Addressing systemic poverty and the rich-poor gap are the main objectives of Inclusive Business Lab and Foundation (IBLF), an organization targeting rural China and Hong Kong. One of their programmes- the Global Inclusive Leadership Programme- aims to empower the next generation of leaders by cultivating a passion for STEM+ subjects in students aged 14-17 (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, with the + signifying well-roundedness as demonstrated by the arts, humanities, business, etc.). One of the ways they go about doing this is by hosting week-long challenges for students to work through in teams of five, inspiring participants to weave together STEM, creativity, leadership, and teamwork.
Bogdan Knezevic, a second-year D.Phil. student in our group, got in touch with IBLF when an email went around the Wellcome Trust Centre’s social list, calling for people interested in designing a STEM challenge and working with kids who would be completing it. Bogdan designed, organized, implemented, and judged the biotechnology innovation challenge (which he focused on the genome editing technique CRISPR/Cas-9) and, along with four other university students and four IBLF staff, he ran two sets of five day challenges: one in Hong Kong and one in Zhenjiang, China. In total, approximately 700 students worked through each of the activities over the span of the two-week period. The event culminated in a final day challenge that the top eight teams participated in, at the end of which each team presented their work in front of a 400-person auditorium consisting of students, teachers, politicians, and many others.
When asked about his experience, Bogdan had nothing but praise. "The kids were an inspiration to work with" he noted. "They were full of wonderfully creative ideas, they were engaging and excited, and, most importantly, they exhibited tremendous personal growth throughout the week".