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Youth Innovation in the Caribbean

May 28 2018 - by Carole Houlihan, CLP's Gender and Diversity Specialist

Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society's margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies. -Kofi Atta Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations.

 

In this period of rapid innovation and technological change, research and development are no longer confined to R&D departments in large companies. In an era of open innovation, individuals and groups are using their own resources and talents to develop ideas and bring them to market.

With their energy, talent and fresh perspectives, youth are turning ideas into products, services and actions to make the world a better place, grow the knowledge economy and increase economic prosperity.

For example, a recent challenge issued in Barbados was to create a local application (App) to help users to track calories of local foods at a wellness and IT seminar. It was noted that Apps on smartphones and other devices do not reflect or consider the caloric content of local foods. The challenge: Why not develop an app that tracks the caloric intake of breadfruit, cou cou and salt fish?

At the Digital Jam 3.0 event several years ago, the winners were teams that developed apps to map crime hotspots, make commuting easier, assist doctors and patients, and teach children to count.

Youth have ideas for improving the environment and developing green technologies, improving the quality of life, making and marketing music, arts and culture, enhancing disaster risk reduction, and addressing just about every aspect of life.

How are leaders supporting and encouraging youth innovation in the region?

There are a number of national programmes and initiatives in the region. For example, coding camps and competitions for children and youth (Jamaica has girls coding camps), angel investor networks (affluent individuals who provide capital for a business start-up), start-up funds, mentoring relationships and links with existing businesses in the sector, and tours to other countries to make connections.

What is your country doing to support innovation and entrepreneurship among youth?

Do you have experiences to share with others in the region?

 

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Michelle N. Samuel - Reply

In St. Lucia, the youth have always been provided with opportunities to test their skills and to grow. So with that being said, there will be several new initiatives which will be launched this year to continue to promote youth innovation and creativity. In November of this year, I and my team will be launching Startup Huddle St. Lucia. 

Startup Huddle is a free, monthly program designed to EducateEngage and Connect Entrepreneurs (Mom-preneurs, Dad-preneurs, Student-preneurs, and others). Every month, Entrepreneurs come together to pitch their startup, reveal challenges and crowd-source solutions. From local founders, innovators, educators and investors, to a global network of Entrepreneurial leaders, Startup Huddle provides a unique platform to strengthen your startup community.

Developed at the Global Entrepreneurship Network, and continually refined by a dedicated community of Entrepreneurs across the globe, an educational program was created that holds the promise to revitalize, empower, grow, and activate a city’s community of Entrepreneurs through coaching/experiential learning, feedback and research.

St. Lucia has now joined the network in bringing Startup Huddle to its community as there is a healthy saturation of Entrepreneurial Spirit on the island. The event will be launched and hosted by Local Head Organizer Michelle N. Samuel. This educational event forms part of SLUDTERA’s Entrepreneurship Readiness Program Inc.

All persons who enroll in the ERP, will receive a series of challenges, and are required to present the solutions to these challenges, as business ventures or social enterprises which can eventually grow into something bigger. Participants will receive assistance from Mentors, if they select to be assigned one. 

There are other programs and initiatives which are coming up which cannot be discussed at this time as they are still in their planning states, however, our youth is definitely one of our main priorities in St. Lucia.

Carole Houlihan - Reply

Dear  Michelle, 

Thanks you for telling us about this exciting program in St. Lucia.  We will be very interested to hear how it progresses and the challenges you face. 

You mention crowd sourcing solutions. Do you also have crowd sourcing financing or other creative financing options? 

Can others tell me if Startup Huddle is active in other countries in the region?

Carole 

Carole Houlihan - Reply

Dear  Michelle, 

Thanks you for telling us about this exciting program in St. Lucia.  We will be very interested to hear how it progresses and the challenges you face. 

You mention crowd sourcing solutions. Do you also have crowd sourcing financing or other creative financing options? 

Can others tell me if Startup Huddle is active in other countries in the region?

Carole