Young Social Innovators is a social innovation in its own right originally designed by Rachel Collier and Sr Stanislaus Kennedy as a small pilot programme in the Republic of Ireland in 2001. Both Rachel and Stan are passionate about the potential of young people to drive social change.
Everyone’s an innovator. We all just need the opportunity to unleash it!
Rachel Meets Stan
Rachel met Sr Stan in 1983 when she came to work with her on a research project about homeless women in Dublin. During this research a lot of time was spent listening to women who were out of home and understanding, from their unique perspective, what would have made a difference to their situation. Rachel and Stan, along with others including some young women who were out of home themselves, began a journey to improve services for homeless people, opening the doors of Focus Point in September 1985 in Dublin city centre.
Their vision, spirit and determination resulted in the creation of one of the largest not for profit agencies for people out of home in Ireland today, now known as Focus Ireland.
The experience of developing and sustaining Focus Point built the foundation and deep understanding of social innovation by Young Social Innovators co-founders and this learning is the hallmark of YSI’s successful education programmes.
Stan and Rachel put those affected by homelessness at the centre of design solutions for people out of home. Rachel saw the power of young people in the most difficult circumstances to change their world. She witnessed first-hand their capacity to care not only for themselves but for others in similar situations. Their experience, empathy and understanding were invaluable.
An Idea is Born
Rachel and Sr Stan believed in using the wisdom and insight of those affected by social issues in designing solutions that would be most effective. They also believed in the power of people to make change in their own lives given the support and opportunity they need to do that.
Young people don’t often get a chance to use their experience and talents to make change and Rachel believed there was a way to make this the norm. Young people’s passions and experiences, she thought, could be harnessed to help not only themselves but others. And social innovation provided a way of making this happen!
So Young Social Innovators began as a small pilot with a big ambition in 2001 involving 11 second level schools and 100 teenagers. In 2006 it became a not-for-profit organisation in its own right. By 2015 Young Social Innovators had harnessed the energy and passion of some 100,000 young people to tackle social issues affecting them and their communities.
Developing an understanding
One of the many obstacles to be overcome by the originating team at Young Social Innovators was helping people understand what social innovation actually was, why it was important and how powerful it could be. The strength of YSI’s programmes and model is that they help build an understanding and knowledge about social change that is new, insightful and highly impactful on educators, young people and communities. It is rooted in the real experience of practicing social innovation by the founders themselves.
Young Social Innovators Today
We are now a proud team of passionate, considerably ‘older innovators’ committed to social innovation education and the empowerment of young people.