Our story began in Dublin in the 1980s when our two co-founders met and began working together, firstly on a research project on homeless women, and then to establish a new kind of service to meet the needs of homeless people living in the capital.
Rachel and Stan worked closely with young homeless women, developing a programme around things they wished to do and learn. Throughout this time, the women shared their unique insights and experiences which helped to shape the design of a new evolving service for homeless people. Focus Point opened its doors in 1985 and is now Ireland's largest homeless not-for-profit organisation, Focus Ireland.
During their years working together, Stan and Rachel forged a strong partnership and friendship. Their experience of working with young people and of building strong civic and social change initiatives evolved their thinking around social innovation. The seeds of Young Social Innovators were sown with its strong principles of collaborative human-centred design, experiential learning and social justice.
At the turn of the century, there were few opportunities for young people, especially those who were marginalised, to have their ideas for change and voices heard in Irish society. This posed a challenge to Stan and Rachel who witnessed first-hand how empowering young people could make a difference to their lives and the lives of others.
Young Social Innovators began as a small programme in 2001 and evolved into an innovative organisation and purveyor of social innovation education for thousands of young people and educators in 2005.
Archive photo of St. Leo's College Carlow students who were the first ever Young Social Innovators of the Year winners in 2002 with their project entitled 'Teenage Motherhood in Our Communities'.
It developed a unique framework for social innovation learning and practice, the building blocks and approaches to empowering students through collaborating and co-designing responses to important social issues. It has created programmes, resources and training to support educators to facilitate social innovation projects with young people taking the lead, not only in Ireland but around the world.
Our story continues to unfold.