UNLEASH: The Creation of a Holistic Community
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
story highlights

UNLEASH is the world’s largest innovation lab.

It brings together 1000 talents from around the world to work together and create innovative solutions in pursuit of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The talents at UNLEASH are without a doubt people with intention and motivation, and the tools given to us were not only for the 8-day process: our time in Singapore was just the beginning.

The excitement started at UNLEASH as 1000 people from 108 different countries made their way to Singapore, to be part of the greatest innovation lab in the world. Some people traveled for a couple of hours, I traveled for 18 hours, but some took more than 40 hours to get there! Crazy, but that meant diversity was not going to be an issue, as there were people from many remote places in the world.

Singapore became the host nation for the second edition of UNLEASH and I couldn’t think of a better place to hold this innovation lab. The city has established itself as a global leader in sustainability and it was named Asia’s greenest city. I could see why as soon as I got out of the airport. I could only see lush greenery in the streets. Singapore leads by example and the iconic Gardens by the Bay is a perfect way to look at it: the innovative and gorgeous Supertrees are not only the perfect romantic setting for a love story, but also are embedded with environmentally sustainable functions. Some have photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy, others are integrated with the conservatories and serve as air exhaust receptacles. Singapore is the creation of sustainability between social, economic and environmental efforts and surrounding 1000 people with its scenery set us up for success.

So now there was a group of 1000 people in Singapore, but what is UNLEASH? UNLEASH is the world’s largest innovation lab. It brings together 1000 talents from around the world to work together and create innovative solutions in pursuit of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To me, it means an ecosystem of equity with all the right tools and resources to collaborate across cultures, industries, generations, and backgrounds with no financial constraints to co-create and find solutions to the SDGs. It’s the perfect environment to create a community that, led by expert facilitators from Deloitte with an innovation process uniquely tailored to UNLEASH, provides a framework to innovate and accelerate progress on the SDGs.

And who were these 1000 talents? People from every corner of the world, with different backgrounds, with different experiences, but every single one of us with the energy of wanting to make this world a better place by fighting some of the most pressing issues. Every person had a story, and everyone had faced a challenge related to the SDGs. Some had experienced it first hand, some through their communities, others face big challenges in their countries, others have moved to different countries to fight a certain problem. Whatever their story was, all talents gathered in Singapore had the motivation to innovate and come up with solutions to tackle 8 of the 17 SDGs.

I met people who are fighting for zero waste lifestyles and reductions in single-use plastic, for organic and sustainable farming, to harvest fertilizer from polluted water, to build green roofs, to upcycle denim and create eco-cotton yarn, for health issues in developed countries, to recycle waste, to support entrepreneurs, and the list can go on and on and on. Every person I met had a story: a story that’s embedded and creates a lens of collaboration to help achieve the SDGs.

I had the honor of working on SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, a personal passion of mine. This focus area put me face to face with other amazing people with the same passion. My team of six was called “Latindapore,” as we were from Latin America, India, Indonesia and Singapore, and we worked on a solution to fight food waste. The experience of interacting with people from different countries, different ages, different expertise areas and different mindsets provided an energy to strive to improve and unlock resources within ourselves that I have never experienced before. I slept at the most 5 hours per night, but I always felt energized and going to sleep always gave me a sensation of FOMO. I credited the incredible energy that I felt throughout the process to the facilitators from the Danish Folk High School, another great ingredient at UNLEASH. They facilitated different activities every morning, including a lot of singing and having meaningful conversations to transform a group of strangers into a community with shared passions and a willingness to learn from one another.

The community that was created was fantastic. As a result, things that could have taken days to investigate and test were taking hours. There were WhatsApp groups and a whiteboard to reach out and communicate needs and interests. There was always someone with experience in a certain issue or someone that we could refer to. Surveys among ourselves were done to test assumptions and possible customers. The feedback from the facilitators and other talents were invaluable to create tangible businesses and innovations. At breakfast, lunch, and dinner the conversations were always around opinions on ideas, constructive feedback, sharing experiences, and encouraging each other. It was unbelievable to see the spirit of collaboration to co-create the best possible innovations.

The mix of talents, facilitators, the innovation process, and the setting created the perfect environment to think outside the box to co-create and find solutions. However, as time passes by, I have realized that the perfect environment was not only created in Singapore. It was created and now it has been released into the real world. The community still exists, I still get WhatsApp messages of talents reaching out. The call for action is still going. The talents at UNLEASH are without a doubt people with intention and motivation, and the tools given to us were not only for the 8-day process. Our time in Singapore was just the beginning.

I say that as I’m motivated to put my finance career on hold to commit to a full-time social enterprise that will use a circular business model to produce furniture out of recycled waste. The lab put me in a joyful community that I admire and feel proud to be part of. It gave me the strength and motivation to move towards a new goal. I can’t wait to see how the community of UNLEASH evolves over time.


related events