Bangladesh youth leadership center

Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center
Type Non-Profit Organization
Founded January 5, 2009
Founders Ejaj Ahmad, President
Headquarters Dhaka, Bangladesh

Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC) is the first leadership institution in Bangladesh, founded with the vision of creating a more inclusive, tolerant and just society by training the next generation of leaders. Originally developed at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership in 2008, Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center was established in Bangladesh in 2009. The signature component of BYLC is the four-month long youth leadership program, Building Bridges through Leadership Training (BBLT). Besides the BBLT program, BYLC also conducts executive programs and workshops[1] for university students[2] as well as clients in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. BYLC is a strong advocate for active citizenship and many of its program alumni are actively engaged in community service and grassroots leadership.

Ejaj Ahmad, Founder & President of BYLC, speaks to students at the Victory Day Rally on December 16, 2009

About BYLC


The concept of a youth leadership center was originally developed at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in January 2008. The proposal for a month-long leadership program, Building Bridges through Leadership Training (BBLT),[3] was jointly developed by Ejaj Ahmad, then a graduate student at Harvard University, and Shammi S. Quddus, then an undergraduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The proposal won the 2008 Kathryn Davis Projects for Peace Prize in March 2008.

Ahmad and Quddus ran the pilot phase of BBLT in Chittagong in the summer of 2008, with technical and financial support from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Public Service Center. Building on the success and lessons learned from the pilot, the BBLT program was encapsulated within the framework of a non-profit organization, the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC).

In October 2008, BYLC formed its Governing Board with Ejaj Ahmad, the founder of BYLC, as the president. The seven-member Board of Governors of BYLC consists of leading professionals from the educational, legal, corporate and media sectors in Bangladesh. BYLC also has an International Advisory Board whose members include renowned Harvard professors and Bangladeshi intellectuals.

In early 2009, BYLC was registered with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms in Bangladesh as a non-partisan social venture committed to creating an inclusive, tolerant and just society by training the next generation of leaders.

The signature program of BYLC, BBLT, expanded into a four-month program for BBLT 4 on July 2010. The first month consists of intensive classroom training in leadership skills after school. In the next three months, students work in teams to implement their leadership training by designing and conducting community projects in local slums.


BYLC's vision is to create a poverty-free Bangladesh driven by the next generation of home-grown leaders.


BYLC works to bridge gaps in society by uniting youth from diverse backgrounds, equipping them with leadership, problem solving and teamwork skills, and engaging them in community service and active citizenship.


  • Respect for the individual
  • Patriotism
  • Tolerance
  • Gender equality
  • Transparency


BYLC is the first organization in Bangladesh that works at the intersection of three different educational systems in the country – namely English medium, Bengali medium and Madrassa. In the context of the national curriculum that relies heavily on rote memorization, BYLC’s pioneering multidisciplinary youth leadership program, which uses real-time case analysis and reflection as tools to equip participants with strong leadership diagnostic skills, has already received appreciation[4] from diverse stakeholders in Bangladesh.


BYLC program participant, Tasfia teaches the alphabet to an underprivileged woman in Korail slum in Dhaka

Building Bridges

The capacity to embrace diversity and to respect diverse viewpoints is pivotal for effective leadership. A root cause of the divisiveness in Bangladesh today is the divided educational system, which has fragmented the young generation and impedes progress in Bangladesh. To this end, BYLC programs are designed to unite youth from the three different educational systems in Bangladesh – English medium, Bengali medium and Madrassa.

Leadership Training

BYLC works with the nation’s bright youth to instill value-driven leadership ideas within them. Participants develop diagnostic skills and discuss the characteristics of a leader through large class discussions and small group case analysis. BYLC’s leadership programs push the students out of their comfort zones, teach them to appreciate diverse viewpoints and establish an open channel of communication.

Community Service

The difference between the wealthy and impoverished is a stark reality in Bangladesh. Therefore, BYLC promotes active citizenship among its young participants so they are prepared to address the developmental challenges of Bangladesh. The program facilitates community service projects, in which they apply their creativity and leadership skills gained in the classroom.

Activities at BYLC

Mr. James F. Moriarty, US Ambassador to Bangladesh, addresses participants at BYLC's second graduation ceremony on July 23, 2009[5]

Building Bridges through Leadership Training (BBLT)

Building Bridges through Leadership Training (BBLT)[6] is BYLC's signature leadership training program offered twice a year to college and first year university students from Madrassa, English and Bengali medium schools. The goal of the four-month long program is to train young people and equip them with necessary communication and leadership skills to make a positive impact on society. After undergoing a rigorous admission process, selected applicants are granted a full scholarship. Participants are awarded a certificate from BYLC after successfully completing the program. The BBLT program has two components:

Leadership Training: During the first month, students attend intensive classroom lectures on leadership skills. The curriculum for this component is highly interactive and draws heavily on leadership courses taught at Harvard University’s Center for Public Leadership and modeled after the ‘case-in-point’ teaching methodology of Harvard Professor Heifetz. This approach utilizes program participants’ own experiences and the classroom environment itself as a “learning laboratory” for understanding the different concepts of leadership, such as:
  • Public speaking and presentation skills
  • Self-assessment and development
  • Goal setting
  • Group dynamics and teamwork
  • Community service
  • Real world problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Ethics
Community Service: During the next three months, students conduct independent community service projects in the slums. The projects allow participants to apply their skills and knowledge gained through the classroom discussions in a real world setting by serving their local community.
Dr. Atiur Rahman, Governor of Bangladesh Bank (Central Bank of Bangladesh), addresses graduates at BYLC's third graduation ceremony on January 9, 2010[7]

BBLT Junior

The BBLT Junior (BBLT-J) program,[8] launched in 2010, has the same vision as the regular BBLT program but is aimed for secondary school students. BBLT graduates work with BYLC mentors to organize a month-long after-school program for grade 6-10 students from diverse educational backgrounds. The BBLT-J training on leadership also instills in students a sense of patriotism, civic duty and an understanding of social justice and tolerance.

Youth Leadership Summit

Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center organized the first Youth Leadership Summit from March 3, 2011 to March 5, 2011 at the Spectra Convention Center and the Bangabandhu International Conference Center. The Summits bring together past and present participants of BYLC's youth leadership programs, student delegates from different universities as well as distinguished speakers for a three-day forum featuring panel discussions and plenary sessions on pressing issues. Around two hundred delegates are selected through a competitive application process for the Summit.

Workshops and Executive Programs

BYLC runs customized leadership workshops for university students and leadership executive programs for clients in the private, public and non-profit sectors in Bangladesh. Over the past year and half, BYLC has conducted several workshops and executive programs for capacity building of students, executives, senior managers, civil servants and top-level decision-makers in the following organizations:

Community Service

Two of the core values of BYLC are active citizenship and patriotism. The result is an active participation in community service. Recent activities include a Health Camp on August 12, 2009, a Swine Flu Campaign on September 20, 2000,[9] a Winter Clothes Distribution Campaign on November 27, 2009 and more recently an Earthquake Safety Awareness Campaign to commemorate Independence Day in 2011. The BBLT graduates and facilitators conducted the campaigns to promote bylc business.


In the past year, BYLC developed relationships with several leading organizations such as BRAC and City Year. BYLC has been supported by the MIT Public Service Center, Katherine Davis Peace Prize, US State Department,[10] British High Commission, World Bank Group, the Bangladeshi private sector and through in kind support by the International Youth Foundation. BYLC is currently holding talks with several local and international organizations to further enhance its programming efforts.

Awards and Recognition

In 2009, Ejaj Ahmad was profiled as one of Asia’s most promising young leaders and awarded the 2009–2010 Paragon Fellowship by the Foundation of Youth Social Enterprise. Ejaj Ahmad He was also among 20 outstanding young social entrepreneurs recognized by the International Youth Foundation (IYF) for the 2010 YouthActionNet Fellowship. The 2010 fellows came from 18 different countries across five continents.[11] Recently he was featured in The Washington Post on a special program titled 'On Leadership: Ejaj Ahmad, bringing Obama to Bangladesh'[12] Assistant secretary Robert O. Blake, Jr. of the Bureau of South and Central Asia Affairs in the US government mentioned the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center as one of “South Asia’s Unheralded Stories” at the 2010 San Diego World Affairs Council.[13] Ejaj Ahmad was selected as one of the 150 delegates from Asia and the US in the 2010 Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia. Additionally, BYLC has received considerable media attention in Bangladesh via newspapers, radio and press conferences.[14]


Governing Board Members

  • Zafar Sobhan, Op-Ed Editor and Columnist, The Daily Star
  • Ejaj Ahmad, President, BYLC
  • Syed M. Sajjad, Director, Majumder Group
  • Manzoor Hasan OBE, Director, Institute of Governance Studies, BRAC University
  • Sara Hossain, Senior Associate, Dr. Kamal Hossain & Associates
  • Homayara Ahmed, Assistant Professor, Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka
  • Pial Islam, Founder and Managing Partner, pi Strategy Consulting

International Advisory Board Members

  • Gowher Rizvi, Honorable Advisor to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh
  • Ronald Heifetz, King Hussein bin Talal Senior Lecturer in Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Barbara Kellerman, James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Mijarul Quayes, Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh
  • Max Klau, Director of Leadership Development, City Year
  • Sultana Afroz, Economic Counselor, Bangladesh Embassy in Rome


“I share an assumption with BYLC that the opportunities to exercise leadership on behalf of what you care most deeply about are available to anyone, regardless of age or position.”

Marty Linsky , Faculty Chair, Leadership for the 21st Century, Harvard Kennedy School

“Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center’s program is clearly a highly imaginative initiative and one that could be, if rightly implemented, an important and effective attempt to change things in a very positive direction.”

Notes and references

  1. ^ Public lecture on “Leadership for the 21st Century” at BRAC University
  2. ^ Exploring real leadership at IBA
  3. ^ BBLT 1 in Chittagong
  4. ^ BBLT-Integrating three different strands
  5. ^ Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center graduation ceremony
  6. ^ BBLT Brochures
  7. ^ Youth together to decide their future US envoy says at BYLC program
  8. ^ Daily Star article on BBLT-J 1
  9. ^ BYLC swine flu awareness campaign
  10. ^ BYLC Builds Bridges
  11. ^ Ejaj Ahmad honored as a 2010 Global Fellow of the International Youth Foundation
  12. ^ 'On Leadership: Ejaj Ahmad, bringing Obama to Bangladesh'
  13. ^ Remarks by Assistant Secretary Robert O. Blake, Jr. at the San Diego World Affairs Council
  14. ^ BYLC in the Media

External links

  • Official Website
  • Official Blog
  • BYLC Annual Reports, News & Press Clippings
  • BYLC Interview on Radio Foorti
  • Cover story in Purple Magazine
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