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Invest in SDG Innovators

Young SDG Innovators is an SDG business solutions accelerator programme for young professionals in participating Global Compact companies. Teams of young professionals, called Innovators, work together under the guidance of mentors and facilitators, to identify opportunities and develop solutions that are relevant to their companies but have broader application towards innovation for the SDGs. The 10-month programme includes a mix of in-person activities, such as training workshops, live case studies, group exercises and challenges, as well as self-guided online learning.

The program has 6 phases, culminating in an event to showcase the solutions:

  1. Pre-Boarding: Setting programme objectives and expectations;
  2. Onboarding: Exploring the core concepts around business and the Sustainable Development Goals and Breakthrough Innovation to understand and apply to relevant challenges facing business today;
  3. Challenge Definition: Testing out innovation tools to frame and validate a specific SDG business challenge pertinent to their company that will form the basis of a solution to be developed to address it;
  4. Solutions Development: Taking the project idea from a concept into a fully defined project;
  5. Solutions Validation and Testing: Moving project solutions to more refined versions through testing and validation within the company and with external stakeholders;
  6. Offboarding: Incorporating the training, skills, and projects from the program back into participants’ respective companies to embed breakthrough thinking within their organisations.
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Programme Overview

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Innovation Camps

The Innovation Camps are two-day in-person training and activity sessions which allow for the Innovators to practically apply the tools and training they receive towards the solution they are building for their company, as well as learn from and share with each other. By setting the exercises in team settings, Innovators are able to interact with different company teams allowing for an exchange of ideas without compromising their individual company projects.

Each Camp features a first day which starts off with an overview of the programme, team formation and training workshops around the phase theme that is run by a facilitator. The facilitator serves as the moderator in charge of ensuring the Innovation Camp program runs smoothly and the Innovators are fully engaged. They help teams navigate the innovation process during the programme as well as work through group dynamic issues.

Following the training, Innovators break into their teams for an exercise in which they get the opportunity to practically apply the lessons from the workshop and self-guided learning to real-life business challenges. Teams work independently; however, facilitators (and Mentors, if they are attending the camp) monitor and guide their progress and lead the feedback sessions.

Field Visits

During the second day, the Innovators take part in a field visit to see a company that is putting the SDGs at the heart of innovation. The visit is organised as a live case study. This is an organisational design approach in which the focus is on experiential learning. The participants do not just hear from the company on what they are doing but are taken through the process, providing them with an insider’s perspective into the company’s innovation work and allowing them to ask questions and apply their own solutions to the company’s challenges.

During the second half of the second day, the Innovators break up into their project teams to review insights and takeaways from the one and a half days and their different team experiences. During this time, they identify next steps in their challenge or solution definition phase and report back to the rest of the group. In later phases of the programme, this segment of the Camp opens up into opportunities for peer sparring sessions where project teams give and receive feedback from other teams on their progress as they update others on their project solutions.

Online and Offline Activities

Taking place in between the Innovation Camps are several online and offline activities that offer Innovators self-guided online learning opportunities, guidance to direct their team project development and global webinars and virtual meetings that will connect the teams to each other from across the different countries running the programme.


Online activities provide Innovators the space for further upskilling and knowledge-building related to SDG innovation, breakthrough innovation, and other key concepts. Innovators will receive access to the online platform where they will see a global space as well as their own country page where they can receive information about the latest updates for their local programme (dates for upcoming Innovation Camps, backgrounds on speakers, notes from previous meetings, etc.) as well as follow the online global curriculum. In addition to pre- and post-reads from workshops and webinars, the online platform plays the main role in connecting Innovators to other teams around the world. Global online meetups and feedback sessions will take place online to bring Innovator teams together to showcase the progress of their projects and provide input and share ideas. The online platform will also include optional online challenges that Innovators can choose to take on that would allow them to work with others outside of their Networks/countries.


The majority of the project development will take place online. Project teams are expected to meet outside of the Innovation Camps and online activities to work on building their solution. Given the programme is 10-months long, it is not expected that teams will have finished solutions by the end of the programme but rather the aim is for them to have a refined idea and suitable prototype that can be presented to senior management within their company that has been tested and validated by other stakeholders. That ready state of the solution is dependent on the team and their sponsor to determine during the Solution Development phase of the programme. Guidance and training is provided for teams on how to prepare for the presentation to senior management, which is considered a major deliverable of the programme. (Note: It is a key responsibility of the Champions to set up the meeting for the Innovator team and ensure that the right members of senior management attend the presentation.) A version of this presentation will also be made at the conclusion of the programme in the final camp and during the solutions showcase.

Programme Benefits

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Participation Benefits:
  • Engage in accelerated learning opportunities that include online and in-person workshops, case studies, company visits and forum discussions
  • Connect with other business units and collaborate on innovative projects relative to the company and industry
  • Build work relationships through coaching, mentoring and peer-to-peer networking opportunities and learn from some of the brightest minds working on sustainability and innovation from around the world
  • Be part of a global network of leading young professionals from some of the top companies across every continent
Company Benefits:
  • Apply SDG innovation to solve real sustainability challenges within your organisation and industry
  • Integrate the SDGs into your company’s business strategy through collaboration, innovation and knowledge sharing
  • Increase employee engagement and professional development opportunities
  • Develop an expert network of leading professionals from some of the top companies across the globe
  • Gain global recognition for participation in the programme

Eligibility Requirements

  • High-performing employees at a participating company of the UN Global Compact
  • 35 years or younger
  • Interest in business innovations, sustainability, and disruptive technologies


  • Call for nominations: April 2020 - August 2020
  • Program begins: September 2020
  • Program ends: June 2021


To offset the significant costs of delivering this programme, we will require participants to make financial contributions. The total costs are as follows:


£1500 for first 2 innovators

£750 for 3rd innovator

£500 for 4th innovator


£1000 for the first 2 innovators

£500 for 3rd innovator

£300 for 4th innovator

Companies interested in joining the programme can contact Cynthia Adebiyi - Yekinni (details below). Due to demand and limited spots in the programme, the UK Network will need to confirm company participation before approved companies are able to put forward programme participants. Once company interest has been registered, you will be contacted by the UK Network on next steps.

Cynthia Adebiyi-Yekinni
Global Goals Project Manager
Tel: +44 (0)7706440223
Email: cynthia.adebiyi-yekinni@unglobalcompact.org.uk

Q: What is the Young SDG Innovators Programme?

A: The Young SDG Innovators Programme (YSIP) is an accelerator programme designed to engage young professionals working in companies that participate in the United Nations Global Compact.  The programme aims to equip them with skills to advance sustainability efforts, drive innovation, and deliver tangible sustainability solutions for your company.

Q: What does the programme involve?

A: In the programme, young professional participants (“Innovators”) explore new innovations and learn from leading experts and sustainability leaders about how to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the development of breakthrough ideas, products, and business models. Using tools and training from the programme, the Innovators work in teams to identify an SDG-related challenge that is relevant to their company and, over the course of the programme, develop a solution to address that challenge. Please refer to the programme brochure.

Q:  What is the duration of the programme?

A: The Young SDG Innovators Programme runs in annual cycles over the course of 10 months.

Q: What are the benefits of participating for companies?

A: The programme offers companies the opportunity to engage their top talent at the junior and middle manager level and develop a new generation of employees that think between the intersection of corporate sustainability and innovation. Companies also benefit from the development of real business solutions that have the potential to provide value for both the company and society.

Q: How can my company ensure the protection of our intellectual property if we take part in the programme?

A: While the programme is designed to facilitate cross-pollination of knowledge, new skills, and ideas across project teams, we recognise the importance for companies to safeguard proprietary information and ideas. Companies may wish to have all programme participants sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to cover any intellectual property being used or discussed as part of the programme. Should your company require NDAs to be signed, please inform the Global Compact Network UK in advance. It is the responsibility of your company to ensure that all NDAs are signed by the relevant parties. As supporting participants, Mentors and Experts will be required to sign confidentiality agreements to take part in the programme.

Q: Why is the programme only for young professionals?

A: The programme is designed to target employees that do not yet have senior management responsibilities and therefore have more time to dedicate to a 10-month development programme.

Q: Why do you categorise young professionals as 35 and under?

A: There is no set definition for the age of a young professional. Young professionals can be categorised as working individuals anywhere between the ages of 21 to 40. The age of 35 was selected as the upper age limit for the programme given that many demographic and population statistical organisations recognise young adulthood at being between the ages of 18 and 34.

Q: Is there an extra cost for my company to participate?

A: Yes. To offset the significant costs of delivering this programme, we will require participants to make financial contributions. In addition, there may be fees related to program activity costs, such as travel and incidentals, which are not covered through the programme.

Q: Where does the programme take place?

A: As well as the UK, the programme is currently being run by Global Compact Local Networks in the following countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Lebanon, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine and USA.

Q: Is any company participating in the UN Global Compact eligible to take part in the programme?

A: All companies participating in the UN Global Compact are eligible to take part in the program as long as they are based in a country whose Global Compact Local Network is participating.

Q: How many young professionals can my company select for the programme?

A: Companies can select up to 4 young professionals to participate in the program per cycle.

Q: What are the eligibility criteria for the Young SDG Innovators?

A: While there are no set requirements, the programme is designed to target employees aged 35 and under who have a passion for sustainability, creativity, and demonstrate strong teamwork skills. Employees from business innovation, research & development, marketing, logistics, procurement, customer experience/service, and sustainability units are encouraged to participate.

Q: Does the Global Compact have to approve the Young SDG Innovator candidates from my company before they are selected?

A: No, we encourage companies to choose individuals who best fit the Innovator profile to ensure diversity among the candidate pool in terms of business unit and background. Guidance is provided to companies as to desired qualifications for Innovators.

Q: My company is not based in a participating Network country, how can we take part in the programme?

A: Unfortunately, as this is a country-level programme, only companies based in countries whose Global Compact Local Network is taking part can participate. However, non-eligible companies may be able to take part in the programme as Mentors or Experts. Please contact youngsdginnovators@unglobalcompact.org.

Q: Can young professionals from subsidiaries of UN Global Compact participating companies take part in the programme?

A: As long as the parent company is a UN Global Compact participating company and the subsidiary is based in a country whose Global Compact Local Network is taking part, their young professionals are eligible to participate.

Q: What is the commitment my company has to make to take part in the programme?

A: As a participating YSIP company, you commit to:

  • Selecting up to 4 Innovators to take part in the programme for the full duration of 10-months;
  • Allowing Innovators the time needed for full participation in the programme;
  • Identifying a Champion who will support the Innovator team internally within the company.

Q: What is the time commitment for Innovators?

A: Innovators are expected to attend five (5) in-person 2-day workshops throughout the course of 10 months in addition to spending approximately 2-3 hours per week on online learning and activities, and group project development.

Q: What is the difference between Innovators, Champions, Mentors and Experts?

Innovators are the young professionals that form teams to take part in the program to develop viable SDG business solutions for their companies. Champions are senior-level executives within the same company as Innovators that ensure the teams have high-level support in their company and the SDG business solutions are aligned with the company’s strategic goals and objectives. Only companies in participating Networks can select Innovators for the program. Each Innovator team must have a designated Champion throughout the programme.

Mentors and Experts are individuals outside of the Innovators’ company with knowledge of technical and relevant subjects in the program, such as sustainability, innovation, product design and breakthrough technologies. Mentors are matched to Innovator teams to shepherd the team throughout the programme and provide guidance in their training and project development. Experts provide global technical advice and insight on particular issue areas or industries, when needed, to inform and support team solutions design and development.

Q: When does the program start?

A: The program will kick-off globally in September 2020. However, each programme start date differs depending on the Global Compact Local Network.

Q: How do I apply?

A: Please email the Project Manager cynthia.adebiyi-yekinni@unglobalcompact.org.uk

Due to demand and limited spots in the program, the UK Network will need to confirm company participation before approved companies are able to put forward programme participants. Once company interest has been registered, you will be contacted by the UK Network on next steps.

Q: My company is not able to take part in the programme this year but would like to participate next year. Can we sign up now for the next round?

  • A:  Yes. All you have to do is to send the Project Manager an email to register your interest for future rounds of the programme.

Young SDG Innovators Programme