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Collaboration, Persistence and Community: Our take on the essence of Innovation - June 6, 2012.

How do we inspire innovation in young people? How can we successfully marry technology with social entrepreneurship? How do we foster ideas for positive change?

These were a few of the fundamental questions that the Innovate4Good@Microsoft event tried to answer.

Bringing together over 110 young people from more than 20 countries of the wider European region in Brussels for two days, Microsoft’s initiative aimed at fostering a community of innovative thinkers and collaborative problem-solvers.  Being myself a strong supporter of Steven Johnson’s quote that “chance favors the connected mind”, I found this an extremely well organized event where young people who have made a difference in their environment stood in front of their peers to present particular business development concepts and applicable solutions to social issues. And the count? More than 160 ideas were sticky-noted on the wall within a few hours of brainstorming between folks of different countries, languages, cultures, backgrounds and interests.

The inspiring talks of Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Global Community Affairs at Microsoft, encouraged us to look for our own path to success.  It was a pleasant surprise to listen to the principles that you’d want to shape your professional or academic career from someone that has become successful by following them.

Be unreasonable, don’t be afraid of fear, expect and embrace failure, were a few of the ideas shared by Akhtar, who also offered the following inspired moment of laughter, which captures the essence of collaboration and tolerance of failure :Passion? Leave passion for the bedroom. It’s compassion that matters to me, what will make the difference in your work.

Innovate4Good offered what I see as one of the most important initial steps for promoting innovation: networking. It cultivated networks of young people, resources and opportunities. And before Jasmer, a friend, co-panelist at Innvoate4Good and bright example of a youth leader adds her impressions, I’ll close as I closed my speech at the youth panel: We need to seize each opportunity that comes our way, no matter how small it seems. Because in this interconnected world we live in, each opportunity is just a dot of the bigger picture of our potential that waits to be fulfilled.

Continuing from where Michalis left off, I would like to share my experience of this inspirational event hosted by Microsoft in Brussels. The reason I was so keen to attend and share my perspectives on the youth panel was because I felt that I needed to present one single point – the key factor, the instrumental element, the magnifier of your desired impact –collaboration.  In my role at AIESEC International last year, I worked closely with Microsoft on the TechTalent4Good Challenge where we opened the doors of opportunity in the not-for-profit sector to young IT students.  We connected an intricate web of AIESEC’s IT interns to NGO partners, local mentors and technology from Microsoft and we were amazed by the ideas and most importantly, the results generated in the short two months. It was an exciting project to get rolling and we saw it gain momentum at an incredible pace.

To quote Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”. This was the crux of the project and my biggest learning was that networking is simply the start.  What should and needs to follow is building a community and spirit of collaboration.  How will you build a community around you that fosters connection to the resources, mentors and supporters who will aid your breakthrough?

Innovate4Good showcased some brilliant examples of young achievers who channelled their dogged determination to succeed by seeking and winning the support of a stalwart like Microsoft towards the requisite technology, tools and training to take an idea forward. A basic step? Yes, indeed. But in my opinion (and I’m sure they’ll agree) it was this crucial step of approaching, inviting, learning and sharing that gave them their golden egg.

Today, it is Gen Y that has the immense ability and responsibility to create social and economic change across the business and non-business worlds. We are straddling two worlds but with the agility that allows the active learners in us to benefit from the knowledge imparted to us by the generations preceding ours, and at the same time, to spin our own webs of collaborative growth amongst our peers.  Innovate4Good gives us that starting point – bringing youth leaders together with the power of technology to play the role of socio-economic architects. Leading their thoughts into ideas.  Challenging their ideas to action.

AIESEC representatives were joined at Innovate4Good by other prominent youth organizations such as Junior Achievement - Young Enterprise, JADETelecentre EuropeAEGEE  and ESN Erasmus Student Network.

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