OTB’s Maaike Veenkamp (second left) with Bill Clinton (fourth right) and other Young Minds winners

— Off The Bench’s Maaike Veenkamp recently won the international Zeitgeist Young Minds award for her work with Lincoln youths as part of the community group. Her prize was an invite to Zeitgeist Europe 2012, which brings together inspirational figures from across the world. Maaike has provided The Lincolnite with a diary of her time at the event and people she met — including Bill Clinton!

Off The Bench was selected as one of ten Zeitgeist Young Mind’s winners for my contribution to the group. The competition spanned across Europe, the far East and Africa and included hundreds of applicants. As a result of this award, I was invited to attend the prestigious Google Zeitgeist conference in London for three days.

The event was held at The Grove Resort in Hertfordshire, and had over 300 delegates from across the world and over 50 guest speakers, including Google Founders Eric Schmidt and Larry Page, Fashion Designer Dame Vivienne Westwood and Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow.

On the day we arrived, we attended the Zeitgeist Introduction and Opening. This was a chance to network with many of the world’s business leaders and innovators, activists and politicians such as David Abraham, CEO of Channel 4, Sarah King from the US Department of State and George Papandreou, the former Prime Minister of Greece. This gave Young Mind’s winners a chance to talk to the delegates about our individual projects and start building networks.

The second day was full of speeches and tailored master classes, ranging from public speaking, social enterprises, business planning and innovation. These were delivered by Google associates and other leading thinkers such as Yossi Vardi, described as one of Israeli’s “high-tech entrepreneurs and investors” and Dave Erasmus, founder of Givey.

In the afternoon, we heard speeches from Annie Lennox — who delivered an incredibly heart-felt and inspirational speech on her work for UNAIDS working in Africa to combat transmission of HIV/AIDS from mothers to babies — a forthright speech from Dame Vivienne Westwood, and a speech from fellow Young Mind’s winner Joel Mwale, representing the Zeitgeist Young Mind’s winners.

The evening ceremony included a performance from Ed Sheeran and Paloma Faith.

On the final day we heard speeches from John Eales, Team Captain of the Australian Rugby Team, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Sir Steve Redgrave.

Finally, we met with President Bill Clinton, where the Young Mind’s winners had the chance to have a relaxed conversation and discuss the help we believe that young social entrepreneurs across the world need to be the successful future generation.

Maaike (left) with supermodel Lily Cole (centre).

Maaike even got to meet chart-topping singer Ed Sheeran.


CEO and co-founder of Off the Bench Pete Genders said: “I’m incredibly proud of Off The Bench and all we have achieved in such a short space of time.

“Maaike has been an integral spoke in that wheel and I was honoured to put her forward for this experience.

“The respect and support we have received from such prestigious world figures, like Bill Clinton, over the past few days have been nothing short of spectacular.

“It has given us not only the support but the strength and invigoration to push Off The Bench forward into a national organisation by young people, for young people.

“Quite an achievement for an organisation barely a year old!”