“ARE WE READY?! “ “YESSS!!!!!! “Was the loudest roar of positivity coming from 1,000 individuals around the world, all inspired and passionate to make their change to the world!
UNLEASH? What’s that?
Established in 2018, the global innovation lab came to Singapore this year. Out of the million applications they received, the top 1,000 were selected and given a chance to work over the span of eight days on real-world problems under eight sustainable development goals. As an undergrad, this was my amazing journey over the eight days filled with excitement, thrill, but tons of learning!
I thought as I got into my cab to reach NUS on Day 1 of UNLEASH, being an undergrad student I knew I really had to up my game in the midst of working professionals or true social entrepreneurs. The expectations would be high, but I knew exceeding those would be well worth the effort.
These 1,000 individuals, including myself, came from around the world, from various professionals’ backgrounds pulling off all-nighters and living on caffeine to solve real-world problems – from malnutrition to diabetes, from access to clean water to access to quality education. The eight sustainable development goals had become our only motto for the next eight days, while we solved problems, ideated them and eventually hoped to scale them to eradicate the aimed issue.
First experience of the real world!
Student leaders like myself were fortunate enough to represent Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) along with three others. Each of us was in different SDGS, working to be a superhero.
When asked, how the experience was, one of my friends Bianca who was also a talent, a person who participated at the event, had to say “Being selected by SIM to represent them on a global event was really amazing. I got a rare opportunity to expose my capabilities in front of people from across the world, challenge myself, and become a better human being who could contribute more to our society and environment”.
The experience was indeed amazing. Little did I know I would meet such now-so-important-to-me people in these eight days? Kid you not, two of the talents even decided to get engaged! Crazy I know. To me, it was so much beyond just a learning and teaching experience. The connections and friendships I made were more important. Being brought up in Dubai, I sure did miss the little Mumbaikar in me and then coming to this platform and meeting many other Mumbaikars just UNLEASHED that side! From singing Bollywood songs on the bus with my fellow European colleagues to eating muruku with hot chai at 2 am, are among the many memories made at UNLEASH 2018, which I will cherish throughout my life.
But that was just a sneak peek of our first ever experience in the real world!
At some point, it got worse than university stress, but the skills I developed over these eight days, were way beyond just buzzwords like problem-solving and critical thinking. At this particular conference, not only were we expected to be vocal about our thoughts (that’s really just qualification criteria), but we were expected to articulate our idea into an implementation stage – or else it would really just be something drawn on boards or written in books. That was my challenge, I had so much to offer to my team but struggled to be able to bring ideas to life. That’s when the whole diversity of team composition came in to play. Luckily for us, we had an Innovation Manager on our team. She literally did this all her career, putting life to ideas to be able to implement them.
The issue in Rwanda
The team and I tackled the issue of the high dropout rates in Rwanda. This was a great opportunity for me to be able to talk to teachers back there. This genuinely pinched a string in my heart and made me realize that SDG 4 of quality education was just the right path for me to work on. Students dropping out of schools in that region was no more going to be limited to stats found on Google, it was now an issue for my team and me to eradicate completely. Many individuals like me came with no real questions to be answered, but after being exposed to several serious issues by their teammates like malnutrition in areas of Papua or even increased health concerns in Singapore amongst the elderly, it was a collaborated effort to dig out workable, sustainable solutions.
Being in Singapore for over two years, never did I know I would see the President up close giving a speech (oh yes, it was an A-list cast for the closing ceremony)! Of course, there was more to this – hearing business leaders like Piyush Gupta from DBS inspired young individuals to actually make something of ourselves, not just through self-development, but also by giving back to the community.
Eight days of madness, sleepless nights and timeless friendships – an experience of a lifetime of course, but here’s hoping for many more journeys like this one!