Innovation | SMEs/Entrepreneurship | Youth
May 4, 2020

ITU Innovations Challenges – a life-changing experience

By Silvia Dusa, mentor of the 2019 ITU Innovation challenges

Silvia Dusa, mentor of the 2019 ITU Innovation challenges, explains how ITU’s innovation competitions helped her transform her passion into her job.

A lot has changed in the five years since I participated in my first innovation challenge during the Young Innovator competition and event in 2015. I was introduced to new ideas, new people, and new ways of thinking that have shaped my life and work in ways I could not have imagined.

Today, I am part of an awesome Human Resource (HR) team at Bosch Power Tools in Germany, where I contribute to different organizational development and HR strategic projects and initiatives. In parallel, I am also writing my PhD on how to create a sustainable smart city model using design thinking and the power of community.

It is amazing to think that I didn’t know what design thinking and a digital change community was before 2015 – and now it is my whole life!

The beginning of the journey

Attending an ITU innovation challenge and event, you enter a world of game changers; the event is full of energy and enthusiasm. Participants discuss their ideas to change the world and about the big impact they could have. Because there is such a wide regional diversity, everyone shares and builds on each other’s knowledge. With this new knowledge, participants can go back home and apply it to their communities.

Participating as a winner of the Young Innovator Competition at ITU Telecom World 2015 in Budapest was the beginning of my journey learning about design thinking and user experience. I learned about how to come up with many ideas and then cluster them together in order to focus on the ones with the biggest potential to solve a problem. I learned how to make a prototype and test it with the user or potential customer. All this maybe sound like common sense, but for me back then, it was like receiving a structure on how to come up with solutions very quickly using the knowledge of other people.

This sparked my curiosity.

Back home, I started to read. For two years, I dedicated my free time to learning this new competence by combing theory with practice. I attended a Design Thinking Crash class at the Aspire Summer School with professors from Stanford d.school. Afterwards, I decided to introduce design thinking in at Emanuel University in Romania with a friend who is a Professor there. I remember one solution the students presented was about digital learning and home schooling – an innovation four years ago, is now an important tool during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attending an ITU innovation challenge and event, you enter a world of game changers; the event is full of energy and enthusiasm.

My original winning project at the young innovators’ competition, Random Startup, was about connecting entrepreneurs with resources. In 2017, I started working with some creative friends from my hometown Alba Iulia, to understand the challenges entrepreneurs in our community face. This was Random Startup 2.0.

From innovator to ecosystem builder

Building a platform connecting problem owners, resources owners, and solutions owners is not an easy task. In 2018, I got the chance to participate in the Young ICT Leaders Forum (YILF) event as a past winner of an ITU innovation competition. I learned about ecosystem building and new tools to solve such complex problems as I was facing in my hometown and in my job. I moderated a small session about what is a smart city as seen from different perspectives and what actions participants can take to create a smart city when they go back home to their communities.

In the meantime, equipped with these new skills, I got a job in the HRLab at Bosch Power Tools. Here, I was able to apply the ecosystem building tools I learned during the 2018 Young ICT Leaders Forum (YILF); using design thinking and scrum methods in an international setting to come up with new HR solutions for an agile organization was like a dream come true for me. It was the exact moment where I could transform my passion into my job.

From ecosystem builder to digital change-maker

At the 2019 YILF event, the first edition of the newly rebranded ITU Innovation Challenges which replaced the young innovator competitions, brought everything back together. ITU had been working on connecting ecosystem builders, innovators, policy makers and resource owners. This new series of ITU’s competitions was informed with the experiences of past events and competitions. I was invited to attend YILF 2019 as an expert, mentor and ecosystem builder.

I had the opportunity to moderate a session on developing a Lean Canvas. At the end of the session, one of the participants came to me and said, “Silvia, thank you! I had many sessions to learn the business-modelling tool, but this time I really got it. It is so simple that I can even explain it to other people now!”

I love when people tell me that I gave them some sort of inspiration to move forward with their idea or help them to develop a new skill.

ITU Innovation challenges and events like YILF are necessary because they:

  1. Change the way you think/Rewire your brain: perfect for learning, unlearning and relearning.
  2. Enrich your knowledge: you will meet a lot of interesting and motivated people, and you get access to tools that help you discover what you don`t know you don`t know.
  3. Make friends for a lifetime: I am still in close touch with participants from different years – some became my travel buddies and some my projects partners. And it is not just me: I heard similar stories from other participants as well.

Participating in ITU innovations challenges is a lifelong journey; applying for a challenge and attending an event is just the starting point. It is not about winning or creating a successful startup, it is about collaboration to create an inclusive digital world.

I love when people tell me that I gave them some sort of inspiration to move forward with their idea or help them to develop a new skill.

The idea is to create a global network of Digital Change Makers who come together to solve problems for a better world. I know, because it happened to me. The life changing communities and network is what makes the difference. This is Random Startup 3.0 for me, except one that belongs to everybody with a desire to digitally transform their world.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our way of life and connecting the world resources has never been more important. Join us in the 2020 edition of ITU innovation challenge to experience a community that is changing the world of innovation.

The ITU Innovation Challenges bring together all stakeholders needed to nurture an inclusive digital world. We call on innovators, entrepreneurs, small- and medium-sized enterprises, policy-makers, ecosystem builders and resource partners around the world to put forward their innovation, or idea for innovation.

Visit this page for more information about the 2020 ITU Innovation Challenges.

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ITU Innovations Challenges – a life-changing experience

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