ConnecTech on offering learning opportunities to young people with physical impairments

  • Gary Fawdrey

    Gary Fawdrey

    Assistant Programme Manager

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Hungarian social innovators ConnecTech tell us about their project and experience of the European Social Innovation Competition (EUSIC) 2018.

ConnecTech is one of ten finalists for EUSIC 2018. Here, their program coordinator, Eszter Fay tells us more about why their project is so important and about their experience of the European Social Innovation Competition so far.

What is the inspiration for your project, and how do you think it will help to empower young people in a changing economy?

The world of technology is diverse, all around us, and offers opportunities to everyone, irrespective of their interests. However, if we look at it workforce-wise, what we see is quite the opposite. In Hungary, only 10 percent of IT professionals are women and this career path is practically out of the reach for other disadvantaged groups. Members of marginalised communities such as care-leavers or those with physical impairments are unlikely to see themselves as potential software engineers or UX developers, indeed they may not even know such roles exist. As digital skills and competencies become indispensable for everyone in the 21st Century, the digital skills gap can create further disadvantages within the labour market.

Some good news however is that diversity has become an important value and a business goal for many tech companies. Also it is very much possible to close the digital skills gap. This is what we have been doing in the last 4.5 years with our partners. In our Skool project, we aim to inspire and encourage girls in tech, in our KódKlub project, we support young boys and girls living in children’s homes. Now, with ConnecTech, we aim to empower young people with physical impairments in the world of technology.

What have you enjoyed most about your experience with the European Social Innovation Competition and how will you apply that learning to your project moving forward?

My most exciting experience with the competition was the three-day-long Academy. Meeting the other teams and discussing their amazing projects was super energizing, inspiring and motivating! Furthermore, the various models and frameworks that we were introduced to at the Academy were all very useful. After we returned from the Academy, we discussed our project idea with our wider team, using these models (e.g. the Theory of Change framework and the 5R model). Our whiteboard was covered with coloured drawings of these models! They helped us a great deal in identifying where we needed to do more research or tweak our concept. Inspired from what we learnt at the Academy, we also carried out more interviews with physically disabled people and with organizations supporting them. We are very much looking forward to involving them more in the further development and design of our project.

How do you see social innovation in Europe progressing over the next 10 years and what role do you see for yourself in that?

There is a huge need for great social innovation projects to move us towards a more environmentally aware and socially just Europe. I hope there will be many more social innovation projects in Hungary and in Europe across the next 10 years and beyond. I am hopeful, as when I talk with young people and ask them about their plans and dreams, they often say that they “want to do something good,” rather than something that is a “great business.” At the Foundation, we see the same in our mentors who volunteer to “give back to the society.” This is not just very nice to see but motivating and promising. We see ourselves as ambassadors of social entrepreneurship and we recognize our responsibility in encouraging others to dare to think outside of the box. In our discussions with young people, we often tell our story: the idea behind our Skool project and how it has developed. This way we try to show them that it is possible to do good and do well simultaneously.

This blog was originally posted on the European Social Innovation Competition’s websiteThe European Social Innovation Competition, launched in memory of Diogo Vasconcelos, is a challenge prize run by the European Commission, now in its sixth year. The competition is open to applicants from EU member states and countries associated to Horizon 2020. The competition is delivered by a consortium of partners including Nesta, Kennisland, Ashoka, ENoLL and Scholz & Friends.

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