The 2021 World Series of Innovation: Youth Taking Action on the UN Global Goals

The World Series of Innovation challenges young people to tackle the most critical threats humanity faces, from climate change to hunger, poverty and injustice.

How can we create a more just, fair, and sustainable world? 

The young innovators competing in the World Series of Innovation (WSI), an annual competition organised by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), have some big ideas for tackling some of the toughest challenges that humanity faces today. 

They envision solutions to seemingly intractable problems, coming up with innovative ideas to help protect the planet and improve the lives of people around the world by advancing social and environmental justice.

In this piece, we speak to Jason Silveira, the WSI Program Manager at NFTE, to find out more about this global innovation challenge series and to learn how Youth Time readers can register to compete for cash prizes.

 

Impact Entrepreneurs Creating Positive Change

WSI competitors explore innovation challenges aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

“What’s really interesting about WSI,” says Silveira, “is that it’s become a platform for youth to make their voices heard on critical issues as well as to have a positive impact – creating solutions in their own communities and beyond.” 

Developing WSI entries gives them a chance to hone their design thinking skills and put their entrepreneurial mind-set to work on practical solutions to enormous challenges.

For most WSI competitors, participating in an innovation challenge is a fresh experience. But for some, it becomes the first step on a continuing journey as an innovator.

“They get hooked on innovation challenges and find a group of friends who are game for collaborating on hackathons, design challenges, and pitch competitions. Several WSI competitors even launch initiatives based on their WSI ideas,” Silveira explains.

“That’s what all NFTE competitions aim to do,” adds Silveira, himself a graduate of a NFTE programme 

“At its core, our mission is to empower people by helping them develop a skill set we call the entrepreneurial mindset. That means learning to think and act like entrepreneurs: to recognise opportunity, take initiative and innovate.”

Even if you don’t want to start a business, learning how to tackle a challenge and how to think and act like an entrepreneur can help you achieve your dreams.”

 

65 Countries, 32 Thousand Young People 

Competitions such as WSI, provide opportunities to develop the entrepreneurial mindset. 

They also allow young people to see how their passions for social and environmental justice can drive innovation.

“That’s empowering for the young people we serve and inspiring for us,” says Silveira. “We are seeing an emerging generation of impact entrepreneurs. They won’t settle for less than changing the world.”

He explains WSI began as a business ideation exercise for a handful of students in one NFTE classroom at a Chicago High School just a few years ago.

WSI now attracts thousands of competitors from countries around the globe

“In the years since we made WSI an open competition, more than 32,000 young people from 65 countries around the world have taken part and our challenge sponsors have awarded over $250,000 USD in prize money.” 

With the help of Citi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Citigroup, NFTE expanded its classroom competition idea and built WSI into an annual online innovation challenge series. 

NFTE now launches a new set of WSI challenges every September. Experts from global organisations volunteer to serve on the judging panels that review entries and in April they award dozens of cash prizes for the top entries.

The prize winners in previous WSI challenge cycles have ranged in age from 13 to 24 and they’ve come from many different countries. 

The youngest winner: a 13-year-old girl from Allen, Texas, who developed an idea for energy use tracking and carbon footprint analysis. 

The oldest winner: a 24-year-old inventor from Freetown, Sierra Leone, who led a team that built an innovative low-cost residential generator using off-the-shelf parts and powered by a hand crank. 

Here’s one winner you might have heard of, the entrepreneur Trisha Prabhu

Trisha Prabhu: Stopping Cyberbullying Through ReThink App

Interested in Competing in the 2021-2022 Series? 

Anyone aged 13–24 is welcome to enter the challenges and there are cash prizes awarded for the top ideas in each challenge category. 

An entry can be completed in just a few hours, start to finish. It is free to enter and NFTE provides a variety of helpful resources and online coaching sessions.

Explore all the WSI challenges at innovation.nfte.com

You can also use the form at www.nfte.com/nominate to alert someone you think might be interested – once nominated, they will receive a special invitation to compete.

Teams of one to four members are allowed, so you can compete solo or invite a few friends to join you and collaborate on an entry. 

Registration is now open and registered competitors have until December 15 to submit their ideas, whereas winners will be announced March 31, 2022.

WSI innovation challenges have been sponsored by leading global corporations including Citi, Ernst & Young, Mary Kay Inc., PIMCO, Bank of the West BNP Paribas, Saint-Gobain, Maxar Technologies, MasterCard, Moody’s, and PayPal, among others.


NFTE celebrates young people and their potential. As a proof, look at this success story:

Celebrating World Youth Skills Day With Young Entrepreneur Brett Kim

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