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In March 2023, the bustling city of Valencia, Spain, became a hub for e-learning innovation. It played host to the important IDOL  project meeting, held at the University of Valencia. Representatives from the European e-Learning Institute, Momentum, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, and FOLK University attended this key meeting.

The central focus of the meeting was the finalisation of the PR2 Toolkit, the result of collaborative efforts, this toolkit showcases the synergy of these esteemed institutions and their shared commitment to e-learning excellence.

Planning for the Hackathon Guide was another significant aspect of the meeting. A comprehensive workplan was outlined, setting the path for a resource aimed at fostering creativity and technical skills in the dynamic world of hackathons.

Not forgetting the Spanish charm, the partners took some time to immerse themselves in Valencia's vibrant culture. A tour of the Cultural Centre La Nau and a taste of delightful Spanish cuisine added a dash of cultural flavor to the professional meet.

In summary, the IDOL project meeting was a celebration of collaboration, innovation, and cultural exchange. It marked a milestone in the journey towards transforming the future of e-learning.

Social problems are complex, ill-defined, wicked problems. Finding effective ways to tackle and deal with them is often quite difficult. Because of that, organizations and practitioners recently started embracing design thinking as a preferred approach to address similar challenges. But what exactly is this design-driven approach, known with the name of “design thinking”?

Design Thinking: an overview
The term “design thinking” has gained momentum and popularity over the past decade. Although a unique definition is still missing, we can describe design thinking as a problem-solving process that brings design principles, methods and tools to fields afar from more traditional ones. As a matter of fact, design approaches have long been confined within the boundaries of architecture and engineering. However, such attitude turned potentially beneficial to other fields too, making design thinking a cross-industry, problem-solving methodology.

In its essence, design thinking is an iterative process that aims at “changing existing situations into preferred ones” (Simon, 1996). In her book “Designing for Growth”, Jeanne Liedtka describes design thinking as a four-step model corresponding to four basic questions:

  1. “What is?” phase, which explores current reality and seeks to gain a deep understanding of customers’ lives and struggles.
  2. “What if?” phase, which envisions opportunities and translates the insights collected into new possibilities to pursue.
  3. “What wows?” phase, during which the concepts previously developed are culled down to a manageable number. Here, designers create “low-fidelity” prototypes to rapidly test and improve their ideas.
  4. “What works?” phase, in which the product/service is actually launched and brought to the real world.

Design Thinking for social innovation
Now that we know what “design thinking” looks like, let’s go back to our starting point. As said, design thinking has been recently embraced to tackle social problems too. But why so? In an article written for Stanford Social Innovation Review, Tim Brown discussed the reasons why this approach can benefit the non-profit sector too.

For instance, DT tools such as journey mapping and field observation can provide practitioners with a faster, deeper and better understanding of specific issues people and communities are experiencing (“What is?” phase). Furthermore, design thinking relies on creativity as a generative force able to lead to disruptive solutions. In this sense, setting up interdisciplinary teams to brainstorm and envision wild, innovative ideas (“What if?” phase) can indeed help non-profit organizations avoid “restricting choices in favour of the obvious and the incremental “.

Also later phases of design thinking (“What wows?” and “What works?“) can bring significant benefits to social innovators. “Quick, cheap and dirty prototyping” can in fact solicit beneficiaries’ feedback early on, improving the overall problem-solving process. As a result, concrete action plans get conceived only for the best, validated ideas, which end up heading towards real-world implementation.

As we have seen, design thinking is a creative, problem-solving process originating from the application of design principles and tools afar from more traditional fields. In recent years, this methodology proved to be effective for both profit and non-profit organizations. As a matter of fact, design thinking allows social entrepreneurs and organizations gaining deeper understanding of social problems, unlocking innovative ideas and ultimately “creating better outcomes for organizations and the people they serve. “

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As the COVID-19 vaccine slowly makes its way across the world and we begin seeing a little light on the horizon, we need to think carefully about how we are going to emerge from these challenging times. This global event has slowed the world down, making it impossible for us to ignore the fractures and chasms in our systems, especially when it comes to the 1.2 billion youth in the world that have lost ground in their development.

We will be going through a global reset, and we should use this opportunity to engage youth as partners in rebuilding. It is time to not just hear their voices about the challenges they are facing, but also create an enabling environment for their leadership and contribution.

Unfortunately, we know that, in many low- and middle-income countries, youth are not as engaged as we would hope. The efforts to involve youth often result in tokenism. Youth are brought in after the fact to give a ceremonial blessing of a plan that was decided upon without them.

We heard words to this effect repeatedly from approximately 10,000 youth between 2015-2020. During this period, USAID’s YouthPower Learning and YouthPower2: Learning and Evaluation conducted 17 country and regional assessments, identifying opportunities to advance youth development so that youth can effectively contribute to development objectives. We found that, while it was something youth wanted, they seldom had a true opportunity to meaningfully engage. As an Ethiopian youth participant in a focus group discussion put it, “We are usually called by the government official to listen to what they have already decided, and [they] simply consider our participation a decoration.

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By Cassandra Jessee, Director and Senior Advisor, International Center for Research on Women

Jakarta. The famous quote of Indonesia’s founding father Soekarno on youth's power was repeatedly heard on the first day of the Y20 Summit, which saw participation from many youth delegates from across the globe.

Opening speeches were making references to Soekarno's "give me 1,000 elders, I will undoubtedly rip Semeru from its root. Give me 10 youths and I will undoubtedly shake the world" in a bid to show how powerful youth can be as agents of change.

A fitting quote as dozens of young people of different nationalities will discuss pressing matters related to youth employment, digital transformation, sustainable and livable planet, as well as diversity and inclusion.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi was among those who referenced one of Soekarno's famous quotes. The senior recited Soekarno's saying before the youth delegates as she kicked off the Y20 Summit at the Nusantara V building in Jakarta on Monday. According to Retno, the Y20 should promote the roles of youth as both agents of peace and change. The world is now home to 1.2 billion young people — all possess transformative capabilities that can provide immense contributions amidst global challenges.

“As future leaders, youth should take a bigger role in ensuring a peaceful, more inclusive, prosperous and sustainable future. In today's globalized and interconnected world, this can only take place by fostering dialogue, building bridges, and not building walls," Retno told the Y20 delegates.

"Bridges that are based on diversity, made through collaborations, fortified by inclusion. These are the streams that keep the river of peace running," Retno said.

As change agents, youth must think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions for the various challenges that the world is facing today.

"Youth must invest on issues that will determine the fate of tomorrow such as health, digital transformation, energy transition," Retno said.

At the gala dinner later that day, Co-Chair Y20 Indonesia 2022 Budy Sugandi also made another reference to Soekarno's speech. "President Soekarno said ten youths would be able to shake the world. This room has more than a hundred young people, so nothing is impossible if we unite and join hand in hand with each other to make a better future," Budy said at the gala dinner.

The Y20 summit discussions will result in a Communiqué, a document of public policy recommendations which the youth delegates will present to the G20 leaders.

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The Global Alliance for YOUth, in partnership with Nestlé, HCLTech, Microsoft and Publicis, has opened today the registration for its first hackathon, Code4YOUth. Powered by the global technology company HCLTech, the hackathon aims to promote digital inclusion, spark creativity, and support young people develop digital skills.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) there are currently 70 million young people unemployed around the world, and that number is still rising. "Young people are a source of inspiration and creativity. In a context of a digital revolution, it only makes sense to invite future generations to help us drive the development of innovative and inclusive solutions to achieve an equitable access to digital devices and the internet," said Laurent Freixe, Nestlé's CEO Zone Latin America and Chair of The Global Alliance for YOUth.

All hackathon participants will meet virtually and work collaboratively on solutions according to four different challenge tracks:

Participants will have a total of six weeks to develop a prototype and submit it to the jury panel. During the hackathon they will benefit from trainings and expert mentors from prominent universities, leading companies and start-ups, and international organizations, including IMD, the University of St. Gallen, Cambridge University, World Bank, Resilyou consultancy and NielsenIQ.

Winners will get the chance to share their ideas with top industry leaders, get the opportunity to go the annual technology conference Vivatech and to receive financial rewards from a prize pool of USD 25,000.

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