YES! Final 2020 – a thank you note

2020 was a year of firsts: spontaneous switchover to purely digital kick-offs and expert discussions, digital regional finals, digital finals, more national and international female speakers than ever before and the keynote address by a European Commissioner. A good six months full of new challenges culminated in a brilliant 3-day event. We again heard inspiring approaches and our school teams were highly motivated to answer the critical questions of the experts.

How can we transform an event like a YES! Final into a successful digital format?  Because precisely what is missing is the essence that makes this event so unique: the direct exchange between the teams and the experts, the many conversations during the breaks and the sense of community in a large hall?

Short answer: With a lot of preparation, a sovereign moderation duo, interested experts from different countries and, above all, with school teams who passionately presented their ideas and were especially interested in the suggestions of the other groups.

On all three days, we had more than 100 people in our video conference at the same time. A constant coming and going of the experts who dialled into their various sessions, shared presentations, playing intro videos, showing countdowns, keeping an eye on the schedule. There was a lot of work for us to do in the background.

Fortunately, we had a moderation duo, Emily Johnston and David Patrician, who not only guided us through the programme and the discussions with confidence but also filled the organisational breaks in a relaxed and entertaining manner. Now we also know the one or other Australian and American joke.

EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius (bottom) with our moderators Emily Johnston and David Patrician.

2020 was also memorable for us because we were able to attract more experts to the final than ever before – a positive aspect that we can attribute to the digital version. Our highlight was, of course, the keynote address by Virginijus Sinkevičius, the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries. In his 10-minute speech, he emphasised that it is precisely the commitment of young people that plays a significant role in why the Commission has launched the “European Green Deal”.

More than 40 experts from more than 10 countries

We were also very enthusiastic about how many high-ranking people followed our invitation to talk with the students. From ministries to international organisations such as the OECD, the WTO and the EU, the heads of various national and international authorities such as the European Environment Agency and the German Federal Environment Agency, from companies and associations and from research – we had the wide range of participants this year. And of course, we hope that this can be continued in the coming years in a personal format as well.

They talked about equal distribution of childcare places  – the team of runner-up Albertus-Magnus-Gymnasiums with Prof. Bamford (top right), Christian van Stolk (left middle) and Clemens Weegmann (right middle). And Emily (top left) had everything under control.

But all this would not have been so successful if the YES! school teams had not been so eager, flexible and persevering – not only over the last few months but especially during the three days of the final. This is all the more admirable because school lessons are packed with missed material from before the summer holidays and, as a precaution, as much new material as possible.

The teams were well prepared, had timed presentations, had incorporated feedback from the regional finals and were prepared for the critical questions in the discussions. And these questions also came from the other teams, who had listened intently.

But in the end, of course, there had to be a vote. When the respective favourites of each team were announced, it was already apparent that many strong solution ideas had been presented.

The winning idea was „Lausitz with future?! – Your decision!“ The team from Martin-Andersen-Nexö Gymnasium Dresden had dealt with the topic Is there a life after coal? Economic development in East German mining regions by Joachim Ragnitz and Felix Rösel from the ifo Institute – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich (Dresden branch). With the decision to put an end to lignite mining in Germany, the German government has made several billion euros available for the regions affected. The team developed a concept in which the population is to be very intensely involved when it comes to investing this money wisely.

In the discussion with Klaus Dornbusch, Head of the Department of Economic and Financial Policy in the Neue Länder Task Force at the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy, Pao-Yu Oei, Head of the CoalExit research group at the TU Berlin and Dr Gerd Rosenkranz, Senior Consultant at Agora Energiewende, it became clear that the young people from Dresden had found an approach that was important from the experts’ point of view to involve the population and give them a say in the decision-making process.

That’s how winners look like – online, without huge applause, but still excited to win.

Second place went to the Albertus-Magnus-Gymnasium Stuttgart with its idea Kitafix – Matching daycare places and children more effectively through an innovative ranking system. Nicolas Fugger and Tobias Riehm from ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research had set the task:  Efficiently organising the allocation of daycare places.

The team then developed a system based on the Gale-Shapley algorithm and a proprietary extension to achieve a better distribution of daycare places. Professor Anne Bamford, Strategic Education and Skills Director, City of London, joined the team, as did Christian van Stolk, Executive Vice President of RAND Europe and Clemens Weegmann, Deputy Chairman of the German Kitaverband in Baden-Württemberg. They all recognised the problem and were convinced that with a little further development the concept shown could also be applied in practice.

Third in the competition was the idea of an app „YourEco- Swipe for a better tomorrow!“ from the Gynasium Buckhorn in Hamburg. The challenge from Wilfried Rickels from the IfW Kiel Institute for World Economy was: How much CO2 is still allowed to enter the atmosphere, and how do we get it out again?

The team developed an app to influence people’s behaviour regarding their CO2 emissions. With Dr Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, Prof. Dr Dirk Messner, President of the Federal Environment Agency and Dr Sandeep Sengupta, Global Coordinator Climate Change at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the team had three very knowledgeable discussion partners. They pointed out the great importance of this topic and praised the team’s approach.

The students of Gymnasium Buckhorn (top left)  in their discussion with  Prof. Messner (top right), Dr Sengupta (bottom left) and Dr Bruyninckx (bottom right) – all under David’s observation (top centre)

Fourth place, and winning a magazine subscription, was the team from the Lise-Meitner-Gymnasiums aus Maxdorf. They had presented a concept on how to support women with a migration background in particular in entering the German labour market. The prize was awarded by Dr Stefan Empter, the chairman of the Stiftung Wirtschaft Verstehen.

The special prize “Best-Scientific-Analysis” award for the best scientific approach to the problem and the solution was awarded to the Carl-Bechstein-Gymnasium from Erkner after a jury decision. They had worked on the topic: How can I imagine my mobility in the city and rural areas without my own car? by Anke Borcherding, Julia Epp, Juliane Haus and Andreas Knie from the WZB – Social Science Research Center Berlin. They convinced the jury with their scientific approach to their idea of a Bicycle Highway, i.e. a bicycle road with a roof, repair stations and other useful elements.

The International School of Geneva participated as an international guest school and won the YES! International Award. They had developed an alternative prosperity indicator, the RPI Real Progress Indicator, which should allow better estimates than the GDP.

At times, we had four of such fully packed screens.

2020 will of course also be remembered as a remarkable year at the YES!. But above all, we will not forget the beautiful moments, the goosebumps, lots of laughter and even the odd dance round in front of the screen.

A big thank you to all teachers and teams, to our experts, researchers and all those who supported and trusted us.

It was a pleasure!

But now let’s go to the next YES! Registration is open for 2021, and no matter what the coming months will bring in terms of the pandemic, we can do it digitally!

Best regards

your YES! team

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