Young Social Innovators is an educational charity that aims to get young people involved in social innovations throughout Ireland. Co-founded by Sister Stan, YSI was originally designed to give young people, who are quite marginalised, the opportunity to put ideas forward for how they would like to see Irish society change.
YSI supports teachers to use a process of critical and creative thinking with young people in secondary schools to identify innovations that could bring about change in their community or indeed in communities elsewhere, including outside Ireland.
Currently more than 20,000 students in over 200 schools participate in YSI. What we are seeing now is that young people are reaching out to other marginalised groups at home and abroad, helping them find their voice and contribute to change. One example is the recent winning project by Portmarnock Community School, which developed a unique mapping system for Lesotho. By helping those who are disengaged or disenfranchised, YSI initiatives can bring together different parts of the community in positive, supportive environment.
This also highlights the changing nature of community in Ireland these days. Though the nature of community life in Ireland remains vibrant, the traditional focus on the parish – through schools, churches and the GAA – is undergoing change. The process of secularisation means that new sources of community are emerging alongside traditional ones. These can be ground up initiatives, inspired by local issues, or by national campaigns and programmes requiring community involvement and support. It also means that new community leaders will emerge to guide those who seek change.
However, there is a real danger of polarisation in such a scenario at a social class level. More affluent communities find it easier to access the resources they need to create and sustain community initiatives. But this can lead to great inequality between communities if public resources are not made available to those communities that can draw on private or local resources instead.
That said, given the pressures on public spending on both sides of the border, communities are going to have to work harder together to ‘do it yourselves’ rather than wait for government to solve their problems. So the message to all those who care is don’t wait, and be part of the ‘democracy of opportunities’ that we can all get involved in.
Phase 3 is here! Download the report below.
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