Giving a summary of an UNLEASH experience is a complex task not because putting the words and context or explaining are difficult, but because for one to fathom the UNLEASH experience, they need to become the talent and undergo the procedure through their own share of laughs and frustrations, and finally come out of the experience like a newborn child with further understanding and compassion on how the world in general operates. More so, they will be able to look for solutions to some of the world’s most significant challenges through simple innovations.

As a SDG Coordinator, I was nominated by SDSN Youth to be a talent (participant) for UNLEASH this year. UNLEASH is a global innovation lab that brings together people from all over the world to transform 1,000 personal insights into hundreds of innovative ideas, and build lasting global networks around the Sustainable Development Goals. From May 30th to June 6th, lab talents in attendance spent all of their time working cooperatively without playing. At the Innovation Lab, the participants worked in diverse teams comprised of representatives from different countries to come up with practical, sustainable development solutions. The solutions focus primarily on eight SDG goals: Food, Health, Education & ICT, Water, Energy, Urban Sustainability, Responsible Supply Chain and Consumption, and Climate Action. Guidances from brilliantly gifted and minded facilitators, ensure our goals are achievable. Without the facilitators, it won’t be possible to have talents from 100 different countries working 15-20 hours a day under tight deadlines.

UNLEASH Lab presented an innovative way of finding Sustainable Development Solutions. Talents brought forth plentiful solutions that were indeed amazing and worth the effort and time. However, only a selected few were able to make it to the dragon’s den for further deliberations from unsparing judges. ‘The selected solutions stood out because of their simplicity and their applicability,’ especially in countries in need of significant developments. The solutions all had unique elements. For example, the ones that stood out to me include using tree barks for hair braiding as a sustainable solution. Partnerships to further the innovations and eventually implement them on the ground depending on the practicability of the solution formed.

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The UNLEASH program allowed us to form long-lasting bonds beyond three seconds elevator conversations and thirty minutes bus rides to and from the University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. During the program, team members got to know each other through coffee and water break chats, cultural exchanges, gift-giving, and brainstorming together to develop sustainable solutions.

Above all, UNLEASH can be commemorated as being a worthwhile experience which I doubt one will find anywhere else. Besides work, talents spend breakfast, lunch and dinner breaks t having discussions about TV shows such as Game of Thrones, formidable authors, books, and jokes about how tired we were. Apparent that despite all our differences, we were all united.  

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During the opening and closing ceremony, talents had the chance to interact with not only peers from different countries but also inspiring people such as Ashish Thakkar, an entrepreneur who began his adventure at 15, and Forest Whitaker,  the founder, and CEO of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative. Sophia, the famous social humanoid robot by Hanson Robotics, became the surprising highlight of the ceremony. She represented the most advanced and celebrated robot endowed with remarkable expressiveness, aesthetics, and interactivity.

My greatest appreciation goes to my guardians, the SDSN Youth team, and especially the UNLEASH Secretariat. None of this unique opportunity would be possible without their support and trust. This further includes the volunteers present who willingly gave unlimited time and service to all talents.

 
 
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Olive Mumbo is a Sustainable Development Goal Coordinator for the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Youth and Strathmore Business School - Centre for Sustainability Leadership. She is a lawyer expecting to join the Kenya School of Law in February 2019. Olive's various passions include taking up initiatives related to Sustainable Development Goals and promoting the law. With her current post, skills, and interest in working with diverse individuals, she intends to pursue her interests at the UN and the Law. She can be reached through her email olive.mumbo@sdsnyouth.com or Linkedin Olive Mumbo.