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Team members at INSPIRE

Millennials are ready to change the world. And we’re helping.

When the United Nations adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 a set of massive challenges was laid down to the world (including ending poverty, reaching zero hunger and tackling inequality).

Together, they could not be more important. But how on Earth can they be achieved?

Enter UNLEASH – a nine-day event billed as the “world’s largest innovation lab” that is bringing the problem-solving creativity of some of the world’s most brilliant young people to bear on the kid of complex issues that may once have seemed intractable.

And ThinkPlace is thrilled to be part of a group of world-leading organisations helping to facilitate this unique event.

UNLEASH is a global initiative that brings together 1000 millennial “talents” (entreprenuers, intraprenuers, academics, tech experts and more) each year to come up with new ideas and methods aimed at helping to realise the Sustainable Development Goals.

Jim Scully at INSPIRE

The first such event was held last year in Denmark. This year’s is taking place in Singapore – where ThinkPlace has deep roots, including a permanent design studio that is a key part of our global network.

Participants are drawn from across 108 nations and most are aged between 18 and 25. They represent a demographic (Millennials) often derided as self-obsessed, captured by a culture of Instagram and selfies. But the stereotype of self-absorbed digital natives has been blown away by the participants at this event.

Brilliant, socially-engaged and highly motivated minds are everywhere, ThinkPlace New Zealand’s Jim Scully says.

“At the airport, even before I got here – I met an innovative young Chinese guy who has started up several tech companies, an Israeli guy who is developing taliored pro-biotics, a creative Dutch woman who is developing wearable technology clothing, and a wonderful person from Google  advancing our understanding of ageing amongst other topics .”

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Daniel Silkstone's profile'
Daniel Silkstone
Jim Scully's profile'
Jim Scully
Jim Scully at INSPIRE
ThinkPlace designers, including Jim Scully, were part of a team of 100 facilitators leading the event.

ThinkPlace is represented by designers from our Wellington, Auckland and Singapore studios, who are working as facilitators – part of a crew of 100 design experts who are responsible for nurturing and supporting 1000 brilliant young 'talents' as they tackle the world’s most complex problems.

A ThinkPlace team comprising Scully, Andy Hue, D’Arcy Dalzell and Calvin Tan – from Singapore and New Zealand has been busy working with these motivated young people to move the dial on the SDGs.

“We are building their design thinking capability as well as solving problems, so that the attendees come away with lasting capability for their communities and powerful connections to create ripple of impact around our world,” Scully says.

“We are energised by the like-minded and passionate people we’ve met here. And we have found some amazing new partners in pursuing positive change at scale!”

This year, groups are seeking to create innovation responses across eight of the 17 goals:  Zero Hunger, Health, Education, Water & Sanitation, Energy, Sustainable Cities, Responsible Supply Chain & Consumption, and Climate Action.

Successful teams can win funding from investors to develop their ideas into real world solutions and businesses.

Scully, who is a founder of ThinkPlace’s New Zealand studios, is working with a group based around SDG 2 (Zero Hunger).

“My two teams are working on making invisible Tanzanian rural enterpreneurial farmers visible and viable to investors, and turning a weedy shrub in Sahel, Niger with proven health potential and is often cleared out into a desirable health product,” he says.

“This is about recognising that we can’t change the world alone. Partnerships and alignments of aspirations are critical.”

Dalzell, a Design Catalyst in ThinkPlace’s Wellington studio, is working with groups on a different challenge: developing and prototyping ideas to address affordable and sustainable housing in communities and cities around the world.

''One team is focusing on the problem that refugees often end up living for decades in camps that are designed for crisis and emergency purposes - not long-term,'' she says.

''A person at this time also needs a sense of belonging and community. The teams and the event have been really inspiring.”