Amidst Political Turmoil, These Twenty-Somethings are Quietly Changing the World
These two words sum up the general theme of the U.S. election season. In fact, “we’re doomed” seems to be the only thing that both sides of the political aisle agree on.
We’ve heard some of the most archaic, irresponsible and downright ignorant rhetoric to ever capture the limelight of a debate podium. We’ve heard a Presidential candidate denigrate Muslims and minorities, attack immigrants, and consistently disparage women. We’ve seen the effects of an inadequate education system that fosters disbelief in science and relegates global warming, a serious threat to our children, to liberal hokum. Thanks to Wikileaks, we’re privy to the convoluted election process and unethical behavior that plagues American politics. We’ve heard a candidate for our Nation’s most important office challenge the very foundation of our democracy, creating an unprecedented and fear-fueled divide in our country.
So, yeah. We’re doomed. But while the candidates prepared for the third and final debate, around six-thousand young entrepreneurs gathered in Boston, Massachusetts for the Forbes Under 30 Summit. Their passion and entrepreneurial vigor might just save us all.
$1 Million to Change the World
In fact, Forbes held a competition which challenged young entrepreneurs to do just that.
Forbes’ annual Global Change the World Competition was presented in partnership with Sound Ventures, Rough Draft Ventures (powered by General Catalyst), and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Winners in for-profit and nonprofit categories shared $1 million in prizes consisting of cash and Forbes media grants.
Here’s what they’re doing with their winnings:
Saving the Environment
Opus 12 was one of two winners of the for-profit competition. The company developed a technology that recycles CO2 into chemicals and fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
According to their website, “Opus 12 plans to produce syngas, along with ethylene, ethanol, and methane. Converting all U.S. stationary CO2 emissions into liquid fuels would produce enough carbon-neutral fuel to replace the nation’s gasoline demand twice over. Electrochemical CO2 reduction can also serve as large-scale energy storage, enabling wider adoption of renewable energy. Opus 12 could offset 1.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions annually from the chemicals market.”
Improving an Industry
When judges Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary and Peter Boyce II had trouble deciding between the competition’s leading candidates, a surprise second winner was announced. Boston-based Pillar Technologies uses sensors to monitor and predict environmental and safety hazards at construction sites. In addition to staving off revenue losses for construction firms and insurance companies, the company hopes their data-driven predictive analysis will instigate industry-change to reduce accidents, overall.
An Atlanta-based venture, HonorCode, won the nonprofit competition. The company’s twenty-five year-old founder, Jeffrey Martin, has an ambitious mission: to put coding alongside the likes of reading and math in the public school curriculum. HonorCode hopes to turn coding-education into economic empowerment for kindergarten through twelfth-grade students in order to equip them with the skills necessary to land high-paying tech jobs or become the next generation’s tech entrepreneurs.
In addition to the winners, runners up and other competitors set their sights on improving access to healthcare in underserved communities, creating intuitive data-driven business solutions, and fostering innovation through crowdsourcing. As the summit came to a close, finding solutions to global problems didn’t seem so out-of-reach if only we would stop granting the responsibility solely to our politicians.
Getting “undoomed” is a job for our business leaders and creatives. It’s a job for our entrepreneurs. It’s a job for us.
On the last day of the Summit, Martellus Bennett, tight-end for the New England Patriots and founder of The Imagination Agency, gave a keynote on the power of imagination, invigorating a crowded Faneuil Hall with a call to action.
“The world is your playground,” Bennett said. “Let’s play.”
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on November 2, 2016.