In SS3, I took a test to see if I was left or right-brained. To my elementary eyes, the result of that quiz would be the truth from on high – a resolute word that would define the man to come as either analytic or artistic. Fast-forward to May 2019 when I was selected to be one of the participants of the 2019 edition of the Young Innovation Leaders (YIL) Fellowship after a rigorous, almost scary multi-stage application process. Right from the application process I realized there was more to life than my left-right brain test, there was something different about this programme, the application questions were different from what I was used to, they required such deep thinking I had to do some research on the best ways to approach the answers, my whole brain was pushed to its limit.
On the first day of the bootcamp I was warmly welcomed to the beautiful, serene environment and I instantly fell in love with the accommodation arrangement, in the days to follow I realized learning was much easier when you lived like a king. I had the opportunity to meet my teammates and other participants I had been conversing with virtually for the first time and it was exciting. The poolside hangout on that first night gave me a taste of the mind-blowing moments that were to come in the following days.
We were introduced to the management team who I would like to use this opportunity to appreciate their efforts in putting together such a wonderful platform for young people to develop into innovation leaders. Mr. Nnamdi Ifeagwu – a cool headed and very intelligent man who was always ready to assist us with any challenge we had, Mrs. Neta Hanien – who put in so much effort to ensure the bootcamp ran smoothly and connected us with our mentors, Mr. Eyal Halamish – well there are teachers and then there is Eyal, listening to him impact knowledge is so exciting you never want to stop, Dr. Obichi – the founder of the YIL fellowship, a proper life coach, a man of so much wisdom, a man every young African should dream to have as a mentor. As a young person, if you ever get to meet just one of these people you should feel lucky. I was with all four for a whole week so yes, I felt fulfilled. Thank you all for giving me this opportunity to tap from your wealth of wisdom through this great platform.
The next 4 days of the bootcamp were very educating, tasking and fun. We were taught several valuable business, creativity and innovation concepts by experts from different industries ranging from banking to entertainment, agriculture and consulting. Representatives from world renowned organizations like Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) were in attendance, and even the wife of the Israeli ambassador to Nigeria was also present to impact knowledge. There was just this feeling of greatness I felt being around so many important people.
My most memorable moments from the bootcamp were the 3MT presentations by the participants every morning, team activities on our capstone projects, networking with participants and making new friends, the fellowship hangout at the poolside every night and listening to several hilarious conversations that came up in the cafeteria. Reliving all these memories in my head makes me wish I never had to leave the bootcamp, right now I don’t feel like I am participating in a fellowship, I feel like I am part of a great family.
In summary, my experience at the bootcamp can best be characterized as a week of learning—learning in fun, innovative ways through research and interacting with others. My knowledge about creativity and innovation grew immensely and I have gained many valuable skills through my work in my team’s capstone project – Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). In addition, I developed crucial communication and collaboration skills by working closely with my teammates and the YIL staff and by brainstorming with young bright minds from different walks of life.
As a budding social entrepreneur, the lessons I learned at the bootcamp have expanded my conception of innovation and its relation to providing effective solutions to social and economic challenges faced by the developing world. I was given a framework to understand the role of young people like me in achieving The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals as well as how innovative thinking and social enterprises can address the root of the problems.
This fellowship opportunity provides meaningful experiences not only to those who are interested in learning how to think creatively and drive innovation, but also to those that are passionate about making sustainable impacts where it matters most. A new generation of young leaders is emerging in Africa through the YIL platform and we are determined to make this continent great. As Dr. Obichi constantly reminds us, we have been given everything we need to succeed in our capstone projects, we cannot fail!
TAIWO TEMILOLUWA JOHN, YIL Participant, 2019