Who & What is YES Akademia (YAKA) 

YES Akademia (YAKA, formerly Global Potential in France) is a global grassroots for-social-profit organization founded in Paris, France in 2012 by Harvard graduate Sarah Gogel. Supported by the International Youth Foundation, Sarah Gogel co-founded Global Potential (GP) in New York in 2007 and in Boston in 2009 with her colleagues Frank Cohn, Peter Maugeri and Adela George. The success of the model influenced the French Embassy in Washington D.C. to want to scale the model to Paris in 2012 and the JUMP Foundation in Canada to merge with GP in Vancouver in 2016.

Thereafter GP in France rebranded to YES Akademia (YAKA) in 2016, voted by the youth alumni of the programs. Y.E.S. stands for « Youth Empowerment and Solidarity » and Akademia refers to Plato’s multi-disciplinary learning forum circa 400 years B.C. The akademia was the first free and informal higher learning institution in the Western world, which aimed like YAKA today to expand knowledge and the minds, attended by Aristotle and many other great philosophers of the world, with a sacred olive grove dedicated to Athena — the goddess of wisdom! Like at YAKA, Plato’s akademia did not have any doctrine to teach but rather posed problems to be studied and solved by others. It was interested in practical issues as is YAKA!

YAKA offers extra-curricular pedagogical empowerment programs to youth who are inspired to create positive change and who are from mixed social backgrounds – historically from marginalized neighborhoods. The youth fellows of YAKA are between 15 and 35 years old, depending on the program they participe in.

YAKA has a core team of salaried personnel and around 50 pro-bono consultants, volunteers and interns every year. Team members are administrative staff, youth facilitators, social workers, evaluators, experts in international development, volunteers, interns, organizers and activists as well as event planners, artists and entrepreneurs.

YAKA functions using the non-hierarchical management system called holacracy.

Mission of YES Akademia

YAKA’s mission is increase the self-esteem and core global citizenship competencies of youth from diverse backgrounds by engaging them, their families, and their communities to learn about and work first-hand to address development issues locally and globally. YAKA reaches outside of the box to combine multi-disciplinary options of activism, travel, social entrepreneurship, arts, and international cultural exchange. YAKA combats physical and mental segregation and empowers those who stand for the coming generations as powerful changemakers and entrepreneurs of their own lives.

YAKA’s innovative signature program IMPOWER offers over 300 hours of training through pedagogical workshops, intercultural experience internationally and mentoring in social entrepreneurship.

YAKA provides youth in France and internationally with key tools to help them increase their level of consciousness and actions about development, social, cultural and environmental issues (see Program section below).

Partners of YES Akademia

Throughout YAKA’s activities, many valuable partners joined our team and helped us have more impact locally and globally in a large range of fields. Historically, YAKA collaborated with Global Potential in New York and Boston, consulting and sharing best practices and having the youth from New York and Boston travel together during the summer time.

Other partners and supporters are the generous De Groot Foundation for YAKA’s signature « Press Start » entrepreneurship program in France, the American Women’s Group in Paris for mentorship and development projects, the Département de Seine Saint Denis for environmental projects with the COP21 and support for the reciprocal immersion experiences, the Fondation EDF for support with our IMPOWER program, the Ecole Jeannine Manuel as a partner in 2014 for the YAKA Connect trip to Nicaragua, Give1Project in Senegal for entrepreneurship programming, Association 120W for YAKA’s annual open-space youth conferences, Proskauer Rose LLP for all the legal support, the Harvard Club of France for providing mentors, and many more. 

In 2017, YAKA was recognized as the first French organization in Europe to have innovative global education (GENE network).

Programs: how and where?

IMPOWER : The “18-month signature program” for youth aged 15-26 composed of 3 key phases

  • Phase 1  – Preparation and raising of consciousness: 8 months of weekly 3-hours workshops every Saturday afternoon, mixing youth, volunteers and staff in Paris, France, to learn the tools for better public speaking, creating social entrepreneurship projects, understanding and acting upon social injustices locally and globally, how to create multicultural and culturally-sensitive development projects and much more.


  • Phase 2 – Cultural Immersion and solidarity projects: 1.5 months of cultural immersion in a rural village in YAKA’s partner countries : India, Senegal, Haiti, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic. YAKA youth leaders carry out internships, micro-development projects, daily pedagogical workshops, some tourism and living with host families. They also organize the annual youth forums for International Youth Day every August 12th, with 150 youth participants who partake in finding solutions to today’s challenges.


  • Phase 3 – Action: 10 months of methodical mentoring to support the youth leaders in developing their skills and passions. This phase is meant to integrate the youth’s experiences during Phases 1 & 2 of IMPOWER with their own social/cultural/ environment-friendly social entrepreneurship projects.

“YAKA Connect” – condensed version of the IMPOWER program for youth of all ages

This program is renewed several times a year, notably during school breaks. It is customized and adapted to specific projects in a targeted areas  and fields. We have thus far collaborated with Mybnk in London for this program as well as several universities in the USA such as UMass Boston. YAKA conducted a YAKA Connect program in Nicaragua in 2014 with youth from Ecole Jeannine Manuel. The program was renewed in Senegal in December 2015 as well as in July and August 2018.

The three phases are parallel to IMPOWER :

  • Phase 1 – Preparation: three core workshops in Paris or on-line.
  • Phase 2 – Cultural Immersion and Solidarity: A 10-12 day immersion trip to a partner village to carry out a micro development project, internship and homestay as well as organize a Forum for and by youth.
  • Phase 3 – Action: three workshops upon return to integrate these experiences and start building meaningful projects.

The eligible participants are sponsored 100% by grants, their own resources, their families or other charities, to help generate revenue and partly fund YAKA’s IMPOWER program offered to youth who are not able to fully sponsor their program. 

Press Start: Social Entrepreneurship program, for youth aged 18 to 35 from all over France.

YAKA’s signature « Press Start » program gathers 15 diverse social entrepreneurial youth a year and a multitude of professionals around the topics of entrepreneurship. They spend two weeks together for our specialized training program inspired by 50 different entrepreneurs, from Héritier Luwawa to Yann Gozlan to Vincent Cespedes and Bouchra Aliouat.

The first week is spent on a farm carrying out WWOOFING activities in the South of France (Os Figueiros) and building up their business plans. The second week is spent in an urban city in Europe meeting inspirational entrepreneurs (thus far Paris, Marseille and Toulouse).

Press Start demonstrates the importance of bringing youth from multicultural backgrounds together. In 2014, YAKA honed in on the social impact (“Economie Sociale et Solidaire”, ESS) of entrepreneurial youth. In 2015, YAKA chose the theme of the “environment” for its 2015 second edition of the program and the youth presented their projects during the COP21. In 2017 the theme was focused on engagement and in 2018 the theme was focused on coding. In 2019 the theme is « no fear » and half of the youth participants are youth from London.

The topics explored during Press Start are focused on how youth social entrepreneurs, policy-makers, academics, civil society and decision-makers can create social change through exploring their own cultural identities while focusing on questions related to environmental, social and cultural protection.

Press Start organized panel events at Northeastern University School of Law Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy in Boston as well as two panels in Paris and the South of France with some speakers from Northeastern Law School as well as from Cambridge University Judge Business School’s Center for Social Innovation. 

Below are some speakers during Press Start, who are policy-makers, law professors, entrepreneurs, innovators, founders of responsible organizations, academics, scholars, activists and alumni of YES Akademia:

  • Eric Allmang, Founder and Director of Incub Ethic, http://www.incubethic.fr/
  • Sofiane Bouarif, YAKA Alumni
  • Max Boulanger, Director of the IUT de Montreuil
  • Wadia Chaftar, Entrepreneur, Covet Chic, http://www.covetchic.com/en/
  • Laure Ducos, Project Manager, BLOOM, http://www.bloomassociation.org/nous-connaitre/notre-equipe/
  • Dr Sami Everett, Woolf Institute researcher on interfaith cooperation
  • Héritier Luwawa, CEO at DWEHO Groupe / BE Eco Services, http://www.be-eco-services.fr/
  • Kevin Murray, Executive Director, PHRGE, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston
  • Neil Stott, Senior Teaching Faculty in Social Innovation, Executive Director of the Centre for Social innovation, Cambridge University Judge Business School, http://www.jbs.cam.ac.uk/faculty-research/faculty-a-z/neil-stott/
  • Dave Wasserman, Director and Founder of Os Figueros, http://osfigueiros.com/