Making an impact that matters is a commitment and a promise…

UNLEASH brings together 1000 bright minds to develop solutions to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

On the last day of UNLEASH 2018, the energy in the room was palpable – not just because it was the closing party. After seven long days of little sleep, everyone was tired, but the teams were bonded tightly. The Dragon’s Den was the night before, and the winners were preparing to present their solutions at the closing ceremony.

You can immediately see the potential of the recent UNLEASH 2018 in Singapore. In collaboration with Deloitte and a number of other sponsors and in its second year, UNLEASH brings together 1000 bright young minds from different sectors, countries and backgrounds to develop new solutions to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

50 Deloitte professionals facilitated the SDG innovation workshops, guiding the talents through a unique innovation process from idea creation to prototyping, testing and finally presenting to a group of potential investors. All this in just five days!

I attended the closing ceremony – it ran for four hours, including musical numbers (kind of like the Academy Awards)! Some speakers were sponsors of UNLEASH, and each brought kernels of reflection and a strong perspective.

The President of Singapore Halimah Yacob, the first woman and Malay leader of Singapore, discussed the city’s long-standing commitment to sustainable development. Over 40 years, the most significant achievement has been to ensure that all residents have modern sanitation and hygiene facilities (and, when they say ‘green buildings’ here, they mean it literally).

Jose Ramos Horta, a former President of East Timor, a Nobel Laureate who was shot in an assassination attempt in 2008 was the most provocative speaker.  He wondered how many of the young people in the room would stay the course, and how many in 10 years have forgotten about their brothers and sisters?  He also wondered how small and fragile nation states like East Timor will be able to build SDG solutions without money – given the reduction in foreign aid budgets in most countries.

The other speaker that resonated with the room was Forrest Whitaker, Hollywood actor and also a UNESCO ambassador for peace.  In 2012 he started a charity that works with former child soldiers and their communities from Uganda Rwanda and South Sudan.  Apparently though, everyone just wanted to talk about Black Panther.  A softly spoken person, he kept us enthralled with a highly engrossing discussion of his experiences and the difficulties of building prosperous communities post-conflict.

Whitaker’s perspective – “that we all face conflicts of different kinds throughout our lives, and by doing our part individually, we can collectively advance our world towards peace; one community, one person, and one day at a time” resonated strongly – that we should all find our own way to make a contribution, that we can all make an impact; something that I fundamentally agree with.

I assumed UNLEASH would be another gathering of young and enthusiastic people who spend a couple of days together and come up with interesting ideas that would not really ’get legs’; similar to other types of events we’ve seen.

How UNLEASH is structured gives highly qualified teams the ultimate gift – the gift of time.  This time allowed the opportunity to undertake a full and detailed co-design process, facilitated by our own Deloitte professionals. The marketplace allowed the opportunity to present the solutions to potential investors. A number of last year’s solutions have already achieved production and will now be delivering impact.

The most successful solutions delivered at UNLEASH were pragmatic and met a specific need. For instance, the increasing temperatures caused by climate change in slums in India – a solar-powered evaporative cooler solution that is inexpensive, and can be owned and maintained by people who live in the neighborhood. This solution was judged the most ‘globally scalable’ and has the potential to change millions of lives.   

I was very pleased to be there to see the results of the energy and commitment by the talents, and the Deloitte facilitators. I hope that next year some of our New Zealand professionals might get the chance to be part of this outstanding experience.


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