Nov 25, 2020 - Technology

A global search for the geniuses of tomorrow

Illustration of graduation cap with a golden star

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A Silicon Valley-based nonprofit is creating a talent program called Rise to cultivate and support young people from around the world.

Why it matters: Talent doesn't respect geography — but too often, opportunity does. The new program seeks to identify future leaders wherever they are, which research suggests may be one of the best ways to help the world advance.

What's happening: Schmidt Futures — a philanthropic initiative founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy — last week opened applications to Rise.

  • The program aims to identify young people between the ages of 15 and 17 who "need opportunity but whose talents can help address problems in their community and the rest of the world," says Eric Braverman, the chief executive of Schmidt Futures.
  • The project is being carried out in collaboration with the Rhodes Trust, which oversees the Rhodes scholarships, as well as a number of other NGO partners from around the world.

How it works: Each year Rise will select 100 global winners and provide them with "individualized support to help harness their talents over the course of their lives," says Cassie Crockett, head of strategy at Schmidt Futures.

  • That might include needs-based scholarships for higher education, funding for internships or social impact enterprises and, when the pandemic allows, in-person meetings and mentorships.

What they're saying: "We are optimistic that the talent in the world is there to solve the problems that face us," says Braverman. "We just need to give them extra help."

By the numbers: Rise's mission dovetails with a growing body of research that suggests cultivating human talent is one of the best ways to advance global knowledge.

  • An IMF working paper from 2018 found that individuals who demonstrate exceptional talent in their teenage years have an "irreplaceable ability to create new ideas over their lifetime."
  • Since talented individuals in poor- and middle-income countries are less likely to work in knowledge fields — largely because the opportunity has been missing — policies that open up that opportunity could “accelerate the advancement of the knowledge frontier.”

The bottom line: We all benefit when talent isn't limited by borders.

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