Innovation – A gift of the youthful
I love hanging out with young people. They have a fun, exciting take on life. With them, anything is possible and if at first they don’t succeed in a particular venture, they have a way of shrugging it off and moving on fairly quickly. Young people are creative and have great energy that is contagious!
I have been working around ‘sustainability’ for a few years now and I truly believe in its cause. I however feel that while it continues to be a popular corporate buzzword, ‘sustainability’ as a subject sometimes lacks the fun and creative energy required in discovering real and lasting practical solutions to the ecological and social challenges we face in Africa. This is the kind of verve that young people bring to any initiative that they are involved in. It is certainly true for the #MyLittleBigThing Universities Sustainability Innovation Challenge. Launched in May this year, the #MyLittleBigThing Universities Sustainability Innovation Challenge is a partnership by MK-Africa with KPMG and the Cambridge University Sustainability Leadership Institute in South Africa.
The launch event was widely covered by print and broadcast media as well as various university blogs. On social media, tweets with #MyLittleBigThing were seen close to a 1 million times on the launch day with the hashtag trending at no. 3 during the event. Post-launch we had university activations where sponsors such as P&G engaged with the students alongside the campaign ambassador, Eric Omondi.
The call for entries was for undergraduate university students across Kenya to submit 2-3minute videos highlighting their sustainability business ideas. Close to 150 entries were received. The judging was moderated by KPMG and comprised of 3 processes i.e. selection of finalists, a one-day business and presentation Skills Training and presentation of projects to a panel of industry experts 15 candidates from USIU Africa, Maseno, University of Eldoret, Strathmore, JKUAT, University of Nairobi, Kenyatta & Egerton University were short-listed for the training. They then pitched their projects to a panel of judges who selected the final seven.
Judging was done at the KPMG offices by a high-level panel of experts including the UK High Commissioner and others from Kenya Climate Innovation Center, IFC – World Bank, New Faces New Voices, The Children’s Investment Fund, Clinton Health Access Initiative, Omidyar Network Endeavour Africa Ltd & Vision 2030 Council of Governors.
The final seven selected by the judges went through a public online voting process where they rallied the general public to vote for them. Close to sixty thousand (60,000) votes were cast on the campaign website with three (3) clear winners emerging from USIU – Africa, Kenyatta University and Maseno University. In August, these attended the Sustainability Practitioners program by the Cambridge University Sustainability Leadership Institute in South Africa, visited the P&G zero-waste plant and toured Johannesburg before returning to the country for 3-months paid internship at top companies in the country.
Scott Adams, the originator of the cartoon character Dilbert, writes about creativity in his blog and concludes
“A creator’s best work is usually a lucky intersection of timing and talent.”
Asked what participation in the competition has been like, they all concur that it has been a life-changing experience for them. I couldn’t agree more. It has been a great learning for all of us. While creativity may seem to be associated with young people, it may be more appropriate to say that it is a gift of the youthful. Through this campaign, I have seen our partners and sponsors develop a new sense of purpose. The young may be favored by their circumstances however there is something to be said for the extra skill and experience that is gained over time. We are planning a gala dinner on Friday, November 17th 2017 in recognition of the competition finalists. At the gala, we will unite creative young leaders who are the finalists in this year’s competition with established professionals and youth-focused organisations to transform youth innovations into solutions for the future of our climate and the environment.
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