Young people around the world improve their employability through participation in the Social Innovation Relay

Johannesburg, 10 April 2013. Today, Junior Achievement Young Enterprise (JA-YE) Europe and the University of Warwick announce the impact of the 2012 Social Innovation Relay – a global competition organized in collaboration with HP that challenges secondary school students to develop an innovative business concept that addresses a social need. In 2012, there were over 20,000 participants from 13[1] countries. The University of Warwick evaluated the program and demonstrated the significant impact of the Social Innovation Relay (SIR) in terms of 21st century skills (teamwork, problem-solving, and decision-making skills) as well as use of technology, and the potential of social entrepreneurship. The results of this public-private collaboration show the importance that e-mentoring and technology can play on the employability and entrepreneurship potential of young people.

Today’s job market is more competitive than ever and employers expect high levels of entrepreneurial and ICT skills from the next generation of employees. Unfortunately, many students do not have the opportunity to learn and develop in these areas, leaving them to struggle upon graduation. In fact, the European Commission estimates that less than 5% of young people in Europe participate in entrepreneurship education in school. Elsewhere in the world, this percentage is even lower.

In response, Junior Achievement Young Enterprise (JA-YE) Europe worked with the HP Sustainability and Social Innovation group to create the SIR to build competencies and interest in entrepreneurship and social innovation while cultivating critical 21st century skills.  To have greater reach and impact, technology was firmly integrated in the project design, a first for JA-YE which has traditional depended solely on face-to-face engagement.  Now, in the program’s 3rd year, student teams from 19 countries worldwide are creating and developing new business concepts intended to address a social or environmental impact.

The University of Warwick evaluated and demonstrated the significant impact of the Social Innovation Relay.  Overall:

  • 80% of the student participants agree or strongly agree that they understand what social innovation is as a result of their participation in the SIR;
  • 71% of the student participants agree or strongly agree that they are more aware that social and business objectives can be complementary as a result of participating in the SIR;
  • 74% of the student participants agree or strongly agree that they have learned how to work with others in new ways to address social needs;
  • 76% of the student participants agree or strongly agree  that they have developed their ability for creative thinking following participation in the SIR;
  • 72% of the student participants agree or strongly agree that they better understand the importance of ICT in pursuing social and business initiatives;
  • The vast majority of the student participants reported improvements in their communication skills (87%), teamwork skills (74%), decision-making skills (72%) and problem-solving skills (67%).

The SIR presents students with the challenges of social innovation. Students work in teams to develop new strategies and concepts to help meet various social needs and create a positive social impact. Participating students communicate and present their ideas using the latest software and digital technology. More than 22,000 students from 13 countries formed 1,564 teams that registered for last year’s relay. The top 20 teams in each country were paired with HP employees from around the world, who connected with the finalists, virtually or face-to-face, to help them bring their concepts to life. Thirteen teams competed in the final round of the competition and their submissions were judged virtually by judges from HP using HPVR technology.

Entrepreneurship education empowered by e-mentoring

This effort would not have been possible without the active engagement of the HP volunteers who were trained to serve as e-mentors. According to student survey respondents, mentors had a positive impact on their learning outcomes. Survey respondents reported that their mentors improved their considerations for social issues (80%); and provided real-life examples and stories that were not to be found in books (75%). Almost two-thirds reported that their mentor had made them consider starting up a social business. Those student teams who engaged virtually with their mentor were even more likely to experience positive learning outcomes, a strong testament to the value of e-mentorship.

ICT key driver in pursuing social and business initiatives

The Warwick University study confirms that students who participated in the SIR believe they are better able to understand the importance of ICT in pursuing social and business initiatives. ICT provides new and exciting opportunities to students for competitive collaboration within and across countries and across business and education communities. Two-thirds of participating students agree that ICT has made participation in the SIR interesting and 70% agree that ICT has made their learning fast and easy.

To read the full report, click here


[1] Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, France, India, Kenya, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Slovakia, UK, USA

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