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Youth Driving Change in Sierra Leone

Next Century Innovators Award winner Innovate Salone discusses unifying innovation with social impact, how to reduce global inequity, and the growth of their Innovate Network.

Why do you believe that innovation is important in producing change?

A culture of innovation, infused with a level of calculated risk-taking, can be transformative for a country whose people have a base level of education. Through innovation, we can imagine a world where there is a seamless augmentation of mind, hand, and society in the pursuit of our greatest amplification as individuals and as a society. Our most eminent global challenges will only be solved when we are able to blend hands-on learning and making for societal impact.

Innovate Salone enables youth in Sierra Leone to create their own solutions to problems they face in their community. Set up as a nationwide competition among schools, the program selects teams of students to develop ideas for innovative projects in their communities. All teams receive feedback, and winning teams are given seed capital and mentorship to realize their vision.

As you know, the Next Century Innovators Awards is highlighting work that has the potential to transform systems that impact poor and vulnerable populations for the next 100 years. How do you see the potential of your work for the next 100 years?

Our hope is that our creative platform can be extended to all young people, so that they might experience the freedom to explore, expand and scale their own inventions. We are working towards a future where the concept of ‘learning to make’ and ‘making to learn’ will become embedded in our educational systems and institutions. To reduce global inequality, we call for a system where adequate resources are made available to technologists, artists and scientists in emerging countries to solve challenges and problems that are most relevant to their communities. These innovators will work within supported networks with resources to scale their efforts globally.

What does this award mean to your organization?

Being selected as one of the three Next Century Innovator Award recipients has already had unbelievable positive impact on our organization. We plan to leverage the recognition to get more partners on board as we expand our project. We’ve been already able to do this in the first Innovate Kenya competition, which saw about 500 students submit ideas to create solutions to local challenges. Our inaugural Innovate the Cape competition in Cape Town, South Africa identified seven finalist teams working on solutions with high impact potential in their communities. We look forward to using the $50,000 support grant to strengthen our organization’s capacity for impact.”

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