Bahamian Youth Leaders Visit MIT’s Media Lab and Plan a Sustainable Urban Future for Nassau

By Nathalie Bethel on September 20, 2018

On February 1, 2018, the Sustainable Nassau Action Plan was launched under the auspices of the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Emerging and Sustainable Cities Program. The Sustainable Nassau Action Plan is the product of a three-year collaborative effort between the Office of the Prime Minister and the IDB. The Action Plan highlights four strategic areas: resiliency and sustainability; revitalization, inclusion and competitiveness; smart and transparent governance; and empowered people.

Following the launch of the Sustainable Nassau Action Plan, forty-one Bahamian students brainstormed ideas within small groups, proposing solutions to urban challenges, and then presented to a small panel of judges, receiving feedback on how they could improve their respective proposals. Using MIT Media Lab’s CODE NEXT methodology as a guide for disruptive, innovative, and creative thinking, teams of high school and college students considered ideas for a sustainable future in Nassau around the topics mentioned in the Sustainable Nassau Action Plan: Smart City/Community Solutions based on the Internet of Things (IoT); Human Mobility; Water Conservation, and Renewable Energy.

On June 22, 2018, the top three winning teams comprised of ten students travelled from The Bahamas to Cambridge, Massachusetts to present their pitches to a panel of experts at MIT’s Media Lab. During the visit, the Bahamian students toured ongoing research projects at the Media Lab, and participated in a CodeNEXT demonstration called ‘’Scratch”. When the students returned home, they met with representatives of the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport,  and the Ministry of Education and were encouraged to develop prototypes that could be scaled-up.

While some of the students are beginning their first year of undergraduate studies in The Bahamas and abroad, a network is very much in place and the group continues to meet and exchange ideas.  The IDB Country Office in Nassau is working alongside partners, including the Ministry of Education, the United States Embassy (Youth Leadership Initiative), and the Utilities Regulatory and Competition Authority (URCA) to ensure that, as ‘youth ambassadors’ of the Sustainable Nassau Action Plan, the cohort of students are mentored through local technical experts who can also offer further guidance in the development of these ideas.

Now that the seed has been planted, perhaps some of these students will be inspired to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and design.  This initiative exemplifies the possibilities of young people when empowered and given opportunities to find solutions toward a better future for The Bahamas. The IDB aims to inspire young island citizens to think as mature, global citizens who can solve the urban problems that they will inherit. With these young bright minds focused on transformational change, a sustainable, revitalized urban future in Nassau is quite possible.

About the author:

Natalie Bethel is an Operations Analyst based in the Inter-American Development Bank’s Country Office in The Bahamas. She holds a Bachelor of Art in Development Studies and History from SOAS, University of London. She has Public Procurement Certification (CIPS) at Levels II and III and has experience in the areas of project management, research, and knowledge products. Ms. Bethel has served as a Youth Advisor to the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, was a Youth Leader at the China-CELAC Forum, and is a Global Shaper with the World Economic Forum’s Nassau Hub.

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