Author : Serra Titiz Thursday, January 1, 2015

For social innovation to come, you need to relate yourself to the problem and you have to have the passion to pursue the tedious path that awaits you.
This is what happened to me when I came up with the idea of a youth platform that enables information and experience sharing equally and without any time and space restriction.

When this innovation becomes one for the social good of the society overall, it serves sustainable development, becomes part of the system or disrupts and eventually changes the system for the better.
Take the example of the Future is Brighter, an extensive and diverse community and database that brings together stakeholders of the youth unemployment problem in Turkey. It enables free and equal access to people, to institutions, to knowledge and experience. It does so by engaging people, by mobilizing resources, by using technology and already existing tools. It didn’t invent any new product but it did bring together existing tools and concepts to serve one pressing problem: youth unemployment.

If this innovation is related to a group that has remarkable influence on society; a change in them can change the society. This is the case with youth. Investment in youth has high social returns. Because they will direct companies, they build families, they will rule states, they will initiate civil society movements. Their self-fulfillment, their effective inclusion in society and their efficient engagement into the economy, hence their full contribution and use of potential can actually change the world for the better.

120 million youth enter the workforce every year but 80% can’t find work! %40 of the world’s unemployed are youth. Youth in Turkey and many parts of the world are mostly unaware of their opportunities or often even discouraged from making self-determined choices about their lives, studies and careers. In consequence many make life and career choices that do not reflect who they are and what they’re capable of, but rather what they’re told to be.
Their situation is worsened by an education system, which fails to develop and match talents with existing opportunities.
This results in a myriad of negative social and economic consequences: youth unemployment rates are dramatically high, on the job productivity is low and the economic costs of hiring, training and then shortly afterwards losing disappointed employees due to early dropouts are staggering.
The fact that professionals are to a large extent detached from youth further exacerbates the issue creating an even broader challenge.

Where to start? Such a big problem cannot have one solution but many and solutions should communicate with each other to have an effect on all its components.

Youth unemployment is increasing in Europe and in Turkey, higher levels of education does not equal lower unemployment, education on its own will not solve this issue. All kinds of initiatives targeting self-improvement of youth, teachers, parents and effective integration into business world are needed.

How you address the problem will make your solution unique because it will reflect your answer with your capabilities.
Our solution was to create a one-stop-shop reference point for youth to reach information, people and experiences of others for them to make better and more informed choices about their careers, education and their life.
I have been working on sustainable development with youth and with the business world. I saw the need for a connection but I had to come up with a simple and adaptive model so that it attracts and engages both youth and professionals.

Engaging all stakeholders of the problem into the solution yields a multiplier effect and increases the impact. Then your solution can have an effect on their work and a collective evolution happens and plant the seeds of system change together.
In our case, we have engaged professionals as voluntary mentors into our system, they spend time with youth and share their vocations and career stories with them. We shoot vocational videos with corporates and develop youth empowerment programs with them in the scope of their CSR programs.

We started to engage large NGOs and devise solutions with them to reach out to their audiences and to complement their services.

By meaningfully engaging related partners and stakeholders your initiative might turn out to become a movement.

Use of existing tools and technology will strengthen the ecosystem and will ensure long-term sustainability.
No need to re-invent the world. Adapting to the situation and conditions and making use of what’s available can still create an original solution. The way the problem is interpreted, the new look of the social entrepreneurs and his/her expertise would produce the necessary solution.

Today we are all living in the digital age where anyone can make their voice heard. We can’t even think of a life without internet! There are striking figures on internet use. Did you know that 45% of internet users consist of young people aged under 25 and young people aged under 30 spend up to 3 hours on internet per day!

Technology is at the core of our platform, it enables knowledge and experience-sharing across boundaries. The platform combines online and offline tools which include e-mentoring, coaching, online trainings, webinars, forums and workshops. More than 600 voluntary professionals are there to enlighten youth’s way.

Imagine these youth spending an hour every day in our platform, where they can meet with and consult professionals, take trainings, learn about different vocations and improve their personal and professional abilities and make more informed choices about their lives.

I believe in the power of smart networks, volunteerism and partnerships. All social innovation you come up with should comprise these features to succeed and to make a system change.