International House Residents Participate at an RTI Ideathon to Tackle Youth Unemployment

On March 2 and 3, 2015, International House afforded us a unique opportunity to attend an “Ideathon” in Washington, D.C. Similar to a hackathon, but with the intent of sharing and improving on ideas, this Ideathon was held by the newly-formed Global Center on Youth Employment (GYCE) of Research Triangle International (RTI). It was a great way to focus on the global problem of youth unemployment, and a spiritual continuation of the Generation Jobless conference held in the fall at International House. I work at an education technology company that focuses on teaching students vital technology, design, and business skills that they will need in this rapidly evolving job market. And Jaskaran is a student of public administration and a technology entrepreneur, who co-founded an international analytics advisory firm in India. So this event really interested us with its goal: to come up with scalable, long-term methods of helping young adults find employment.

Jaskaran Lamba at RTI Ideathon
Jaskaran Lamba
The first day opened with a keynote from Gary Hoachlander from ConnectEd who presented a scheme for transforming education through Linked Learning, a disruptive way to prepare youth for success in college, career, and life. After a brief icebreaker exercise, there were two-minute pitches on innovative ideas to tackle youth unemployment from twenty participants — including us (see video links). Pitches focused on novel ways of addressing the problem, its solution and ways to measure success. After a popular vote, the top five ideas were chosen for further development in a team setting, with a possible view to being subsidized by RTI.

We were each placed in groups that consisted of educators, consultants, and policy specialists. My group proposed an international education program that helped students in areas, fields and cultures where entrepreneurship is often discouraged. It was a fascinating process where we took a simple idea and expanded it into a scalable and pragmatic solution that would help combat youth employment. At the conclusion of the first day, there was a party where we got to mingle with these incredible professionals. In fact, the breaks between sessions and the happy hour were excellent opportunities to network and hear about the ideas on which the other teams were working.

On the second day, the groups met bright and early for breakfast, where we ironed out the finer details of our proposals, and then started working on our 5-minute presentation. During lunch break, a presenter from the World Bank outlined a new initiative called S4YE or Solutions for Youth Unemployment, s4ye.org, a coalition to find new solutions to youth employment, including a call for proposals which will be funded up to $1,000,000 under the Umbrella Trust Fund on Jobs (UTF-JOBS) with the first deadline of March 31.

After lunch, all five teams made presentations to outside jurors (see video links: Jeet 1, Jeet 2, Jaskaran 1, Jaskaran 2). Other ideas included disruptive methods for skill development, platform technologies to connect the bottom of pyramid youth to jobs (Jaskaran’s group) and plans to directly benefit women. Kevin Grant, a co-founder of the GroundTruth Project, partner of the Generation Jobless conference, led the team whose project shines a light on this pressing issue through journalism.

Our teams really worked well with each other, and there was discussion on how we would continue working on the scheme after the event ended. My group decided to follow up in person and to continue work on our respective components.

The Ideathon was an amazing experience where we got to work with some of the best and brightest in the education and policy space on ideas they are passionate about. We are grateful to I-House that we got this excellent opportunity to work with professionals on a solution to one of our generation’s greatest issues.

Note: The Generation Jobless Employment Innovation Fellowship is I-House’s new program to fund ideas on youth unemployment. Find out more about the fellowship and the live pitch session on Monday, March 30 at 8:00 pm.

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