by Mahmoud Javombo, who currently leads the Innovation Challenges program in Sierra Leone.
Innovate Salone might be a strange name for people who’ve never been to Sierra Leone, but for nationals, it embodies the creative spirit of our country. Innovate Salone is a Global Minimum initiative which encourages youth to design solutions to challenges in their communities, rather than sit on the sidelines as passive participants.
Two years ago, I joined Innovate Salone as a volunteer to help run the project. Two years in, it is still one of the best choices I’ve made to support the national development of my country. In its inaugural year, more than three hundred students applied in teams of 3-5 to solve a problem within their community. The following year, the number of applicants almost doubled, illustrating the passion of youth to apply science, engineering, design and the arts to local problems. When our volunteers and alumni are on the radio and TV sharing their experiences, they serve as an inspiration to others.
Over the last two years, Innovate Salone has worked with schools in urban areas of the western region of the country, but not directly with schools in the rural areas. These schools were reached via radio and other means with no face to face contact. This year, we hope to launch the competition in the remotest areas of Sierra Leone. GMin volunteers have committed themselves to discovering at least 50 quality applications from each area- western urban, western rural, South, East and the North. As the InChallenge competition continues to pick up momentum in neighborhood after neighborhood, I’ve noticed that it has not only ignited youth driven change, but empowered communities to transition away from heavily depending on government to solve their problems. “Gone are the days when we can wait for the government to solve our problems, and now is the time that we can identify our problems and have us solve it ourselves”, professed one of our 2012 alumni during the Young Innovators celebration. As youth continue to realize the power of self-efficacy and innovation, Sierra Leone will develop economically, socially and foster a great sense of national pride.