Keep this story going! Share below!
Future Minds Network delivers quality education for young people with entrepreneurial-based programs, whilst also fostering a sense of global citizenship. In a world where teachers have limited resources, time, and expertise to help students learn essential 21st-century skills, Future Minds Network tackles the growing youth unemployment by providing collaborative and engaging programs that help bridge that gap between academic education and future work requirements. CEO and founder, Nathaniel Diong, explains that it's "really about helping young people harness their innate capabilities and build upon them... so they leave more creative and resilient and confident in their skill sets."
Diong describes the innovation as students being given a "platform to turn their ideas into reality but also be aware of the social issues around them and what they can do about them." Future Minds Network runs programs that help students to combat youth unemployment by giving them the tools and skills they need to succeed. By building businesses through the program and practicing these skills, it helps to facilitate a growth mindset with young people.
Rather untraditional in its approach, students learn by doing and digital tools such as Figma are used to aid in deeper engagement. Instead of using case studies, mentors with real-world experience in scaling businesses help facilitate these programs. Through this process, they learn financial literacy, judgment, and decision-making.
Future Minds Network places a lot of focus on young people thinking about their roles as global citizens and has social good. As a result, many students are encouraged to and have created businesses that revolve around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Regardless of whether the young students do become entrepreneurs, the resulting aim is to help widen their future employment prospects and help prepare them for an uncertain future. Diong explains that it's not only just about turning ideas into reality but allowing young people to explore new career pathways and help them understand how to apply their new skills.
A typical Zoom workshop run by Future Minds Network.
Diong admits while growing up, he "had a tough time understanding [his] place in the world and [he] always felt helpless to make a difference." In fact, he shares that when he was 10, "I used to cry myself to sleep because I didn't understand world suffering, and so I would count down how many seconds of the world to how many people are dying" which was a stark difference to his friends at the time who were instead counting down the seconds to recess. "Like normal kids at the time," Diong says with mirth.
Arguably, this driving sense to make a difference when feeling helpless was and is the catalyst for Diong's innovation. Originally started when he was in high school, Future Minds Network was intended to just be a conference of a hundred young Australians but pivoted and evolved to be "more than just talking", as Diong puts it. The Future Minds Network developed from a simple conference to a hackathon, and then to a company where programs are run not only in Australia but worldwide.
Diong's primary focus was originally "on helping young people just build projects and social change projects that change the world" but gradually realized with the rise of automation and industry 4.0, "entrepreneurship wasn't just a medium to create ideas, but a medium to teach young people the crucial skills they need for the future."
Diong believes that Future Minds Network excels in working closely with young people “to understand what they want and what can help them most… we don’t pretend to know all the answers.” This type of approach has been very successful with their students.
Their 2020 report showed that out of those who attended their programs:
Future Minds Network has currently worked with over 11,000 young people all over the world, and in 2020, they were able to subsidize over $100,000 worth of programs to disadvantaged communities and schools globally. Alumni of the programs have built award-winning startups and ideas - one alumni won the 2020 Innovation Sprint for re-imagined packaging to tackle waste management, another now manages the charity 'Letters Against ISO' with over 1200 volunteers worldwide and 7000 letters sent to the elderly. Many alumni have also gained employment at UNICEF and others now manage companies with over 50 employees.
Diong explains that this innovation gives these young students a head-start to explore these new career pathways. It allows them to better adapt to the challenging and uncertain environment the future is currently promising them and in addition, gives them a skill set employers desire. After all, entrepreneurship skills are in higher demand than technical skills by employers (Foundation for Young Australians, 2016).
Due to its innovation, Future Minds Network is able to work with a number of schools and universities, as well as being supported through grants. They have also been recognized by the Australian government as being a pioneer in education (National Australia Day Council, 2021). Their work has allowed them to participate in initiatives and work with young people from the UK, Europe, and other countries such as the US, Estonia, and Finland.
They have also attracted talented mentors and facilitators who have founded their own social businesses and have worked at places such as Stanford University, Harvard University, United Nations, Obama Foundation, Foundation for Young Australians, and ygap. In addition, they have been further supported by over twenty different groups of volunteers to help with their programs.
Diong’s innovation secured accolades and media attention on Future Minds Network, with awards such as 2021 Young Australian of the Year Victorian finalist, 2021 Whitehorse Young Citizen of the Year, 2021 Probono Impact25 nominee, 2020 Victorian Young Achiever of the Year semi-finalist, 2020 AMP Tomorrow Maker winner, and 2020 Youth Champion of the Year finalist.
By investing in the youth and providing them with more opportunities, this innovation helps to sustainably improve our society through SDGs 4, 8, and 17 (United Nations, 2021a; United Nations, 2021b; United Nations, 2021c). Their inherent promotion of the SDGs achieves the latter goal, by helping to shape how young people approach the world with cooperation and actions for a better future (United Nations, 2021c). The organization has already supported over 11,000 youth from over 50 cultures since 2019.
In Victoria, Australia, where Diong is based, one in three young Victorians aged 18 to 24 lost their jobs during COVID-19 (Kabatek, 2020). This only further emphasizes the need for these innovations when unexpected events impacts society. In 2020, they were able to subsidize $100,000 worth of programs to support disadvantaged communities and schools all over the world. These programs contribute to SDG 4 by helping students practice key skills such as problem-solving, pitching, communication, collaboration, and creativity (United Nations, 2021a). Schools are also realizing that students are leaving with academic education but not necessarily certain of their future career paths and whether their skill set is in demand. Future Minds Network contributes to SDG 8 by helping young people become more employable and empowered to create their own revenue stream through their own business and work (United Nations, 2021b).
Their particular innovation has also highlighted the statistic that 45% of Gen Z would rather work for a company with an ethical background and one with social goods than one without (DELL Technologies, n.d.), and Diong divulges that corporations they work with are realizing and becoming more conscious of their own impact and offerings (United Nations, 2021c).
Nathaniel Diong, CEO & Founder
Future Minds Network is an organization that breaks barriers by helping young people all over the world learn 21st-century skills in a dynamic, engaging, and supportive environment through their entrepreneurship programs. With a constantly evolving and uncertain environment, Future Minds Network helps to develop resilient and future-ready students using innovation in education.