a professional context
  • oral and written communications skills
  • writing skills for reports and funding proposals
  • study skills for more effective language learning

The online component of the English for Development course requires approximately 40 hours: 20 hours of online workshops and 20 hours self-study.

Action project implementation – Cambodia / Laos

Participants manage a small action project in their communities, which is funded subject to meeting certain criteria. The action project provides participants the chance to apply learning from the programme to address a specific development challenge in their community.

The action project is in two phases: phase 1 (community consultation and scoping), and phase 2 (implementation). Both these phases take place after SDC Part 2 once participants return to their home country. Participants will receive coaching and ongoing support from UnionAID and KFP / PAKA throughout this process.

Alumni network

  • An alumni conference is held annually in Cambodia or Laos. The conference brings together alumni and newly selected participants to share learning and build long-term connections.
  • Alumni also become part of the wider UnionAID young leaders network and can engage with their peers from the Myanmar, Indonesia and Mindanao (Philippines) Programmes.

Who can apply for CLYLP?

Applicants for the 2024 programme must

  • be aged 20-35 years
  • be living and working in Cambodia or Laos (all provinces are eligible)
  • be working for a civil society or community-based organisation, labour union or social enterprise
  • intend to continue working for their organisation for a minimum of two years after completing the programme
  • have support to participate in the programme from the organisation they work for, including flexibility to attend online study sessions during office hours
  • have intermediate level English language proficiency equivalent to CEFR B1 / ≥4.5 IELTS / > TOEFL 32-34 (test certificate not required)*
  • be available to participate in 2 weeks of full-time residential learning in November/December 2024
  • not be enrolled in any other full-time courses of study or a similar scholarship/fellowship during the SDC
  • talk to UnionAID before enrolling in any other part-time courses during the SDC
  • hold, or be able to obtain, a passport valid until 1 January 2026

*For applicants whose level of English does not meet the selection criteria, there may be additional in-country English language support available prior to departure for New Zealand.

In selecting participants, the following criteria will also be considered

    • demonstrated leadership potential
    • commitment to development and community work
    • identification of a clear and relevant development challenge or area of interest that they wish to explore through the programme
    • commitment to working with other ethnic groups
    • open-mindedness and maturity
    • diversity of the group


More from CLYLP