Invest in the youth of today to create the leaders of tomorrow” is a quote I have always believed in. I suppose it is largely because, at 23, I still consider myself a member of today’s youth. And, to be honest, it would be awesome to develop into a leader of tomorrow, sometime soon!
What does a “leader of tomorrow” even look like? Big, small, tall, short? Judging by history, probably male?
No, absolutely not.
Young women and girls around the world are challenging convention. Young women and girls around the world are forming a movement. Young women and girls around the world are our “leaders of tomorrow.” They are getting there through the support of organisations such as Acorn Aspirations, who host an array of leadership programmes and hackathons* for girls in school from 12–18 years old. And my gosh they’re a force to be reckoned with.
I have studied an MSc Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Management degree from a well-respected business school. It was fun, it was tough and it was expensive. Having volunteered as a mentor at AcornAspirations’ all-girl hackathon on Saturday 24th September, I can confidently tell you that what these girls were being taught and exposed to, was far superior to any class I attended in my Masters. That is saying something. Not only are these girls experiencing practical content that Universities aren’t offering, they are doing so at such a young age. When you aren’t carrying the “baggage of life” the results, ideas and progress are literally infinite; and these girls proved just that.
After two days of intensive problem defining, idea generation, problem solving, hypothesis testing, solution pivoting, discussion, debate and food(!) 7 teams of girls — whom of which were strangers a mere 48 hours prior — presented their tech solutions to a panel of judges; industry experts, investors, mentors, coaches and co-founders. This alone, is no mean feat. How many times have you sat through a presentation from an experienced professional that, quite frankly, well and truly sucked?
The proposed solutions were astoundingly creative. Questions and criticisms were met in a mature and amicable manner. Potential loopholes had been tested and backed-up with market research. Teams shared the load of presenting, often speaking the judges through their development journey. The list goes on and on. As each team presented, I was running through a mental checklist that Venture Capitalists typically look for, and I was amazed at what I was experiencing. Teamwork? Check. Market demand? Check. Innovative solution? Check.
Check, check, check.
Acorn Aspirations is comprehensively serving a niche and a gap in our education system. The rates at which these girls developed left me gobsmacked. The relevance of the practical applied teachings made me question my Masters qualification. And the solutions were so well developed that they could easily giving the app stores’ most popular apps a run for their money.
These are young girls. These are, undoubtedly, the leaders of tomorrow.
*”What is a hackathon” I hear you say. The word is a combination of “Hack” and “Marathon”, and is an event that often lasts several days, in which large numbers of people meet to engage in (typically) collaborative computer programming activities. Sounds like fun, particularly as a marketable solution is built within a matter of hours after identifying the problem. The aim of a hackathon is to solve problems in creative, innovative and new ways, by iterating a series of tests to subsequently inform development of a proposed solution. Easy right?
- Elliott Denham
Adventure-enthusiast and happy global-nomad; formally Business Growth Executive @ GrowthEnabler