The term social innovation can be defined as the creation of new solutions, ideas or practices that address societal problems and improve people’s lives. These societal problems can come from different factors, and they can appear as student debts, healthcare, wage inequality or LGBTQ rights. The role of young people in social innovation is crucial for the overall society. Nowadays, young people, as natural innovators, are increasingly involved in social innovation initiatives that include technology, collaboration, and creativity to tackle the most pressing social and environmental issues of our time.
There are many successful youth-led social innovation projects that have made a significant impact in their communities. They are:
- The Ocean Cleanup
The Ocean Cleanup is a nonprofit organization that was founded by Boyan Slat, a Dutch inventor, who was just 18 years old. It develops technology to clean up plastic pollution from the ocean. There have been several successful cleanup projects, including the world’s first ocean plastic cleanup system. The system was designed to be propelled by wind and waves, in order to catch and concentrate plastic debris. The main objective of the cleanup system was to prove that technology started the cleanup, and the secondary objective was to collect data to improve the design for other deployments.
LemonAid is a social enterprise that was started by three German high school students. They wanted to raise money for charity, by selling homemade lemonade at local events. Very soon they expanded and started selling fair trade products. Today LemonAid supports projects around the world, including smallholder farmers in Paraguay and helps build schools in South Sudan. Also, it contributes to the sustainable improvement of social, economic and ecological structures in the Global South and supports a wide range of projects. They all have one main goal and that is that every person has access to independent, self-determined and sustainable livelihoods.
- Project Power
Project Power is a youth-led organization based in Canada, founded by Arissa Roy. In 2017, she went on a trip to India with her family and she was surprised by the poverty and lack of access to education. This is why Project Power primary’s goal is to see a world where every child has the opportunity to get quality education no matter where they live, through a pen-pal system, which is a 5-week educational experience, where participants learn about different topics like period poverty, climate change, racial injustice, mental health awareness and more.
- Teach for America
Teach for America is a non-profit organization that recruits college graduates to teach in under-resourced schools across the United States. The organization was founded by Wendy Kopp when she was just a senior in college. Teach for America is a diverse network of leaders who work to reduce the injustice of educational inequity through teaching, and also in every sector of society.
Young people are an important source of innovation and creativity when it comes to addressing social challenges, because they often have a unique perspective on the world and they are more willing to take risks than their older peers. This is why they are more likely to experiment with new ideas and take on projects that others might see as too ambitious or too risky. They become part of grassroots organizations, social networks, and other forms of community activism, which can help them identify and address social needs. In this way, many organizations and initiatives have been launched to support and encourage young social innovators, including mentorship programs, incubators, accelerators, and funding opportunities.
The author of this article is Ljupka Janevska, web content writer in Poraka Nova