Why we need to embrace our young ones
All too often, and far too easily, young people are described as being uninterested, self-centred, ill-mannered, lazy – easy stereotypes and labels to pin on teenagers. Our experience in Young Social Innovators utterly belies this.
We see young people who are deeply interested and engaged and who want to create a fair, just and inclusive society. And, importantly, we see young people who, when given the opportunity, are prepared to do something about it – not something that can always be said of adults.
This week the 12th Young Social Innovators Showcase takes place in Dublin. It will be attended by thousands of young people who participated in this year's Social Innovation programme.
Between them, they have completed over 350 social- action projects, that addressed issues such as the lack of youth facilities, cyber bullying, continuing education for teenage mums, education cuts and youth literacy.
They have looked beyond their own needs to issues affecting the wider community such as farm safety, the dearth of community facilities, the environment, homelessness, social inclusion of the elderly and mental health.
The Social Innovation programme is open to 15-18 year olds through schools and youth organisations. It invites people to use their creativity to develop new responses which can improve society.
When young people do it, they discover important parts of themselves and that what they do counts. Our model helps their learning, actions and reflection and instills self-confidence. It focuses on the four Cs:
Care – young people decide what issue they will tackle and self-direct their learning to develop a deep understanding of their concerns
Co-operate – they work in teams and often collaborate with others in the local community to get support for their innovation.
Change – they use their creative imagination to see opportunities for change and to develop an innovative response.
Communicate – they learn the importance of communicating effectively to influence and get the support of others.
When we socially innovate we use particular values to bring about social change – values that promote fairness, equity, participation, rights, and collaboration. These are as important as the impact we make: in fact, they determine the success of the outcomes.
Over 47,000 young people have participated in the Social Innovation programme since it began in 2001. They have brought fresh thinking and new perspectives to issues with which most adults grapple.
We believe every young person should have the opportunity to socially innovate as part of their development and maturity.
Our aim, through a new partnership with the Vodafone Ireland Foundation, is to more than double our participants and create an empowered network of 100,000 young social innovators by 2015.
Empowering young people to innovate uses one of the greatest resources we have. Let's harness their ideas and energy. Young people can, if we let them, make a huge difference to Ireland.
Rachel Collier is co-founder & CEO of Young Social Innovators