Some 400 attendees filed into the Preston Auditorium of the World Bank Headquarters on November 14 and 15. Representing over 75 nationalities collectively, these young people were gathered for the World Bank Group Youth Summit 2016: Rethinking Education for the New Millennium. According to UNESCO, 121 million children are still out of primary and lower secondary school, and 250 million children cannot read or write although many have attended school.
Over two days, passionate youth spoke candidly about their thoughts, concerns, and recommendations on how to improve education in their communities and the world at large. Some attendees journeyed more than 20 hours to have their voices heard. Expert perspectives were shared from the international development community, private sector, government, and academia. Notable speakers included John Moravec, Founder of Education Futures; Maya Alkateb-Chami, Director of Jusoor; and Nina Weisenhorn, Education Technical Advisor at USAID.
“When young people lead and succeed and then reinvest to ensure other girls and boys have similar opportunities, we transform the lives of not just a generation, but our entire global future because your generation has the ability to transform communities, and cultures, and countries,” said Krishanti Vignarajah, Policy Director at The White House, Office of the First Lady.
The World Bank Group Youth Summit 2016, purposefully timed for the kickoff of International Education Week, consisted of collaborative workshops, engaging plenaries, and networking opportunities. Guests also had the opportunity to frequent booths from local and international organizations. Jan Gordon from Chess Challenge in DC was among the excited exhibit hosts. She leveraged the Youth Summit to demonstrate how the strategic board game can be a fun pastime, but also a therapeutic and stimulating outlet for young people. Institutional departments such as the World Bank’s Publishing and Knowledge division was also on hand to show some of the Bank’s most important research on education and technology.
One of the Youth Summit’s most anticipated events is the competition component where participants live pitch their ideas in front of an audience and expert jury. The Youth Summit Organizing Committee (YSOC) received 875 submissions from young entrepreneurs this year.
In an unprecedented split decision, the jury chose two winners, NaTakallam and ROYA Mentorship Program, for the grand prize to attend the International Council for Small Business 2017 World Conference in Argentina. The conference brings together the world's foremost specialists and thought leaders in entrepreneurial research for the purpose of supporting management education for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Aline Sara, captain for NaTakallam, says the team will begin trials at Tufts University, Boston College, and Duke University in the near future. Aline also hopes to expand NaTakallam's institutional partnerships with universities across the United States to integrate the platform as a complement to traditional Arabic classroom courses or coursework related to conflict resolution and migration topics.
Despite a recent personal loss, Shoaib Mehryar and Asif Rasooly from ROYA Mentorship Program plan to push forward with their idea and raise money for computer labs in their trial locations in Kabul and Bamyan. “One of our first mentors, Jamshid Zafar, was killed in the terrorist attacks at the American University of Afghanistan. His former classmates at Simon's Rock College are launching a fundraiser in his memory which will benefit our program and the computer labs,” says Shoaib. For new entrepreneurs he recommends testing your idea on a small scale with minimal risk-- even if it only benefits a single person.
While Divakar Sankhla did not walk away with a grand prize, the team captain feels confident the experience at the Youth Summit will be a catalyst for her idea of a student-led ecosystem in India that empowers youth to design their own learning path. "We received invaluable feedback about our model and the articulation of our idea. We go back positive and charged up, ready to continue our journey of democratizing learning and empowering children to take their learning into their own hands," says Divakar. "We hope this recognition from the World Bank will help us forge partnerships to propel us faster towards our vision."
Nearly 12,500 unique viewers tuned in to the Youth Summit on livestream and nine World Bank country offices including Afghanistan, Haiti, and Ghana held live viewing parties so local staff could engage. The YSOC will convene in January 2017 to discuss the next Youth Summit theme.
Louise Baldwin, Youth Summit Manager and Co-Chair says, “Next year, we hope that we can continue to grow the level of interaction among our participants – bringing so many engaged young people together, there’s a fantastic opportunity to create connections and spark ideas that live beyond the two-day summit.”
To watch the World BankGroup Youth Summit 2016, visit http://live.worldbank.org/wbg-youth-summit
For general inquiries about the Youth Summit, contact: [email protected]