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Social innovators forge deep ties in communities

THE Vodafone Ireland Foundation, in partnership with Young Social Innovators, aims to harness the enthusiasm and vision of youth to promote change in communities and society.

Driving social innovation by helping YSI expand its programmes, the foundation has set a target of 100,000 young people to have taken the course by the end of 2015.

The programme is currently implemented in over 200 secondary schools annually in Ireland and supports students through the process of identifying local issues and working together to affect positive change in the community.

“This partnership marks a focussed commitment from the Vodafone Ireland Foundation to 16-24 year olds in Ireland,” says Natalie Hodgess, Vodafone Ireland Foundation partner of Young Social Innovators (YSI). “We believe social innovation led by empowered young people can help lead Ireland out of crisis and that this future starts here.”

Founded in 2001, YSI will be supported by the Vodafone Ireland Foundation until the end of 2015. The foundation has 23 similar programmes established around the world aimed at making positive contributions within their respective territories. Vodafone and YSI were a natural fit when the foundation reviewed its activities last year.

“Having worked with a number of charities since 2003, we decided it would be more effective to change strategy now to work on one issue affecting Ireland,” she said.

The economic downturn of the past five years and its effect on young people presented an obvious issue.

“Our research underlined to us just the different ways young people have been affected by the recession,” says Natalie Hodgess. “It has impacted them in terms of unemployment, emigration and disempowerment and disenchantment, feeling their voice is not being heard and they have no future here. This, in turn, leads to negative social behaviour, drug abuse and high alcohol consumption, all of which can lead to further problems of mental health and even suicide.”

Deciding to adopt a proactive, meaningful approach, Vodafone Ireland Foundation invited pitches from youth charities before eventually partnering with Young Social Innovators after an extensive selection process.

“We want the Young Social Innovators to become as mainstream as the Young Scientists Exhibition,” she says. “Partnering the Vodafone brand with YSI can help bring up to that level. Events like the annual showcase last May — where 5,000 young people presented their projects and demonstrated huge creativity — has already begun this process,” said Hodgess.

The YSI website and new Social Innovation Hub was nominated as the Irish entry to the 2013 World Summit Award in the e-Inclusion & Empowerment category, to be judged by a jury of international ICT experts.

Developed with the support of Vodafone Ireland Foundation, it is a unique online space for young people to platform, share and co-create social innovation activities which promote positive social change, and will compete against 500 other e-Content products and applications from 168 countries in front of the WSA’s Grand Jury.

The selection process will then whittle those 500 down to a final 40, who will present their products in front of an global audience in Sri Lanka at the end of October.

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