The Age Before Impossible: Young Voices, Big Dreams


Elina Naydenova

Current Oxford DPhil student Elina Naydenova gives her perspective on the Skoll World Forum seminar session ‘The Age Before Impossible: Young Voices, Big Dreams’.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” – Albert Einstein.

The problem space is changing – global challenges today are different from yesterday, they require a fresh mindset and unbiased solutions, designed for our current demons rather than ghosts of the past. BUT how do we re-invent our solutions and re-equip our ‘toolboxes’? How do we restructure our healthcare systems, re-imagine our school curriculums and create new economic opportunities?

With belief at the core of this year’s Skoll Forum, what better a way to end the week than with a discussion on young entrepreneurs. This session was an electric chemical reaction between:

  • Four agents of change: Misan Rewane (WAVE), Jimena Vallejos (Fundacion Paraguaya), Joseph Opoku (African Leadership Academy) and Noam Angrist (Young 1ove) who each shared their personal young entrepreneurial stories
  • Three catalysts of change: Pamel Hartigan (Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship), Ahsan Jamil (The Arnan Foundation) and Fred Swaniker (African Leadership Group) who each create eco-systems to nurture and accelerate the development of hundreds of young entrepreneurs

The Age Before Impossible: Young Voices, Big Dreams, L-R: Kristin Gilliss, Ahsan Jamil, Fred Swaniker, Pamela Hartigan.

Kristin Gilliss from Mulago Foundation gave a wonderful narration that united these seven powerful voices and transformed the conversation into a recipe on how to create young entrepreneurs on a larger SCALE – a recipe for how we can move beyond individual success stories towards an entrepreneurial movement amongst young people globally.

“It’s not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts.” A young entrepreneur is a big dreamer determined to find a way to voice their passion for change. What Misan, Jimens, Joseph and Noam all shared was a unshakable belief in a better future and a profound responsibility to realise this future for all of us.

“We don’t empower people, they empower themselves, if provided with the right support and opportunities” insisted Pamela Hartigan. The skills our young people need today are often not taught at school: optimism, relationship building and empathy. Fred, Ahsan and Pamela, at their respective institutions, are working to equip young people these attitudes and unleash their entrepreneurial potential through incredible opportunities and life-changing experiences.

Magical fairies who sweep in to solve all our problems may not exist, but giving our young people the wings to fly might just do the trick. Let’s start a movement: let’s stop thinking of youth as a problem we need to solve and instead consider it an opportunity to change the world.