By Rodrigo J. Santos
Editor’s note: We’re delighted to share an independent perspective of the Innovate4Good@Microsoft event that took place in Seattle at the weekend. It comes from Rodrigo Santos who is one of the young leaders who attended the event. This was originally posted in the Innovate4Good online community and Rodrigo kindly agreed to let us share it here. Rodrigo is currently studying at the University of Southern California. His website is here.
If I had to describe what happened at Innovate4Good@Microsoft in one word, I'd say "inspiring." The hours spent inside of that room were priceless, and the collective brain power at work was immeasurable. Let me share with you what happened from the beginning. When I got the email with the invitation from Akhtar, I was surprised at how little it said about the event other than creative minds coming together to tackle the problems of their communities through technology. Intrigued, I signed up and patiently waited for the day to come. After all, flight and room expenses were both covered, so I had nothing to lose. Before I knew it, I was on a plane to Seattle.
The reception on Friday night was just the beginning. I was asked, among 11 others out of 100 people to be the facilitator for the brainstorming sessions that would occur the next day. I was then presented with an overview of the agenda, but needless to say, it wasn't "fully disclosed," which made our expectations jump to the roof. The Microsoft store where the reception took place was fully equipped with the latest tech, and everywhere you looked people were playing Kinect games, including the new Star Wars. As we networked and talked to each other, I realized what was going on: people from all walks of life, ages ranging 14-30, with different backgrounds, careers and interests were summoned in one place to produce a greater impact in the activities they were already a part of in their communities. Only then I realized why we were selected: we each produced positive change in our communities, and Innovate4Good wanted to help us amplify that.
Saturday began with a quick registration process, a hearty breakfast and a PEZ dispenser after my own image (thanks to MakerBot industries). Once we gathered in the room, Gunner from Aspiration unfolded our schedule. Comprised of 3 parts, our day consisted of discussing controversial issues where taking a stand, recognizing major problems within our communities and highlighting steps to address these issues would culminate into people taking action for what they believed in. As I talked and listened to each story, I realized how many young people are making their marks in the world, changing it for good. From providing access to technology for lower income students to literacy movements and after school programs, high school and college students, as well as Microsoft employees and workers in the healthcare, education and other industries are successfully tackling these issues and making the change many of us want to see but only a few want to be a part of.
As the day progressed, we generated ideas that addressed many problematic areas that are similar in every community, and some people finally began to take a firm stand. In particular, I didn't have a strong stand on any given problem that our community in Los Angeles was facing, but after hearing how 1 person implemented an after school program, which resulted in a decreased crime rate of over 20% in just a month and then others who defied the world through persistence and as a result changed the fate of many lives, it got me thinking, and thinking, until I realized how much was given to me, and how little I was giving back.
This wake-up call created my Senior project idea, which I will be using to creatively teach middle school kids, especially schools in lower income areas how to code. It is an interesting twist to what's already out there, and I can't wait to get started. In doing this, I hope to give kids the chance I never had: to get a head-start on writing code and become the change-makers that our world needs.
So what exactly happened, other than my "inner transformation" for a greater cause?
- People who are doing good work in their communities shared their stories and inflamed others on doing the same in theirs.
- Microsoft and other companies created a platform where these issues can be discussed freely and worked on collaboratively so that no matter how big the challenge, innovators nationwide can work together and make it happen
- Great alliances were formed, as well as contacts from other industries, including venture capitalists and other entrepreneurs who are looking to invest in ideas that result into positive change
This was a win-win for me and I'm pretty sure anyone who went to this event would say the same thing. I'm glad I was there. Now I'd like to leave you with the quote that got me... and got me good. It said:
"We can be the voice to bring about change in a global movement"
Are you ready? Then Join In!
More information about Innovate4Good: