Ulisse on creating a European digital platform enabling an international network of deaf tour guides

  • Gary Fawdrey

    Gary Fawdrey

    Assistant Programme Manager

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

Ulisse is one of ten finalists for EUSIC 2018. Here, their Deaf Community Manager Dora 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?

I’ve considered myself a travel-addict since I was a teenager. I love organised package holidays with my friends, but I dream of solitary adventurous experiences as well. I think that when you travel alone you can better live and understand local ways of life. However, I know from my own experience how difficult it can be to befriend locals if they don’t speak your language and you… you don’t hear! Being a young deaf girl can be limiting in some situations, even if you have a smartphone, internet connection, WhatsApp, Google Maps and so on! So, thanks to my personal experience and need, I imagined a world where deaf travelers can find local friends. Simply: “Hi Bristol deaf youngsters, I will be in town next week, who can take me out and show me around?”

In Europe, there are more than 500,000 deaf people, a huge community with a huge untapped potential of connections. Many deaf people are young and unemployed, it would be fantastic if they became ‘local friends’ with a possibility of income as a tour guide as well. Ulisse are trying to enable this!

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?

Competitions force you to transform your idea into a real project with real objectives and outcomes; it’s a hard exercise, but then it rewards your efforts. It’s more useful than a grant when you have just have an idea.

On top of this, the European Social Innovation Competition provided us a method, instruments and advice. We have begun to imagine a European extension of Ulisse, incorporating what we have learned during the Academy, through the webinars and coach meetings. We are now working to create a new business structure with an important social impact. Perhaps the most significant thing we learnt from this experience though, was that there is no single social innovation start-up template, and that social innovation projects’ fluidity between the for-profit and non-profit spaces are one of their major strengths.

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

I didn’t know exactly what social innovation was before I participated in the European Social Innovation Competition. I had read about it online without really understanding how important it was. Then I realised that an idea can transform a need into a self-empowering opportunity and that this is social innovation.

For deaf people, it can be very difficult to take up a career, so we usually work hard to develop a family, a community and non-profit activities. As a result the deaf community has a huge network of non-profit associations that address local needs. Social innovation offers us a different option to address our needs or interests, one with a deeper impact.

European NEET’s, especially those with disabilities, are able to use social innovation to change their own futures. I also see a big potential for social innovation in terms of raising awareness and developing networks across Europe – we, as Ulisse, are very keen to be a part of this social innovation community!

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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