Spending a day with the leaders of today and tomorrow

By Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs, Microsoft

Last weekend I had the privilege to spend a lot of time with close to a hundred young leaders at our first Innovate4Good @Microsoft event. They spent all day Saturday brainstorming how they can collectively use their talents, know-how and experience to bring about positive change in the world and in doing so also create a better future for themselves. The issues they discussed and tackled were as diverse as their backgrounds and life experiences, and the energy, passion and creativity was incredible.


Throughout the day attendees were encouraged to share what they want to change

The day started out by getting everyone to provide their perspective on a range of issues that they selected. The idea was to either agree or disagree with a statement or stand somewhere in the middle. The issues ranged from ‘Internet should be a basic human right’ to ‘eating meat is murder’, ‘juvenile offenders deserve to be sentenced to life without parole’ and ‘employers should be allowed to ask for a Facebook password’. The discussions that followed in defense of their position on an issue were wide and varied. This set the stage for an open and honest dialogue that was consistent throughout the day as all the participants knew their voices, opinions and ideas would be heard without judgment.

There was a fascinating session where the group created a ‘map of their collective conscience’. Someone described it as a mosh pit of ideas from which they created a ‘need and opportunity’ map. This included issues that ranged from energy, to education, Internet media, human rights, sex, college education, equality, and poverty. The challenge was how could you take all of these ideas and issues and distill them into actionable ideas.

To achieve this, there was a solution brainstorming session where everyone took the ideas that had been developed and started discussing how they could turn these into possible solutions. As part of the design for action session a group was created for each idea and they were asked to develop 1) the concrete next steps; 2) determine how people can get involved, participate, or support; and 3) and how can Microsoft help them take the next steps.

Some of the creative ideas included: utilizing mobile devices to monitor health from TB detection to monitoring pregnancy; getting technology access to over 7 million kids with no access to the Internet; creating an evaluation system for integrity in politics; partnering with cities and companies to reduce e-waste; and an innovate4good in the hood event.

In the midst of this creative problem solving we also had a panel discussion where a number of the attendees shared their experience in bringing ideas to life and more importantly how everyone has the opportunity to be part of a global movement for positive change and how important it is that they become the voice to bring about that change.

imageYou can see more photos from the event on our SkyDrive photo album

This was a lot to accomplish in a day and the important next steps is to support the development of an engaged community of these leaders who will continue this conversation and continue to refine their ideas.

For me spending the day with these smart, engaged people was a very humbling experience. There’s no doubt the present and the future is in good hands if we can continue to support these young leaders and give them the opportunity to make a difference.

As we closed the day I left them with these thoughts to consider:

  1. Continue to be unreasonable in your quest
  2. Continue to be a learner
  3. You will fail so do not give up use failure to succeed
  4. You must translate personal passion to compassion to have societal impact

I am looking forward to learning more from our other Innovate4good events.



A storyboard drawn throughout the day that captured the perspectives, ideas and actions of the attendees.

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