Make-Break-Create for SDGs

April 19, 2024


Innovation, driven by social entrepreneurship, plays a vital role in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), empowering individuals to address pressing societal challenges with targeted, context-specific, and sustainable solutions. 

The SDG School in India offers a unique platform for individuals from diverse backgrounds to cultivate their own innovative solutions for the SDGs. Through collaborative efforts, participants explore creative avenues, particularly frugal innovation, to tackle pressing global issues and strive for meaningful impact within their communities. 

This April 21st, on the International Day for Innovation and Creativity, we look at the just concluded cohort of the SDG School, and promising innovation which aims to foster innovation, break barriers, and create solutions for the SDGs. 


The SDG School was established in 2016 through an Indo-French collaboration led by Makers Asylum. UNDP has been a proud partner of this programme since 2021. To date, the programme has empowered over 3,000 youth in more than 40 countries. 

This year's cohort consisted of 45 interdisciplinary participants, and the programme commenced on February 5, 2024, with a two-week virtual boot camp. This segment was designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of design thinking and frugal innovation. Subsequently, participants were grouped to collaborate on an SDG-aligned problem statement and develop innovative solutions. After creating the initial prototype, gathering feedback, and refining their product through multiple iterations, participants convened for an immersive in-person experience to further enhance their solutions. 


A key aspect of the SDG School is that it promotes rapid prototyping, design thinking, and frugal innovation, build capacity, and address challenges associated with the SDGs. It not only allows participants to brainstorm and ideate solutions for the SDGs, but also to test their learnings by creating prototypes. 

It is important not to have only concepts and ideas but also actionable solutions. Rapid prototyping helps create quick, frugal solution to test out all the assumptions and ideas for actionable solutions and move forward in the creation process. In the context of the SDGs, this is important as time is of the essence.
Richa Shrivastava, Director, Maker's Asylum


Aishwarya Lakhani, a designer, co-creator of Sense Ed, a creative board game aimed at educating adolescents about self-regulation techniques to alleviate anxiety, shares, "I am still baffled by how we managed to 'break' our prototype (a board game), redesign everything, and achieve a new functioning prototype - all within the last 2 days of the 5-day acceleration programme! I believe everyone would agree when I say it was truly a reflective experience regarding how much we limit ourselves in solving such problems otherwise."


One of the promising innovations from the recently concluded program was RE PLAY – a do-it-yourself (DIY) creativity kit made from scrap fabric material.  

In Indian urban cities like New Delhi, children often lack awareness about sustainable materials and upcycling due to limited education and environmental exposure. This results in uninformed consumption habits. In the last 15 years, clothing production has approximately doubled and the apparel industry is second only to the oil industry when it comes to pollution.

RE PLAY aims to creatively engage children while also raising awareness about environmental waste and sustainability. The idea was developed by a team of four young innovators – Anish, Sania, Disha, and Ananya.


Trash 2 Treasure is another innovative solution developed by one of the youngest teams in the cohort to address the challenge of marine litter.

Inspired by the Netflix series "Stranger Things" and the Demogorgon, a mythical creature from hell, the team comprising Tigran Margaryan, Suryansha Sheth, Arrnavv Chawla, and Manushree MM have named their product "Trash Demogorgon." It serves as a tool to pick up waste at beaches, with the aim of encouraging waste collection at the community level and depositing it at designated collection points, from where it would be sent to recycling units. Additionally, the team plans to further develop and gamify a supporting app to promote waste collection.

 "I think that amidst the whirlwind of innovation and pure energy, each day unfurled as a vivacious page in my life experience painted with passion, progress, failures and successes. And the whole experience was enriched with the opportunity to meet such enthusiastic and diverse people, all working hand-in-hand for a sustainable future," says 16-year-old co-creator of Trash 2 Treasure, Arrnavv Chawla about his experience at the SDG School Program.


Inclusive and quality education for all is one of the most potent tools for sustainable development, and First Steps is actively contributing to this cause through innovation. The team has devised an interactive puzzle-like device aimed at helping learners grasp the fundamentals of the English language.

The brains behind this solution, Zaberi and Anas, are first-generation learners from Dharavi, deeply involved with Makers Asylum. Zaberi Ansari expressed her positive experience with the programme, stating, "We dedicated 5 days to working on the First Steps project, culminating in a pitch presentation on the 6th day. Our project was showcased at the Make Break Create Summit on March 16th, where we had the chance to refine our idea with the guidance of our mentors."


The cohort culminated with a first of its kind Make-Break-Create Summit, which was hosted at the Museum of Solutions on 16th March 2024. Over 150 guests from academia, corporates, NGOs, start-ups attended the event which not only displayed the journey of the SDG School participants, but also celebrated the spirit of innovation driven by impact. 

The participants got to engage, interact and pitch their solutions in the Makers Expo. There were also closed-room roundtables with philanthropies, institutions and other stakeholders to discuss how collaboration and creativity can be sparked in the youth to encourage innovative problem solving. 

Panel discussions featuring creative trailblazers such as Prajakta Koli (UNDP Youth Climate Champion), Madanmohan Rao (Research Director at Yourstory Media), Rahat Kulshreshta (Founder, Quidditch Innovation Labs), and many others highlighted different aspects of the journey of experimentation for impact. 


"I have discovered that making and creating is a life-long process that requires iteration at every turn, and you can do so much in just 10 days," says Indhuja, Sense Ed.

The SDG School truly celebrates the values of creativity and innovation Day inspiring the youth to let their ideas guide them towards building solutions to the most pressing problems of the world. In doing so, they contribute to the socio-economic, environmental, and cultural progress of society.


As we look forward to the next cohort, UNDP remains dedicated to discovering creative solutions for the SDGs. We achieve this by offering support to innovators, connecting them with an ever-expanding network of partners to refine and implement their ideas. UNDP is committed to sustaining the culture of open experimentation and funnel creation for the social innovation value chain in the years to come. 

Photos By: Arun Morris

With inputs from: Manvika Aggarwal, Rozita Singh and Vedant Rastogi