12. Jun 2018

At UNLEASH, youth pitch new ways to achieve Sustainable Development Goals

Gwendolyn Carleton
Health teams lead the way, taking home a number of awards - next step, funding and rollout.
An idea for safe, affordable fitness classes for Indian women was among UNLEASH 2018’s big winners.
More than 60% of adults in Egypt are overweight, and half of those qualify as obese. In Myanmar, the highest rate of death for those 15-29 is roadside accidents. In the Philippines, more than 7 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B, resulting in an astonishingly high cancer rate. In many parts of India, young women lack opportunities and lack safe spaces for exercise.
These health problems pose incredible challenges to the populations of their respective countries. The good news is that each of them is being addressed by young thought leaders from around the planet.
These young leaders were in Singapore from May 30-June 6 for the second UNLEASH Innovation Lab. An event convening 1,000 youth from more than 100 countries, UNLEASH organises the world's most intractable challenges into different tracks, each track corresponding to a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). The World Diabetes Foundation and the Novo Nordisk Foundation sponsored the Health Track of this year’s Innovation Lab to enhance participation of youth in finding innovative solutions, especially related to the rising burden of NCDs.
The talents were invited for a five-day innovation lab facilitated by experts from Deloitte and other organisations, including the WDF. The Innovation Lab was held at the Singapore universities NUS and NTU, where participants gained inspiration from presentations and cutting-edge research.
In just a few days, the Health Track teams developed ideas to address the problems in Egypt, Myanmar, the Philippines, India and other locales, and presented them to experts gathered for the event. They also shared their ideas with the public at Ecosperity, an annual sustainability-focused conference taking place simultaneously in Singapore. 
Winning idea
Two of the Health Track teams were among the event’s big winners. A group with the playful name ‘Spice Girlz’ received the Gender Equality award for its serious solution to the problem of limited opportunities for physical activity for young Indian women. 
Their solution: ADYA (‘power’), a social franchise run by women, for women, providing affordable, convenient fitness classes using a train-the-trainer model and leveraging unused infrastructure in Chennai. The project would improve the health of young, urban Indian women and decrease their risk of developing NCDs while simultaneously creating employment opportunities for women.
The Most Inclusive Solution award went to 123+, another Health Track team, which presented a proposal for rallying the critical mass needed to legalize homosexuality in the 72 countries where it is currently illegal.
Other Health Track teams and their proposals include:
* Galactron - a team looking to create a sustainable platform promoting obesity awareness and prevention in Egypt, particularly among undereducated adults.
* Pacan – a team led by a Burmese medical doctor that is creating a state-of-the-art emergency-response plan to better inform villagers of how to provide an effective first response to such accidents. 
* Go Viral! – a team focused on healthier babies in the Philippines, where a major source of new infections is from mother-to-child transmissions during birth. Their plan to fight such transmissions involves a chatbot and machine learning.
1,400 local and international stakeholders attended UNLEASH 2018, including President of Singapore Mdm Halimah Yacob; Nobel Peace Prize laureate José Ramos-Horta; Oscar-winning actor and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation Forest Whitaker; CEO of DBS Bank Piyush Gupta; and UNDP Innovation Champion Sophia the Robot.
Next steps for the UNLEASH teams are to partner with individuals, companies, NGOs, government agencies, investors and foundations to bring their ideas to life. UNLEASH is supporting this effort via online hubs, and a venture fund setup which can ensure financial backing of the most transformative and viable ideas. 
See the UNLEASH Solution Catalogue for details (passwords available upon request.)