#DidYouKnow Europe’s biggest digital skills youth program officially turns five this year? To celebrate the 2021 launch, TechSoup Europe's Vice President, Anna Sienicka, shares some of her favourite highlights and moments from over the years.
- What do you love about Meet and Code?
The energy, creativity, and inspiration behind the program’s overarching goal of introducing youth to the exciting world of technology. Nothing says we care more than empowering and motivating our future leaders. In support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and aligned to EU Code Week, Meet and Code events are designed to show young people how much fun coding can be, and how it can help bring ideas to life. By exploring a broad range of technology, topics, and coding, they will be encouraged to develop 21st century skills needed for tomorrow’s competitive workforce. Together, Meet and Code and partners can conquer Europe’s digital divide, one community and one workshop at a time - and that is what I love about the program, the power of partnerships and using tech for good.
- Meet and Code turns five this year. Tell us about some of the impact to date?
When we look at Meet and Code impact, it is best illustrated in the numbers. And as Europe’s biggest digital skills youth program, it has some big numbers to boast - starting with a total of 3,646 workshops about digital topics since 2017.
In 2020 alone, the online workshops reached 35 countries, empowering 505 cities, small towns, and villages. In total, the initiative has empowered +148k youth. And the best part? More than 83% of these students want to continue with developing their digital skills further after attending a workshop. This is truly amazing, and reflects the core purpose of the program, and the impact we are seeking to achieve.
- What has been your favourite highlight?
Firstly, Meet and Code has surpassed some ambitious goals and challenges, particularly during lockdown. Over the last twelve months the program quickly adapted to an online shift. We have been really impressed by the innovation of our partners and organisations who have hosted these events, while keeping it fun and inspiring.
A big milestone took place last year when Meet and Code surpassed the 50.5% female participation – signifying the massive strides the initiative is taking to encourage gender diversity in the tech sector. Supporting Meet and Code on its ambitious journey, the initiative also welcomed Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI) as program partner. These achievements are making huge impact for the program, and Europe, and would be considered my highlights. I can’t wait to see what this year brings!
- Meet and Code reaches far and wide, and even the smallest population towns across Europe. What do you think this means for the future of digital skills and coding?
This means we can use the power of technology for good. We can achieve digital literacy, youth can aspire to fulfil careers, and we can create a stable socio-economic climate of equal opportunity. We have initiated a cross-border collaboration between companies and continue to unite children of different backgrounds and locations through Meet and Code events. By working with NGOs across Europe, all youth, from all walks of life will feel equally important and know that no matter where they come from, whether it be a small village or large metro, they can have a bright future in the technological sector. At Meet and Code we are already seeing this take place, with 17.85% of events hosted in small villages and 32.9% happening in larger cities and towns.
- Looking ahead, what does the program hope to achieve?
I would like to see Meet and Code expand into more event categories, more languages, and extend the program’s footprint even further. We want to work with more NGOs from different and diverse backgrounds. Not only do we want Meet and Code to be recognized globally, but we also want youth in all countries to be able to participate. We see participation from other countries to be much easier because of what COVID-19 has taught us, with many closures and back-to-school delays, as coronavirus has highlighted the importance of shifting learning to online and building communities.
To change a massive program to online was not an easy task, we believe this can be achieved globally if we utilize our digital skills and collaborate further with our partners. Our co-ordinators worked hard in providing partner organisations with training, SAP expert volunteers, and toolkits to facilitate the online shift. And one day, we can take the same steps globally. Meet and Code is a shining example of how technology allows us to pivot and maintain connection with each other. And my hopes and aspirations are that the program receives this recognition and that we can work in solidarity to achieve the ground-breaking goal of global expansion and furthering digital skills for all.
Behind Meet and Code are the founding partners SAP, Haus des Stiftens gGmbH, and TechSoup Europe with the respective country partners of the TechSoup Europe Network. Anna Sienicka is Vice President of TechSoup. She is responsible for the strategic direction of TechSoup Europe which is part of the TechSoup Global Network that consists of 70 the world's leading civil society establishments, serves 1.2 million organizations, and delivers +US$13.5 billion in technology tools and philanthropic services.