“….to bring together bright minds to share ideas focused on a wide-range of subjects to foster learning, inspiration, and wonder”. That was the line that got me hooked when I received an email from Kelvin of the 21st Century Citizen’s Initiative (21st CCI) asking me to speak at a conference last week Saturday. The 21st CCI is the brain child of three Ghanaian natives and recent graduates from the University of Virginia, U.S.A.; Akwasi Asante, Kelvin Wiredu, and Emmanuel Agyemang-Dua.
Four weeks prior to that date, they had been collaborating with students in various universities in a series of workshops designed to enhance student civic skills and challenge them to utilize digital tools to complement and sustain their current on-ground efforts in civic engagement and community development. The goals were clearly defined; define civic engagement, practice digital citizenship, and develop plans for action to strengthen youth involvement in community development efforts. All this culminated in the conference held at the Windy Lodge Hotel in Winneba entitled “Young Citizens, Great Minds”. The central theme: “What Can You Do?”
The day begun slightly later than planned but there was a packed house. Following introductions there was a flash mob type poetry recital from students who had been planted amongst the audience. The line “Ghana is our home and pride” stuck with me as it reflected the recent wave of initiatives driven by young Ghanaians in an effort to challenge the current status quo. This was followed by a beautifully constructed video presentation by one of the workshop participants; Faustina Yeboah who would later win an award for the best participant as voted by her colleagues. Her presentation was inspired by the book “The Imported Ghanaian” and although she touched on many ideas I will always remember how she wove into the presentation that “A seed is only the promise of a tree”. This I felt resonated with the theme, because what you do with that seed will surely determine how large a tree will grow from it.
This was followed with talks from Stephen Tindi (@xtindi) of Prestige Research on “Making the most of social media” and Elorm Billy-Awittor (@awittor) of Blogging Ghana on “Digital Activism”. The two presentations complimented each other well. On the one hand, Stephen spoke on the what I can best describe as social media 101 with some added tips whereas Elorm presented some data and examples of times when social media had made a real difference (of course #Dumsormuststop had to represent), sparing time to also touch on the impact of digital inequlaity. “Engage and Energise” had to be the combined conclusion.
Following a short intermission where conversations continued throughout the room, there was a beautifully executed tag-team recital between Emmanuel Kwarteng and Stephen Agorgli; also participants of the workshop. The recital entitled “Rise up Young Intellectual” put across the idea of aspiring and inspiring at the same time. This was followed by the presentation of a pilot project born out of the workshop; “Sankor Reading Club Initiative”. The initiative is moving away from the brick and mortar concept of libraries which brings added costs and is looking at using alternatives which involve using pre-existing structures and community leaders. More importantly, it seeks to utilise a model of empowering children to help other children read. This way, the children are active participants and beneficiaries of the library reading project.
Then came yours truly as the keynote speaker with a presentation which sought to encourage participants to focus their efforts on something specific and dear to their heart. I put across that been a young citizen with a great mind was a huge plus; allowing more time to start small on a big vision. With time and effort such a vision will surely come to pass no matter how impossible or ridiculous it looked at the start.
The day ended with a short video looking back at all the 21st CCI had achieved and various awards for the participants. Closing remarks from Kelvin expressed the intention to make 21st CCI a sustainable initiative which would be duplicated in further tertiary institutions (item 13 on the program did not disappoint either, those were some really nice spring rolls!)
All in all, the 2 and a half hours event had delivered on its promise. I had learnt from the other presenters and participants, I had been inspired to continually pursue my own goals with GhScientific and on the journey back to Accra from Winneba; I couldn’t shake this feeling of wonder just thinking at what the future holds for Ghana as more young citizens wake up to their great potential and ability to significantly contribute to moving the country forward.
(All photos are credited to Elorm Billy-Awittor, thanks)
Arise Ghana youth for your country,
The nation demands your devotion
Let us all unite to uphold her,
And make her great and strong
We are all involved, we are all involved,
We are all involved
In building our motherland