“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”- Margaret Mead
On March 3rd & 4th, the Pond-Deshpande Centre Student Ambassadors hosted their annual YES Atlantic event. YES Atlantic is a 2-day summit that brings together youth from across the Atlantic region to engage with their peers, mentors, and the entrepreneurial community while tackling some of the complex social and economic problems through an entrepreneurial lens. Originally inspired by an entrepreneurial trip to Boston, Student Ambassadors created the summit to share the inspiration and knowledge they’d found with young people in their own community.
YES Atlantic had over 300 participants who attended the event on Day 1, ranging from high school students to business leaders, and inspired them to say YES! YES to making impact, YES to taking a seat at the table and YES to making the shift from being an opportunity seeker to an opportunity creator.
The theme of the summit focused on “People, Planet & Profit” and the content was built to showcase how important these concepts are for anyone interested in starting a business/initiative. Attendees engaged in interactive workshops and compelling panels that motivated them to be creative in their thinking, sustainable in their approach, social in any industry and to get back in touch with their personal purpose or passion. Kokota: The Islet of Hope documentary was screened at the event to demonstrate the gravity of the current environmental conditions of our world and to show an example of how collaboration coupled together with out-of-the-box thinking can help reverse the effects.
With a high number of high school students in attendance at the event, it was important to demonstrate that you can’t put an age on wanting to make a change. Kaiya Hemmings, a 7 year old entrepreneur from Saint John, NB reminded us of this fact as the founder of Heart Fun. Heart Fun is a t-shirt and video initiative focused on spreading love and inclusion, Kaiya reminded us how important it is to be an upstander, to be kind to each other and to have a loving day everyday. It was encouraging to see high school students twice her age approach her to share how much she’d inspired them with her desire to be a changemaker. This is just one of the segments of the event that left a spark in the hearts and minds of all our attendees.
This year was a year of firsts at the YES Atlantic conference. Eight local NB entrepreneurs were featured at the first ever YES pop up shop and participants were exposed to a mini sprint based on social innovation lab methodology, hosted by NouLab at the first Day of Action held on Day 2.
The Day of Action kicked off by asking participants with ideas or projects they wanted to take to action, to stand and pitch their idea to the rest of the group. In a very short time, 10 participants pitched ideas to an audience that was eager to help. The ideas ranged from services that provide an informational roadmap to start-ups, to a podcast designed to share impactful stories that challenge the negative narrative plaguing the Atlantic region. The process brought the participants through a framework of identifying the problem they wanted to solve, identifying the user they were solving the problem for, identifying their next steps and biggest obstacles, while learning about prototyping possible solutions with users to get feedback and developing solutions through iteration and feedback learning.
Those without ideas to pitch were encouraged to use their expertise to provide feedback to the pitchers, with the goal of helping them move ahead with their idea by assisting them to navigate any challenges or roadblocks. The energy in the room was so electric as complete strangers hunkered down to brainstorm ideas and solutions together. One high school student participant who pitched the idea of an app for individuals to outsource their household chores left the session feeling completely energized, “I have never pitched an idea like that before and I got so much help from the people who came to my table.”
The aforementioned statement is why events like YES Atlantic are so important for our region. It provides a platform for youth to use their voice and take a seat at the table as an engaged citizen of our society. YES is a platform where ideas are sparked and connections are created, where individuals are exposed to new concepts and methods and where we all can come together to revel in why our smallness is part of our greatness.