Our class of 10,000 students from 127 countries lasting 21 days
How many creativity gurus have you heard this past year talking about the overarching potential of our young people to solve the problems of tomorrow? Well, we thought we'd see just how good they are at solving those problems.
The photograph at the top of this post is just one example of how young people care about other people many thousands of miles away and want to make their lives better - produced in the last period of a long day in Iowa. You can read more of them on the world2011.us site.
Sure, it's just a piece of marketing. But it sums up weeks of work they've put in to harnessing design thinking to explore, synthesise and hone down problems they believe they could solve. And this past week, they've been prototyping their ideas for solving them.
Over the past 21 days, with the immense support of the UN agency for ICT, the International Telecommuncations Union (ITU), m'colleague Tom Barrett and I have been trying to make good our promise that we could bring 10,000 young people along, virtually, to "the most important ICT event in the world".
ITU Telecom World 11 gathers nearly 2500 of the world's Heads of State, CEOs of all the global telecommunications firms and policy wonks from South America to South Africa, Southampton to the Hamptons. We set up a campaign site to involve over four times the number of delegates (at perhaps four times less their average age ;-) to see whether their ideas collided or parted at their very roots. The goals were several:
- provoke the speakers into speaking in 'normal', jargon-free language, conscious that 10,000 young people were trying to get a grasp on the issues that will affect them more, perhaps, than said experts on stage;
- see if young people genuinely cared about solving what the UN has outlined as its key challenges, such as decreasing poverty and hunger, increasing access to education for all, improving gender equality and so on...
- see if they cared enough and if their teachers, increasingly confined by State requirements to "cover the curriculum", were fired up enough to break through the pedagogical red tape and create opportunities for their students to find real problems that need solving, and then go on to propose genuine, workable solutions.
Within 21 days I can confirm one thing: never underestimate what young people are capable of.
As we head into the conference week (follow on the Twitter hashtag of #world11kids for all things young-people-related, and #ituworld11 for the wider conference coverage) I'm thrilled at what we're going to be revealing to delegates through plasma screens and projections, revealing what our class of 10,000 has achieved this past three weeks.
We're also going to see hundreds of them now participating live on the podium through Twitter as Secretary-Generals, CEOs, Heads of State and inventors of the switches that make the web work seek out the concerns and ideas of 8-18 year olds around the globe.
You want problem-based learning? This kinda fits the bill. I can't wait to unpack with our teachers and schools how on earth they've managed to achieve so much with so little time and such epic challenges to solve. It's not too late to get involved... what's holding you back?