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.

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 us 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! 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 change and who are from mixed social backgrounds – historically from marginalized neighborhoods. The youth fellows are between 15 and 35 years old depending on the program.

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

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


YAKA increases 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 workshops, along with intercultural experience internationally and mentoring in social entrepreneurship.

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


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 collabored with Global Potential in New York and Boston, consulting and sharing best practices and traveling together during the summer time.

Other partners and supporters are the generous De Groot Foundation for the 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, 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 our open-space youth conferences, Proskauer Rose LLP for legal support, and many more. 

In 2017, YAKA was recognized as the main 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 raise of consciousness: 8 months of weekly 3-hours workshops 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 with YAKA’s partner countries : India, Senegal, Haiti, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic. YAKA youth leaders carry out internships, micro-development projects, daily workshops, some tourism and living with host families.
  • Phase 3 – Action: 4.5 to 10 months of methodical mentoring to support youth in developing their skills and passions. This phase is meant to integrate their experiences during Phases 1 & 2 through 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.YAKA has conducted a YAKA Connect in Nicaragua in 2014 .The program was renewed in Senegal in December 2015 and July/August 2018.

The three phases are parallel to IMPOWER :

  • Phase 1 – Preparation: three core workshops in Paris or virtually
  • 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
  • Phase 3 – Action: three workshops upon return to integrate this experience.

The eligible participants are sponsored 100% by grants, their own resources, their families or other charities, to help generate revenue and partly fund IMPOWER 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.

Press Start 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 (KPMG).

The first week is spent on a farm carrying out WWOOFING activities in the South of France (Os Figueiros) and the second week in an urban city in Europe (thus far Paris, Marseille and London).

Press Start demonstrates the importance of bringing youth from multicultural and multireligious backgrounds together. In 2014, YAKA honed in on the social impact (“Economie Sociale et Solidaire”) of entrepreneurial youth. In 2015, YAKA chose the theme of the “environment” for its 2015 second edition of the program, renamed “Press Start”. In 2016 the theme was focused on engagement and in 2017 the theme was focused on coding.

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

With the COP21 or CMP11 held in Le Bourget, France from November 30 to December 11, 2015, Press Start created multidisciplinary team of people to come together to discuss how religion and faith tie to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Through Press Start Dialogues youth explored together their role in the climate conference, and came together with academics, scholars, policy-makers and entrepreneurs, around a central topic, in order to explore identities. They figured out concrete solutions to commit to 50% reduction in global warming pollution by 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2050.

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. This was integrated into the wider summer camp Press Start program.

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/