Mate Lakos / Hungary 

Written by: Maria Nomikou, Senior Consultant, Non-Formal Education

Stronger Together is a programme run in several European countries that is focused on supporting collaboration between the young people of the EU and UK and to develop their leaderships skills through a wide range of activities including focus groups, hackathons, workshops, policy dialogues, events, and networking opportunities. Stronger Together is concerned with four modern day areas of concern - Climate Change, Gender Equality, Social Cohesion, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Common Good. It is this last theme which has been the focus of the most recent round of events having been identified as a high priority topic by young people and stakeholders alike.

AI is seen as a technology that has the potential to solve some of the biggest global challenges facing us today. Young people have the power to influence the future of AI and whether it will be used as a tool for shaping solutions to real-world problems. It is a field in which they will be called upon to apply critical thinking and take action to influence others and support wider society. The programme invited people who are passionate about sustainability and interested in innovation and creative problem-solving to work together in interdisciplinary teams and create AI-based solutions to benefit the greater good and focusing on topics which are close to the local realities in each country. 

The programme aimed to attract the next generation of young leaders from a variety of different backgrounds, not just computer science students, where participants would be called upon to focus on the social and environmental impact of AI as well as the technology aspects. Some participants were university graduates, whilst others had not attended post-secondary education, and some didn’t even know what AI is or how it works. Young people participated in a series of interlinked activities where they were able to connect with policymakers, academics, businesses, and civil society organisations, fostering a platform for meaningful dialogue and collaboration. Young leaders discussed thought-provoking ideas and innovative solutions to produce a set of comprehensive recommendations. These were intended to serve as a guiding compass for policymakers and high-level representatives in addressing critical issues, shaping policies and driving positive change on local, regional, and global scales.

In Cyprus, Team UDIVE’s idea revolved around the autoregulation and control of healthcare emissions by suggesting how long a patient should stay at the hospital. Team PowAir of Greece worked relentlessly to prevent forest fires by collecting and manipulating data through AI technologies. In Hungary, Algorithm Team presented a solution for the problem of food waste relating to perishable goods and overstocked stores by demand forecasting and dynamic pricing. The Little Life Project Team in Ireland developed a system that would monitor key health indicators of a pregnancy (both maternal and foetal) and raise the alarm early if the overall 'score' was outside of healthy parameters, ensuring medical intervention would be sought in good time.

Another aim of the programme was to increase the participation of women in this field, where the majority of applicants were male, so organisers reached out to sociology students and those studying education and environmental studies. This focused approach to diversify the participants was successful and, in Hungary, 55 per cent of the participants of the last hackathon were women. The projects and ideas were ground-breaking. Some of these young leaders had not spoken in front of an audience before, but at the policy dialogues at University College London, they were given that opportunity and were making statements and addressing questions from the attendees. Perhaps the most impressive part of the programme was to see how young people with brilliant minds from different backgrounds came together to develop these AI powered projects.

The programme will continue to build on this network of young leaders who understand the importance of technology and the ethical considerations surrounding it, so that they are trained to use AI to improve social and environmental issues. The evolution will continue, and instead of blaming technology, young leaders of today need to use it to benefit the common good. The most inspiring part of Stronger Together has been seeing these young leaders with different backgrounds emerge and work together to create solutions for global issues. This is how we create opportunities for our young people.