In August 2017, UNLEASH innovation lab gathered 1,000 people from 129 countries to develop solutions for the most pressing U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For the purposes of the event, the SDGs were condensed down to seven major themes to focus on: food; energy; water; sustainable production and consumption; education, information, and communications technology (ICT); urban sustainability; and health. The group, comprised of participants aged 20 to 35 years old from across the world, met outside the center of Copenhagen, Denmark, for seven days and developed 199 proposed solutions.
The event included remarks from Danish community leaders such as Flemming Besenbacher, Chairman of UNLEASH and the Carlsberg group, and Camilia Brückner, Director of U.N. Development Program’s Nordic Representation Office, as well as tours of sustainable companies in Copenhagen, all focused on different elements of the SDGs.
Participants spent five days at folk high schools across the country, divided by theme. The Danish Folk High Schools are centers of lifelong learning where students can focus on topics left out of many standard school settings. Ry Folkskole, for example, emphasizes music and theatre and hosted more than 70 individuals from the food theme for the week. Ole Toftdahl Andersen, the principal, offered open lake access and an emphasis on work-life balance.
At Ry, each morning begins with an assembly; a time to sing, learn about music theory and to think about nothing, as Ole told the students. For the UNLEASH participants, this included lectures on sustainability in the face of global problems or family histories that contribute to current contexts. Group meetings and further business plan development followed immediately after each gathering.
In the following four days at the folk high schools, new teams were formed to participate in rounds of problem framing to formulate solutions to the challenges posed by the SDGs. Each day allowed time for creation, meetings with experts and facilitators, and thoughtfully prepared meals. By the end of the week, each team had prepared a three-minute pitch that was refined during peer feedback sessions. Each of the 1,000 talents reconvened in Aarhus to further clarify pitches, business proposals, and presentations for the following day.
Participants, mentors, experts, and seven different panels of judges gathered to decide which two solutions from each theme would make it to UNLEASH’s own rendition of Shark Tank later that evening. One ultimate winning solution from each theme was picked that night and further awards were given out the final day at a ceremony attended by Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Salman Khan, Ashton Kutcher, Trisha Shetty, founder of SheSays, and more.
UNLEASH plans to support all 199 of the developed solutions as time goes on. The gold award winner within the food theme is Doti Gold, an organization that is providing Nigerian farmers black soldier fly larvae harvesting boxes. They hope this will sustainably transform farm gate food waste into nutritious inputs, fertilizer and feed, to increase farmer incomes and and ensure adequate food supply.
More about the winning solutions from all the themes can be found here.