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  • Heidi

Are We Supporting Innovation?

The 12th August is the 22nd annual UN’s International Youth Day, a day which explores and celebrates the role that young people have in society, and the challenges they face and overcome. This year’s theme is ‘transforming food systems: youth innovation for human and planetary health’ which links with the UN’s climate change and sustainability frameworks.


I thought we’d take a quick look at innovation and some organisations supporting youth innovation at home and further afield.


In their report on youth led innovation, NESTA identified 6 challenges that prevent young people from making their ideas a reality


  1. The portrayal and voices of young people in media

  2. Having encouragement from their world to innovate

  3. Having access to networks and expertise

  4. Development for the staff who work with young people

  5. Providing ‘spaces’ and ‘places’ for young people to innovate

  6. Celebrating young people and their accomplishments


The NESTA report primarily looks at innovation in terms of creation, prototyping and producing things; and argues that young people don’t have access to the same knowledge or products as older people - for example, patent advice or capital from banks. However, I would like to put that aside for a second and look at innovation as part of creativity. For me, one key point is jumping out from all 6 points and that is giving young people the opportunity to innovate for themselves before jumping into innovation for economic gain. Where are young people given the space to be creative and innovate? Especially in an education system that pushes towards education to pass exams rather than education to learn skills and explore.


There are organisations looking to change this, for example Young Enterprise provide awards and programmes for young people in school, exploring both the creative side to innovation but also financial literacy. Similarly, The Prince’s Trust runs programmes and can provide financial support for young people looking to start their own business. However, if we’re not investing in creativity and living within a system that sees STEM and Humanities as two competing ideals, are we quashing youth innovation?