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SDG Innovation Challenge 2023 – Impact Report

The SDG Innovation Challenge continues to grow and evolve, resonating with young Africans around social innovation and action across the continent. The SDG Innovation Challenge serves as a dynamic platform for young people to cooperate, network, and generate inventive solution concepts that tackle evolving challenges in their communities, advocating for sustainable development globally.

Through the yearly involvement of dedicated African youth in the 48-hour virtual collaborative ideation space, participants unite based on their common interest, focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These co-creators proceed to establish cross-disciplinary teams to craft inventive concepts for solution-oriented approaches that evolve into local initiatives, promoting the advancement of the SDGs.

This year’s challenge occurred from the 21st to the 23rd of September 2023. Under the theme, ‘Mobilizing African Youth for Sustainable Impact, participants were guided with the Team, Problem, Solution (TPS) Framework which allows teams to first focus on building a dream team, equal ideation time is allowed for proper development of problem statement as well as solution design. Traditionally each edition of the SDG Innovation Challenge hosts two iterations consecutively but it all changed in this edition with one single mega event of 500+ participants in 92 teams. Each solution idea covered one of the following categories: Energy & Carbon Reduction, Health & Wellbeing, Food & Nutrition (Agriculture), Education, and Water & Sanitation. 

The SDG Innovation Challenge 2023 focused on Systems Change, Social Innovation, and Global Citizenship as foundational guidelines as well as emerging themes on Climate Action and grassroots mobilization for further discussion. This report provides an overview of the event, sharing its key statistics, successes and challenges, key insights, improvements, and lessons learned compared to previous editions of the SDG Innovation Challenge. This year, the organizers made sure to socialize the solutions emerging from the hackathon through the People’s Choice Contest from 25th September to 1st October 2023 where the top ideas from the contest were submitted to an independent panel of Judges for assessment and awarded during our Award Ceremony on 14th October 2023.

Embracing SDG 17 (Partnership for the Goals), the fourth edition of the SDG Innovation Challenge coincided with the Global Goals Week, an annual week of action, awareness, and accountability for the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations Foundation. Hence, we joined hands with over 150 global partners to mobilize, demanding urgency to spotlight focus on the global goals and supercharge solutions for people and the planet.  Additionally, the SDG Innovation Challenge 2023 received support from its collaborative partners mainly, TechFarm Hub, Youth Advocates Ghana, Sense Innovation Management, and Innovent Labs Africa.

 

The participants comprised individuals primarily aged between 18 and 35, including tertiary-level students, young professionals, entrepreneurs, and innovators. These participants were actively involved in a wide range of endeavors, including existing projects, start-ups, and community organizations, spanning diverse industries dedicated to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, 65 participants developed new ideas, enrolled participants originated from 40 nations out of the 54 across the African continent, with the highest from the following countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Cameroon, South Africa, Uganda, and Kenya. In terms of professional diversity – 89 participants are self-employed, 167 working professionals, and 274 students. Below is an overview of the immediate impact numbers of the SDG Innovation Challenge 2023:

  • 700 group registrations comprising 2000 personal registrations. The number of group registrations exceeded the previous year by 200 applications
  • 530 young African SDG practitioners gathered in 100 groups were selected to participate in this 48-hour virtual ideation marathon.
  • 232 participants (41 female; 43 male) working in 46 teams completed the SDG Innovation challenge successfully.
  •  Successful submission of Video pitches qualified 46 teams and their solutions to move on to the next stage
  • The 46 solution ideas were shortlisted to 15 via the People’s Choice contest over 7 days generating 15,000 votes across the continent ready for further review.
  • An independent panel of  judges comprising 30 leading experts on Sustainable Development Goals, Youth Empowerment, and Social Entrepreneurship assessed the final 15 solution ideas  based on Degree of Innovativeness, Implementation Potential, Impact Potential, Transformative Potential, Team Diversity, and Submission Quality

 

INNOVATION SUPPORT MATERIAL

To enhance the process and foster a conducive learning atmosphere for all participants, a range of support materials was employed. These included instructional videos that introduced participants to essential methodologies and recommended tools for each stage of the event. These instructional videos, along with accompanying worksheets were made available throughout the event to assist participants in navigating their innovation journey during the intensive 48-hour virtual marathon. Furthermore, Advisory Hours allowed participants to receive prompt feedback and personalized guidance as they worked on refining their project ideas. The impulse videos are also made available on YouTube at the beginning of the event here.

INCENTIVES AND AWARD PACKAGES

The participants of the 6 winning teams will be considered for Award-Winning Packages, which include:

  • Cash Prizes up to 1750 USD in total
  • Social Media Showcase
  • Startup Incubation Support
  • Business Development Advisory
  • One-year free subscription to the SENSE platforms
  • Pro-bono Mentorship
  • Personalized and Team Award Certificate

WINNING TEAMS

Ultimately six amazing innovation teams emerged winners in their respective categories:

Team Hydro Allies – Winner Across Categories – A rain harvesting, and water filtration project designed to provide clean water, employment and mitigate drought, and curb flooding. This project is addressing SDGs 3, 6, 7, and 13 and can address pressing climatic challenges while promoting general well-being, youth inclusion, and livelihoods.

Team Sustainable VisionariesWinner, Transformative Potential Category – This project addresses the critical issue of limited climate change and sustainability education in underserved African communities. It contributes to quality education by incorporating climate change and sustainability education into the school program, equips them to address environmental challenges, and contributes to climate resilience.

Team Smart Farm Winner, Degree of Innovativeness Category – This project idea aims to revolutionize agriculture with sustainable technology solutions, including its GreenDryer (an automated biomass-solar assisted dryer), to reduce post-harvest losses and ensure food security.

Team GEFJOJ Winner, Implementation Potential Category – An innovative project that aims to develop cost-effective and reliable infant warmers to reduce infant mortality in underserved regions. It provides an affordable, reliable solution to prevent hypothermia and incorporates a sustainable power source to overcome the challenges posed by unreliable electricity supply in low-resource settings.

Team Primoris Cantavit Winner, Impact Potential Category – This project uses AI to tackle unemployment by up-skilling the youth and also optimizing small and medium enterprises. AI technologies in businesses can drive innovation, increase productivity, and improve competitiveness on a global scale.

Team Learn2Lead Winner, Team Diversity Category – This project idea aims to enhance access to higher education through a virtual examination prep kit and mentorship. It addresses the poor transition rates of Nigerian high school graduates into universities, specifically focusing on the challenges faced by high school leavers who are unable to secure admission due to inadequate access to preparatory resources for admission examinations.

MENTORING & INCUBATION

All 6 winning teams including other super amazing teams will undergo 6 months of mentoring and incubation led by our Lead Facilitating Organisation SENSE Innovation Management supported by the Melton Foundation, TechFarm Hub, Innovent Labs, Mpact Lane Consult, and other freelance experts. The mentoring and incubation program will begin in Late November 2023 and conclude in early April 2024 covering topics such as Stakeholder Mapping, Business Model Development, Prototyping and Testing, Design Thinking, Resilience and Managing Failure, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Intellectual Property Management, Business Formation Process and Pitch Development.

CONCLUSION & OUTLOOK

The fourth iteration of the SDG Innovation Challenge reaffirmed the premise established during the prior editions which is the importance of uniting young talent to address practical challenges related to the SDGs. From the onset, the SDG Innovation Challenge was conceived as more than a mere event. With this iteration, we seized the opportunity to enhance and solidify the initial vision of the initiative’s growth and impact trajectory. This progress was made possible through the substantial pro-bono support extended by our invaluable collaborators and partners.

In 2024, we are aiming to secure institutional support and funding to sustain the SDG Innovation Challenge for the future. All funds raised will go towards establishing a multi-stakeholder SDG Innovation Fund to offer financial support to novel, disruptive and deserving innovations. The dream is to be able to encompass 10,000 youth-led solution ideas and make those ideas available online for anyone else to seek inspiration and/or to develop further.

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