Nurturing our own talent

Posted by Emma on September 15, 2011

I find myself in a bitter-sweet position with regards to Young Rewired State next year.

Young Rewired State is not a revenue generating event, nor is it ‘for profit’. For the last three years we have relied heavily on volunteer assistance from the geek community in Rewired State and beyond, small donations from some of the tech start ups, free access to venues, hardship funding for travel for those kids unable to afford the fare to get to London and whatever Rewired State can put towards it in order to run this thing. This is not scalable, and we are losing some of the goodwill simply because times are hard for these people and young businesses, and the cost to give time and staff voluntarily is becoming too great. But the need and the numbers of kids signing up to the event just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

We have had to accept that Young Rewired State is meeting a need far greater than we ever realised, and we have to step up now. First we have to find as many of these young coders as we can, and we need to reward them properly with mentoring, a platform and serious learning/opportunities to match their skills; not just trophy cups, donated mobile phones from telecomms companies and a stunned audience. Although they do quite like those too - we are missing something huge here, simply because we are limited by being a small business, that has done this so far as philanthropy and because it is the right thing to do.

That’s all good and well. But the right thing to do now is to stop treating it as a nice few weeks every year of going wow, aren’t they great. We have a young community of developers here, every year sees more alumni, all of whom religiously give back their time to the younger ones coming through. It’s now a thing and we cannot walk away.

But all this costs money, people need to be paid to do this and we need to invest in finding these young people wherever they may be and to scale it across the UK.

BUT

So far, despite asking many of the organisations who seem to want to support these young coders, the only time my hand is snapped off and I am met with wide-eyed excitement about the potential, is when I speak to Silicon Valley businesses and Silicon Valley individual sponsors. This is very exciting, but the price we have to pay in order to get this sponsorship is harsh. If I fund Young Rewired State from purely dollars as opposed to pounds, I need to commit to sending these digital geniuses to the States. To attend Carnegie Mellon and MIT, to actively post them over to Silicon Valley where thay can be nurtured and mentored, championed and challenged - and where they will stay.

Silicon Valley is desperately interested in young British talent, and they want to support and raise these kids - over there.

Whilst this is hugely exciting, of course, it is also damning on British organisations. Somehow I need to find a balance between offering the incredible opportunity afforded by Silicon Valley alongside a matched enthusiasm in this country to nurture our own talent, to be as excited and proud of them as America is on our behalf.

We need to raise the money to run YRS next year and we need to raise it now. I am actively seeking the sponsorship needed, but it is so damn hard. I need help. If any of you think that you know of any British organisations or people who may value helping make this happen, please can you get in touch with me: emma at rewiredstate dot org