Top Talk 7 April 2011 – 12:45-13:00, MFM studio

Guest: Edson Charinkinya from Brightest Young Minds

Topic: Brightest Young Minds

Presenter: Lunette Louw


1.       Edson, please tell us about Brightest Young Minds – also, when and why was it founded?

The Brightest Young Minds organisation was founded in 2000 and aimed to channel the hearts and minds of the brightest young minds in the country and fast track their development for the benefit of SA. Today BYM aims to channel the hearts and minds of young leaders into initiatives that will bring about positive social change and  help create a better future for all. BYM therefore identifies, inspire and equip young leaders to be positive change agents. It does this on two levels:

  • Through developing young leaders and equipping them to affect social change  from where they are and with the resources to their disposal.

Brightest Young Minds seeks to inspire, develop, train young people through several initiatives. Of these, the annual Brightest Young Minds summit is our flagship project. Other spaces created for fresh dialogue throughout the year are the Think Tanks, and Play shops.

  • Through designing, developing and supporting projects that have a positive social impact

Brightest Young Minds™ (BYM) started out in 2000 with the vision “to create a platform that showcases the Brightest Young Minds’ potential and fast track their development for the benefit of South Africa.”
It started out just as a week long Summit aiming to bridge the gap between students and the outside world and giving students a platform to share their ideas amongst inspiring peers. For partnering companies it provided the opportunity to listen to the ideas of the students and pose them specific challenges.

2.       Tell us about your experience as a Brightest Young Minds?


Being a BYM delegate in 2009 was a thought provoking and life changing experience for me. I met some of South Africa’s brilliant minds. It was inspiring interacting with some of South Africa’s leading corporate and social figures. It challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and make a difference, hence my continued involvement with the organization. I met 100 great friends in only one week. Just being associated with BYM opened up many opportunities for  me.

3.       What is the BYM annual summit?

The Annual BYM Summit is the entry point into the BYM programme, and brings together 100 of the country’s brightest young minds from diverse backgrounds and disciplines for a week‐long summit. The summit environment is dynamic and highly energetic, and during the week delegates are given the opportunity to network, brainstorm, collaborate, and explore new ventures and ideas. All Corporate Partners will get an opportunity to provide input at the summit and to interact with delegates. Drawing on the high‐level inputs given by Corporate Partners and other leaders, summit delegates also get to work on their own ideas and projects, and 6 to 8 of these are presented on the final day of the Summit.

4.       What is the topic of this year’s summit and where will it be held?

The theme for the 2011 summit is: “A Climate for Change. At BYM we believe in the power of young people to bring about positive social change. Our generation of leaders will be faced with the challenge of building a low-carbon and low-poverty world. This challenge might seem extremely bold to conquer, especially if one is to look at the state of affairs in north Africa and the Middle East. But it is in this very gloomy climate that we believe that young positive change agents must take hands, and respond to the challenges facing us. We also believe that the brightest young minds can and will provide the revolutionary leadership that is so needed to change this country and continent for the better”. This year’s summit will see the inauguration of the Brightest Young Minds Lecture, a high‐profile key‐note address.(and if she asks out about this, this is top secret)

5.       Who may apply for the BYM Summit and how many gets chosen?

The brightest and most passionate university students, recent graduates and other positive change agents between the ages of 20-30 are encouraged to apply and only 100 delegates get chosen to attend the summit.

6.       What are the benefits of / opportunities attached to being a BYM?

The BYM summit offers an opportunity for delegates to learn from recognized South African Market leaders and work on innovative projects with like‐minded individuals. It provides an excellent training ground for tomorrow’s leaders and is a very powerful networking platform. The BYM participants have proven to be a sought‐after talent‐pool in terms of recruitment and sourcing innovative ideas. BYM has served as the launch pad or inspiration for several successful businesses and social endeavours. Some of the ideas developed at previous summits include:

  • AIDS Industry Management Standard – this project was later funded and taken over by


  • Taxi Smart Card system – the idea was published on the main page of Die Burger, Beeld and


  • A personalised publication service using social network data – the idea has been developed into a business that has won national prizes and attracted venture capital
  • A platform for delivering educational and life‐skills content via mobile phones – this project is currently ongoing

7.       Edson, what does being a BYM entail – are you guys involved with projects and actually do things, or is it primarily attending the summit?

In the first half of the year, BYM will run a ‘Playshops’ in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively. A Playshop is a specific format used by BYM to explore a relevant topic interactively from various perspectives in a few hours. The Playshops are specifically aimed at the 1000 BYM alumni. Besides the Playshops, two more alumni events will be held in the second half of the year, again in Johannesburg and Cape Town. These events will introduce the Class of 2011 to the rest of the network, and once again tie in with the overall theme for the year

Other BYM activities include  the BYM’s Think Tank activities. This is be structured around two themes:

Youth Leadership and Innovation.

Over the years BYM has often been asked to comment on matters related to youth and youth leadership. This year BYM will engage in the public discourse on youth leadership in a more structured manner. This will include conducting member surveys on relevant issues and publishing the results, as well as publishing thought leadership pieces from time to time.

For the Innovation theme BYM will use its members as a source of new ideas and innovation, whether through research, workshops or surveys. Previous innovation projects that BYM has participated inlooked at Green Healthcare, the future of energy, and scenarios for the future of SA amongst others.

8.       Tel us a bit more about the criteria used to select the BYM’s?

The one hundred delegates are selected on the criteria of Innovation, leadership, Initiative shown  and academic accomplishment. The selection process follows an extensive marketing campaign that sees up to 1500 applications from all over the country.

 9.       Are there previous Brightest Young Minds, or alumni, that achieved great success and attribute it to some extent to being part of the organization?

Several social initiatives, such as Women in Engineering, the Investec Young Women in Finance conference, the Tertiary School in Business Administration (TSiBA), Twenty30 and BYM Australia, have been inspired by BYM. Alumni from the BYM programme have also gone on start numerous successful businesses (including, Enablis and Endeavor winners) and been awarded top scholarships (16 Rhodes scholars in the last 6 years alone). BYM alumni today also occupy positions in many of the leading companies in the country, some on a senior executive level. Furthermore, BYM has been endorsed byseveral top leaders from business, government and academia throughout the years. In 2010, BYM was approached to be part of the  MTN Leading CEO Council, and all the Protégés in the programme came from the ranks of BYM.

 10.   When do the applications close and where can interested students get more information?

Applications for the summit are available on the BYM website ( and the closing date is the 14th of April. Successful applicants will be able to attend the summit free of charge.


About charikinya
I am a Chemical Engineer with a keen intrest in Africa and the eradication of poverty on the continent.

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