The Global Centre for Youth Employment, together with the Ford Foundation and 1776 hosted a 2-day Ideathon to source, co-design, and invest in innovative, collective impact solutions to youth employment.  Four Atlas Corps fellows ( Beltina, Imran , Abdulahi and I ), were invited to be youth mentors on June 15-16.It was such an honor to be part of this Hackathon -like event which had amazing ideas and opportunities.

Everything was set to go as folks were preparing their pitches in front of the mirror, the Korean Taco truck was revving its engine, and the esteem “Sharks” were also reviewing the written summaries of the ideas and generating questions. Atlas Corps fellows were also getting ready to mentor for groups with their ideas.

Just to give you a short background of what I am talking about.

Global Center for Youth Employment established a robust youth engagement strategy for the Ideathon to improve the vetting and selection of ideas by including the perspective of young people with lived experience and broader insight of the challenges of employment for the current youth generation; and improve the co-creation of ideas by drawing on the insight and creativity of young people and by being responsive to youth feedback. Restless Development, where Douglas (Atlas Corps Fellow C21) served, was leading the youth engagement approach for this Ideathon. Their efforts in partnership with RTI  included: vetting all of the pitched ideas with a youth review group of six Youth Think Tank members in East and Southern Africa; recruiting, training, and supporting six youth participants in the Ideathon — one per idea team and one roving support person and judging panel participant.

On the first day, the participants were able to do their pitches and 16 ideas that addressed opportunities for youth employment were presented. These ideas were from representatives of organizations across Africa, Europe and United States of America. They were; Change BoothsCity ExpeditionsEducation for Employment (efe)TEN Youth Mentoring Tool,Generation,GRIDHarambee Youth Employment Accelerator, The Youth Systems Collaborative, Lynk, MAFITAMaking Cents InternationalMicroMentor; RebelBase,Save the Children– USA, EVOKE, and World Merit.

I mentored team Lynk and the results were amazing. Lynk provides a digital platform that is designed to address the gaps between households and informal workers by offering a network of professionals that grows and improves over time. Its mission is to envision a world in which everyone can enjoy job security, fair wages, a safe work environment, and the opportunity for career growth.

Even though the ideathon was not viewed as as a competition with winners and losers because all the 16 organizations that pitched ideas would  gain great exposure for their efforts to multiple funders and a broad network of youth employment organizations, Lynk still proved to have the best idea . The  judging panel , Ford Foundation and RTI staff announced the top two ideas at the end of Day 2, and these teams were going to get support for viable ideas which included a catalytic grant (likely somewhere between $25,000 and $75,000, depending on need) and further idea development support from Center staff and Center members through periodic meetings and check-ins. Finally, through a new partnership with the Center, the Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (RWI) in Germany (co-authors of theseminal meta-study on youth employment programs) will provide advice and possible supporting to the finalists on how to approach rigorous evaluation of their ideas. The Center expects to support and help grow the ideas over the coming 1-2 year period, depending on need and resources.

Clearly, this was an opportunity I would never have thought of being part of. For me, it was a space of being part of addressing the issues of youth employment, networking and representing Atlas Corps. This is being part of the change process and the journey continues.

The Center is open to new members. If interested, please email Peter Joyce ( and Eric Johnson ( for more information. The Center website is RTI International is the primary funder of the Global Center for Youth Employment, but the Center is increasingly supported by external funders and by the efforts of its member base. This Ideathon was co-financed by the Ford Foundation, and put on in partnership with 1776, Restless Development, and the MasterCard Foundation supported Youth Think Tank. A working group made up of Accenture, Education for Employment, Educate!, Acceleration Group, Swiss Contact, and RTI created the plan and process for this Ideathon.

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