Using the popular American reality show "Shark Tank" as its muse, this year's World Bank Group Youth Summit garnered the attention of thousands of passionate youth. Youth Summit 2015: Crowd-Sourcing Solutions for Climate Change encouraged young people to submit their ideas on how to remedy a dangerously warming planet. Proposals poured in from over 70 countries including Belarus, Haiti, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Macedonia, Chile, Ivory Coast, Japan, Yemen, Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, and Spain.
"Climate change will make some poor people poorer, and push some not-so-poor people across the poverty line," said Rachel Kyte, vice president and special envoy for Climate Change at the Bank Group. Kyte was among many climate change trailblazers on hand at the summit on Nov. 16 and 17. The youngest guest in attendance was Kehkashan Basu who delivered a moving speech titled, "And What is Stopping YOU?" At only age 15, Basu serves as Youth Ambassador for World Future Council and is the Founder of Green Hope UAE.
Despite recent tragedies in Paris, the governments of more than 190 nations will meet in The City of Light in just a few weeks to discuss a possible new universal agreement on climate change. COP21 addresses the dire need to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.
"Changing the way climate change is tackled is about changing the way people see their future," said Kyte.
Youth Summit invitees attended provocatively titled breakout sessions such as "50 Shades of Green Bonds" and brainstormed on topics like carbon finance, landscape data, and disaster risk. Blue and green earth-themed cupcakes blanketed tables while guests chatted animatedly with booth exhibitors including the U.S. National Park Service and Green Impact Campaign.
The summit featured a first for the World Bank. American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters from Capitol Sign Interpreters, a woman-owned small business, were on hand during competition day of the summit. The Youth Summit Organizing Committee, comprised of seven young World Bank Group staff, hopes that reaching the hearing impaired community can be a step towards creating a more inclusive conversation on development issues.
Gloria Nakyejwe didn't win over "Bank Tank" judges with her pitch for affordable, biogas stoves in Uganda. However she impressed many guests when moderator Monika Weber-Fahr announced that the competitor would be taking the stage after have just arrived from a flight that spanned more than 15 hours. Even World Bank Group's Uganda country office video-conferenced in during the summit to express their support for the young CEO of Greenville Fresh Farm Products. Mexico City, Cameroon, Ghana, and Peru were among some of the other country offices that tuned in to watch the tournament.
When Adam Pascual found out he had been chosen to come to the United States Capitol, many hurdles still lay ahead. "Several sleepless nights at the dormitory rooftop while doing research, last minute visa applications…. humiliation from people that we will never make it, empty stomach and pockets, and most of all, the lack of support from the people around us, they thought that we're young and incapable," said the team captain of TREE+PLY.
Pascual arrived at the World Bank headquarters dressed in the full national regalia of the Philippines called Barong Tagalog, made with pineapple leaf fiber. His proposal for a free mobile application geared towards increasing global awareness and inspiring environmentally friendly actions through gamification won "audience favorite."
"I will never forget the day when the three of us strolled together down 21st street in Washington D.C. passing by the autumn trees with sunlight trickling through. We were complete and I felt like bursting into tears thinking that we've gotten impossibly far," said Pascual. "And that, for me, was the winning moment."
Team TREE+PLY plans to dive deeper into researching the technical aspects of their proposal and hopes to collaborate with the World Bank Group and Asian Development Bank in Manila in the future.
"The highlight for me was to meet young inspired people from all over the world," said Michael Eschmann, captain for team HELIOS. The Swiss national pitched an idea to boost productivity and efficiency of Indian farms with solar powered irrigation systems. In the end, high scorecards from the jury made team HELIOS the second winning team.
"It is amazing to see the energy and passion of the crowd that attended the Youth Summit and it is even better to exchange and have fun with them," said Eschmann.
Youth Summit 2015 partnered with the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) to give the two winning team leads the opportunity to attend the 2016 ICSB Academy from June 14-18, 2016.
The ICSB Academy provides students with a full immersion experience in the making of a new entrepreneurial venture. Esteemed entrepreneurial experts designed a dynamic training program that includes learning modules that will help participants to create their own business. Participants in each cohort are paired with seasoned mentors to gain insights and advice on their ideas, learn from their mentor's experiences, and network with another 200 entrepreneurs from around the world.
Dr. Jeffrey Alves, ICSB Vice President, joked that while New York may not sound as impressive as their previous Academy location (Dubai), each lucky winner's attendance includes registration fees, flights, accommodation in the Stevens Institute of Technology's dormitories, and meals.
The Youth Summit was established in 2013 by the World Bank Group, in partnership with the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, to provide a platform for the concerns of youth and empower young people to promote their ideas on development. Summit participants include youth leaders, development experts, private sector professionals, government officials, and students.
"This is just the beginning of the evolution. Big things are yet to happen," said Nakyejwe as she put aside her recollections of the Summit and soaked in the sights of Washington, DC for the first time.