The coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses, schools and communities to find ways to cope with the social and economic fallout. On Wednesday, November 18, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) asked a gathering of young entrepreneurs, global business innovators and nonprofit leaders how society might use technology to improve quality of life and address inequities. The discussion was the focus of NFTE’s third annual UN Global Goals Conversation, a program of the World Series of Innovation, a global innovation challenge series that invites young people to develop innovative ideas to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
Held annually during Global Entrepreneurship Week, NFTE's UN Global Goals Conversation convenes a diverse panel of established and emerging voices specifically to explore topics related to social entrepreneurship around the UN SDGs. The 2020 UN Global Goals Conversation was presented by Citi Foundation, Ernst & Young LLP (EY) and Mary Kay, with additional support from Bank of the West BNP Paribas.
The event kicked off with remarks by UN Deputy Director Ramu Damodaran, Chief of the United Nations Academic Impact Initiative. Mark Zandi, Chief Economist, Moody’s Analytics, served as the moderator for the event and led the panel discussion. Panelists from the corporate sector included Jeff Wong, Global Chief Innovation Officer, EY, and Bessie Schwarz, CEO and Co-founder, Cloud to Street. Wong is a noted technology enthusiast and change agent who is also a passionate supporter of STEM education. Schwarz, who appeared on behalf of Mary Kay, is an expert in human-centered design for empirically based disaster response tools and was one of six social entrepreneurs awarded top honors in the 2020 WE Empower UN SDG Challenge, a global business competition focused on advancing the UN Global Goals.
Youth voices on the panel included Jyoti Rani, 17-year-old founder of the nonprofit Code 4 Tomorrow, and Anurag Koyyada, 20-year-old director of the King’s College London Blockchain Society and a UN Youth Expert who serves on the youth coalitions of the UN Internet Governance Forum and the UN Economic Commission for Europe. Rani is an NFTE program alumna who was a finalist in the 2019 World Series of Innovation Mastercard Financial Access Challenge and a semifinalist in the 2020 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. Koyyada led the team that won the 2019 World Series of Innovation Moody's Foundation Climate Action Challenge.
The panelists discussed innovative ways to use technology to emerge from this crucible—of pandemic, unemployment, economic recession, a widening wealth gap and increasing social unrest—ready to build a more equitable and inclusive society in a post-COVID world.
“This year has shown us that, even in the midst of difficult times, entrepreneurs, businesses and philanthropies can find ways to innovate and create solutions to support the economy and society,” said Dr. J.D. LaRock, NFTE’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Programs such as the annual World Series of Innovation challenges and the Global Goals Conversation are designed to help young people understand some of the most important issues facing the world today and see for themselves how innovative thinking and entrepreneurship can lead to solutions that advance the SDGs by promoting equity and inclusion.”
The World Series of Innovation challenges are open to young people ages 13 to 24. Currently, open challenges include:
- Bank of the West Clean Energy Challenge, SDG 7: empower school communities to help speed the transition to clean energy
- Citi Foundation COVID Recovery Challenge, SDG 10: help grow the income of those hit hardest by the COVID-19 economic crisis: the lowest-earning workers
- EY Educational Equity Challenge, SDG 4: help drive racial equity across education, with solutions that could range from making equity a focus to dismantling barriers, such as the digital divide
- Mary Kay Textiles Upcycle Challenge, SDG 12: create a “circular economy” that reduces waste by promoting clothing and textile reuse or repurposing
- Mastercard Gateway for the Unbanked Challenge, SDG 9: help the unbanked make and receive payments, providing a gateway to improved financial access
- Moody's Foundation Climate Action Challenge, SDG 13: empower individuals or communities to take action on the problem of climate change
- Moody's Foundation Peace & Justice Challenge, SDG 16: promote progress on equal justice and create stronger institutions for all
- PayPal Environmental Justice Challenge, SDG 1: build the resiliency of vulnerable communities that are most at risk from impacts of climate change and other disasters
- PIMCO Zero Hunger Challenge, SDG 2: help food banks increase access to healthy food by reducing waste, improving mobility or creating more equitable food systems
World Series of Innovation challenges give youth an opportunity to investigate the UN SDGs and win cash prizes by proposing innovative ideas for tackling global issues. The deadline for entries in the current challenge series is Monday, December 14, 2020. Winners will be announced in the spring. Learn more at www.nfte.com/innovation.