Youth Led Innovation

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More than half the world’s population is under 25, but sometimes it feels like it will be another 25 years before anyone listens and engages this group realistically. At the same time  they are seen as or adverted as the “leaders of tomorrow” …Not quite

We have seen how this generation of young people are taking over in spaces of entrepreneurship and by 2020, the millennial will form 50% of the global work force. So why not use them as critical resources in coming up with solutions and new ideas?


Untapped talent

I have personally seen how the talent of young people is untapped. Whenever young people are put in a space together to “come up with ideas”, it usually is a simulation, not the real stuff. This is why in some cases this generation then “moonlights”: where they have a normal 9-5 job and then do things that they really care about during their own time. But what if that changed?

What if we betted on young people and believed that if corporate organisations and government want to create solutions for the future, it is imperative that they use Young people in the process? Lets face it, Young people live in the future, they are always looking for the next big thing. They’re not stuck in the past and can’t be; this group simply was not born then. Therefore, given the right platform, their ideas and concepts would be naturally futuristic, bold and innovative.


In South Africa we have started the process of putting young people in the forefront of innovation and have seen this change the face of corporates time and time again. Our organisation (SpringAGE) calls this intervention a SpringBREAK. Firstly we look for corporate organizations that want to try new things, and want to make a positive difference. We help them formulate a real question that they want to answer. 


Example brewery

An example of how this has worked is with a huge brewery. This brewery had ideas of what it would take to reduce irresponsible drinking but also needed more ideas. So they asked us to work with them. We proposed a SpringBREAK: a short 3 hours process that induces creativity and creates a space owned by these young people ensuring a spirit of truthfulness. Our process then started with us getting the right young people to collaborate on ideas. We invite young people to whom this topic connects with and also some who have an uncommon connection. Having young people with different spaces of influence collaborate on a topic creates magic.

After forming the team we immersed ourselves in the brewery. Because we don’t work for that organisation, we were able to ask real questions from a place of curiosity not from a place of judgement. We wanted to know the question behind the question, we wanted to know why is that an important question. We simply were very curious. The next step in the SpringBREAK process happened after this small research. We collaborated and ideated based on the information gathered from the people of the brewery. Our process looked at consequences of the problem and root causes of the problem being asked.

From the SpringBREAK the brewery received insights which were truthful. Thoughts like this. Young people don’t identify with dying so if you have adverts of people who have been in accidents it doesn’t affect them. As when one is young, one feels invincible.  However young people do identify with their dreams and being successful. Only a young person could tell the brewery that truthfully. Therefore the ideas that we came up with were relevant and futuristic. One of the ideas that emerged was a campaign that was showcasing young people who had it together. The adverts could portray the consequences of responsible drinking, instead of warning against irrisponsibility. The campaign would be called #1d2m (#one drink too many) and would show all positive images of people who drink a beer for enjoyment. It would showcase the consequences of being responsible. In that way young people can identify with these consequences.

Example security company

Another example was when we worked with a big security company that wanted to take their services of armed response into the townships. The company wanted innovative ways to do so. In the SpringBREAK the young people came up with the idea of a technology connecting to their friends rather than connecting to the companies security system. This would be in the form of an app with a Geo locator. People could download the app and when they found themselves in trouble in the streets they could press an emergency button on the phone. That would connect them to their friends near by who could come and help them. Or warn others about their friends being in trouble. Young people come up with ideas like this because they live in a sharing economy where they also care about what their peers do and think.


Focusing on urgent and intriguing questions

These examples show that the power of a SpringBREAK is in focusing on an urgent and intriguing questions. We are able to bring together the most dynamic young people to give corporates a different and fresh view on their problem. As these  young people collaborate on the question, they provide for a much richer set of views than one person giving a perspective on a problem would.

Working this way we are able to create innovation: Youth Led Innovation. Youth Led innovation can be critical for organizations that are looking at how they will they act in the future as they engage with those young people who will be living in it. In this process we have helped corporate organizations to think differently and try new approaches in solving problems. And we are eager to show some more.


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