Yesterday was great great fun. Supported by a dedicated ITU team, I was thrilled to facilitate a day-long co-creation “jam” with 40 young people in Geneva to help us prepare for ITU’s upcoming Global Youth Summit. Co-organized with the government of Costa Rica, the Summit (also branded as BYND 2015) will take place 9-11 September 2013, with the direct participation of around 500 young people from all corners of the globe (and another 25’000 remotely).
Why BYND-2015? This refers to a global UN effort to lay out a new development agenda beyond the Millennial Development Goals (MDGs) established in 2000 and winding down in 2015.
The Millennials, a generation mostly of teens and 20-somethings, are earning a growing recognition from governments and the international community as an important voice for change in the world. Almost half the world's population is under the age of 25, and about a quarter are between the ages of 12 to 24. Our objective is to give today’s increasingly wired-up youth a platform to shape the post-2015 global development agenda and a direct influence over the priorities that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon likes to call the “World We Want”.
With that in mind, we’re setting up a global “crowd-sourcing” platform to help thousands of young people from all corners of the globe identify the key issues that they see as needing to be addressed. And we’re working with some world-class partners that we plan to announce shortly.
When working in any challenging territory — and the area of global development certainly falls into that category — it’s never a good idea to start with the assumption that you completely understand the problem that needs resolving. From time to time, it’s better to step back, think about how the environment has changed (in this case from 2000 when the MDG’s were first formulated), reframe the issues and come up with a new set of priorities.
As Head of Innovation in the ITU’s Development Sector, I decided to use my experience with design thinking techniques to shape the agenda of this “jam” because I’ve witnessed how it can work and the amazing creativity unleashed once participants are given a “safe space” to contribute as peers and truly innovate.
I not only asked the groups to come up with new ideas (check out these great photos) but also got them to move from theory to practice by focusing on specific prototypes that we stressed-test and refined through feedback by others at the jam.
Asking the right questions is always the first step to getting the right answers. We weren’t disappointed. The “proof in the pudding” is that these 40 young people came out with a completely unexpected set of “how might we….” questions that we’ll be using for the crowd-sourcing platform we’ll unveil in the run-up to the Summit.
The ITU team was blown away by the enthusiasm and dedication of these young people, their desire to contribute practically to Summit outcomes, and the unexpected perspectives they gave on development priorities that needed addressing. I often say: “amazing ideas are formed when you put smart people together in a room”. This day was no exception. The 12th June was a great start to what looks to be a unique event in Costa Rica this September! So stay tuned!