Learn key leadership skills through these 3 SEA programmes


Are you a Southeast Asian (SEA) youth keen on developing your leadership skills? If so, you’re in luck. US Embassies across the SEA region are offering fully-funded leadership programmes called Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), sponsored by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

In essence, YSEALI is an initiative led by the US government that aims to strengthen leadership development in SEA and nurture a ASEAN community. This is done through a variety of offerings including US educational and cultural exchanges, regional exchanges and seed funding. More importantly, it’s an effort to harness the youth potential in SEA to address challenges and expand opportunities.

The YSEALI programme is open for youths between the ages of 18 to 35 and those who are currently residing in one of 11 countries across the region. These countries include Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, Laos and Timor-Leste. 

There is a balance of programmes that are both open to youths 18-25 years as well as young professionals or those new to the working world. All the exchange opportunities are offered under the following themes:

  • Civic Engagement 
  • Economic Empowerment 
  • Governance and Society
  • Sustainable Development and the Environment

If you’re looking for an enriching cross-cultural experience while collaborating with other emerging leaders to craft and implement solutions to critical issues, these YSEALI programmes are for you.

YSEALI Professional Fellows Programme 

fully-funded leadership programmes

YSEALI Professional Fellows Programme (YSEALI PFP) gives participants the opportunity to work for five weeks in the US with their American counterparts. Source: Saul Loeb/AFP

YSEALI Professional Fellows Programme (YSEALI PFP) gives participants the opportunity to work five weeks in the US with American counterparts in individually tailored work placements with relevant organisations either from the private and/or public sector. 

Open to working professionals ages 25-35, participants are able to build their expertise, hone their leadership skills and create solid professional networks in their industries. This fully-funded leadership programme will greatly benefit those who are emerging NGO leaders, entrepreneurs, community leaders who focus on sustainable development and environmental issues, as well as policymakers and journalists.

Applications for 2023 are now closed, but you can find out more about how to apply for the next round here. Check here for eligibility requirements.

YSEALI Seeds for the Future 

fully-funded leadership programmes

YSEALI Seeds for the Future is a small grants competition for youth leaders to carry out projects that improve their communities, countries and the region. Source: Perdiansyah/AFP

The YSEALI Seeds for the Future is a small grants competition for youth leaders aged between 18 to 35 years old, in the Southeast Asia region. Funding of up to USD $20,000 will be awarded to the region’s most promising youth leaders to carry out projects that improve their communities, countries and the region.

The project must fulfil three criteria: 

  1. It addresses at least one of the following issue areas in line with the YSEALI themes: civic engagement, economic development, education and/or environmental protection
  2. Benefit one or more of the countries in the ASEAN community
  3. Project leaders may only submit one project proposal

Cultural Vistas is the implementing partner and serves as a mentor in implementing your project across the region. They can also answer questions about administration, budgeting and planning throughout the different stages of your grant. 

Learn more about the 2022 YSEALI Seed Grant recipients here

YSEALI Summit 

fully-funded leadership programmes

The YSEALI Summit is only open to YSEALI Alumni between 18 to 35 years old. Source: Saul Loeb/AFP

This three-day summit is only open to YSEALI Alumni who are between 18 to 35 years of age. To be considered an alumnus, you must have participated in at least one of the YSEALI programmes: 

  • YSEALI regional workshops
  • YSEALI academic & professional Fellows program
  • YSEALI Seeds for the Future small grants competition
  • YSEALI Academy

The 2022 Summit is held from 5th to 9th December 2022 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Economic empowerment is the theme of this year’s summit. This is especially inviting and fitting for the ASEAN region as 65% of the youth population is under the age of 35. 

The programme invites top experts and mentors to explore this theme through various interactive and collaborative methods. During the summit, participants will build lifelong connections, enhance their leadership skills as well as enjoy cultural activities. 

Click here to find out more. 

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