To commemorate this milestone, our key partner SAP’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Middle and Eastern Europe, Gabriele Hartmann, shares her thoughts on the last 5 years of Meet and Code and the role that youth digital skills play in an increasingly digitised society.
- What do you love about Meet and Code?
Exactly what the name says, the meeting and gathering of clever, enquiring, and curious minds, and the fun educational and learning element. Educating youth coupled with supporting local NPOs are both close to my heart. The Meet and Code initiative marries the two by improving digital skills among Europe’s youth and supporting NPOs by way of providing them with grants to host their events as well as assistance through engaging the skills and knowledge of our SAP volunteers with the local NPOs by means of one-on-one coaching sessions and online seminars.
And that’s not all, NPOs are also invited to submit their event ideas for the Meet and Code Awards where they stand a chance to win a prize of 2000 €. Awards are given for digital skills excellence in five categories that contribute positively to the Sustainable Development Goals through IT and coding.
- Meet and Code turns five this year. Tell us about some of the impacts to date?
In just 5 years we have seen tremendous exponential growth in youth engagement, non-profit organisation involvement, provision of grants for events.
However, in 2020, a year marked by the global pandemic, we generated some amazing results for the NPOs which of course had a positive impact on local youth. In total, Meet and Code provided grants for 1,324 events and 679 non-profit organisations which resulted in us being able to reach a staggering 39,604 participants.
For the first time since inception, youth could not meet and collaborate on event ideas and workshops, but this did not deter non-profit organisations, Meet and Code or our superstar youth. I am excited to see what this year brings.
The highlight for me has been the impact that the grants have had in providing the opportunity for deserving NPOs to host events that may have not been developed if they did not have access to funding. For example, in 2020, 66%
- What has been your favourite highlight?
of the events hosted were only possible because of the funding provided by Meet and Code
and would not have taken place otherwise.
A nice encounter with a colleague proved this: He shared an email with me which he received from a friend who lives in Ukraine, in a really remote area. The friend had just received some funding for his workshop that he was offering to youth in the area. He told the colleague that without the funding, he would not have been able to go through with this. I am just always amazed by that – and also the geographical reach Meet and Code has.
- You said it: Meet and Code reaches far and wide, and even the smallest towns across Europe. What do you think this means for the future of digital skills and coding?
The expansion into more countries and reaching more youth through those efforts have been particularly exciting. Meet and Code now reaches 35 countries in and around Europe. I am particularly proud that we fund activities in rural areas and smaller communities. Organizations working there have it traditionally much harder to get support. This means that more youth have access to digital skills and coding workshops, as well as the opportunity for more non-profit organisations in each country to get involved. And it also means that less youth is left behind.
One of the objectives of Meet and Code is to reach youth from all walks of life so that we can minimise the digital skills gap across our continent and provide a better life for all.
- Looking ahead, what does the program hope to achieve?
The sky is the limit for Meet and Code. Over and above incorporating new and exciting online elements and activities to support our virtual learning shift following the pandemic last year, we would also like to see more participants across Europe. What I would personally find exciting is organizations reaching out to one another across borders and maybe coming up with workshop ideas that enable youth to come together through coding.
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. Gabriele Hartmann is the Head of Corporate Social Responsibility Middle and Eastern Europe. SAP enables Meet and Code through financial support and providing resources for nonprofits.