By Delphine Anglo, Founding President of Ideas for Action Africa
On June 10, 2021, the World Bank Group, in partnership with the Wharton School’s Zicklin Center, hosted the Award ceremony of the global social entrepreneurial program “Ideas for Action Competition”. Unlike the past editions held during the annual meetings of the Word Bank Group and IMF, this year’s event took place during the virtual World Bank Youth Summit 2021, which was placed under the theme “Resilient Recovery for People and Planet”.
The opening remarks were given by Mari Elka Pangestu, Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships at the World Bank and Prof. Djordjija Petkoski, Lecturer and Senior Fellow at the Wharton School and Co-founder of the Ideas for Action Initiative. The session was co-moderated by Farhad Peikar and Noreyana Fernando, both from the World Bank.
As, Dr. Petkoski recalled in his remarks, the initiative has been jointly launched by the World Bank Group and the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at the Wharton School in 2015, months before the official release of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal, to recognize the key role the youth will play in achieving the goals. Mari Elka Pangestu could not agree more when she said that “Investing in young people is investing in our collective future.”
With thousands of young people between the ages of 18 and 35 years from around the world, teaming-up each year to participate in the competition, the program has registered 20,000+ participants so far. The social entrepreneurial projects submitted as part of the Ideas for Action competition are related to either one or several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and they are evaluated based on the following criteria:
– Depth and Clarity;
– Significance of Impact;
– Originality and Creativity; and
Borrowing the words of Mari Elka Pangestu, “the proposals are very creative, tackling challenges in achieving SDGs”, showing for instance that “having the low tech doesn’t mean you cannot come up with a solution; it is actually where you can be creative with the solution, given your country’s needs and situation …, and this is really what is exiting about this competition.” This is a uniquely motivating and boosting feeling that resonate with me as I’ve been enough fortunate to review a few proposals related to Africa over the past years.
Selected from a very competitive pool of 4000+ proposals submitted for the 2020 edition; the global 2020 Ideas for Action competition winners are:
The KABIOF Team in Burundi, represented by Delphin Kaze, proposes an eco-friendly charcoal made from biodegradable solid waste to help tackle deforestation and recycle metallic and plastic waste, while fighting indoor air pollution.
From Nigeria, Dronagro, represented by Francis Maduakor, presents innovative use of drone technology to help farmers make better decisions about use of pesticide to save money, time, and resources.
In Pakistan, Teach the World, represented by Abdul Ahad Ayub is enhancing Literacy and Numeracy by combining innovative technology with simple and cost-effective learning solutions for children.
In the Republic of North Macedonia, Team Walkiie, represented by Elena Bozhinovska, uses mobile app technology to connect friends, family, teachers, or volunteers with people with disabilities, supporting them to pursue new activities or schedule specific tasks
As Dr. Petkoski stated, the social venture competition is only a part of what the Ideas for Action initiative drives, and “everybody participating is a winner in one or another way.” Even without making it to the final pool, each team receives sound feedback (regarding the strengths and opportunities for improvement of its proposal) from the jury, and thanks to the established partnerships, there are sometimes parallel identification and celebration activities for local winners in specific regions or country. This was the case early this year for Indonesia with the local Ideas for Action Award ceremony led by the Tanoto Foundation, through an event hosted on April 23, 2021 on “Young Entrepreneurs Respond to SDGs & ESG: Global Knowledge Exchange and Capacity Development.” Likely, in 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ministry of Planning held a special event to celebrate the top three Ideas for Action proposals from the country after the competition was officially launched in the country to encourage the young people to think about innovate ways to address local challenges and create positive impact.
According to Dr. Petkoski, the Ideas for Action initiative “is not just young people submitting proposals”:
(1) It is also about young people driving this initiative, starting with the Ideas for Action club at the Wharton school.” This is actually, what we have been doing at Ideas for Action Africa.
(2) It creates a network in which a variety of stakeholders interact with the young people, toward achieving the SDGs, as do showcase the active partnerships with companies such as Firmenish, Pepsico, Hemofarm, or GTIS Partners. This connection is important to increase the impact beyond a single proposal and to make a critical connection between intrapreneurship (establish companies) and entrepreneurship (start-ups).
(3) It provides a platform for knowledge exchanges not only between Ideas for Action alumina, but also among a broad network of social entrepreneurs and different schools around the world. The fact that the World Bank publishes every year the Ideas for Action books compiling all the top proposals, allows some universities to use these proposals as background material for teaching: the Wharton School has been doing so for 5 years, along with other universities in Chile and Brazil, for example.
(4) It also provided the platform for launching and running other initiatives such as SDGs & Her ( a collaboration between the World Bank, Wharton, UNDP, and UN Women), which supports women entrepreneurs oriented in reaching the SDGs.
Ideas for Actions Africa: The 2020 edition of the Ideas for Action competition marks the first 5 years of the global initiative. I attended this edition with a specific combination of feelings, emotions, and optimism as this edition also marks 3 years of existence of Ideas for Action Africa that I founded with the shared dream and ambition of our highly dedicated and passionate team, to empower aspiring and established young social entrepreneurs willing to go through an innovative ideation process to propose and implement creative solutions that change the narrative and do create positive and scalable impact, in Africa.
Over the past 3 years, our team has reached through our online and in-person activities more than 20,200 young people, and we have initiated via our events, more than 4000 young people to the sustainable development goals and to the pressing challenges of financing and achieving these goals locally for an inclusive development and a daily life in which extreme poverty does not lead the way. During our annual one-day or half-day event “Idealab” held so far in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Benin Republic, and Madagascar, we have brought together the young people and experts from international development, academia, the private sector, and the private sectors to exchange on African development topics, social entrepreneurship, and to engage into innovative SDGs-related ideation exercises.
We have registered an incredible increase of the young generation engaging in the initiative, by moving from 922 sub-Saharan African teams for the Ideas for Action competition during our first operational year in 2018 (+219% from 2017 and 23% of the projects submitted), to 2290 sub-Saharan African teams in 2019 (+149% from 2018 and 77% of total projects submitted), and 2499 in 2020 (+9% from 2019 and 58% of total projects submitted). Each year, there has been at least one winning team from Africa.
The Ideas for Actions Africa Team (notably) includes Samuel Udeji, Omar Ibn Abdillah, Kehinde Ajuwon Adeoya, Nandjim Tchalla, Marcellin N. Gandonou, Mukose Andrew (2nd place winner of the 2017 Ideas for Action competition), Nwachinemere Emeka Obewe (1st place winner of the 2017 Ideas for Action competition), and myself.
Watch the full 2020 global Ideas for Action Award ceremony here.