In 2010, HP and Junior Achievement launched an online collaborative social innovation challenge, the Social Innovation Relay, to mobilize students around the world to become social innovators. The relay invites students between the ages of 15 – 18 from up to 13 countries to think like entrepreneurs and develop concepts that could have a significant positive social impact in their local communities or around the world. With the support of HP volunteers, students learn more about social innovation and the use of technology both as a collaboration tool and as a potential solution to social issues.
Blogger Ray Maota notes that the program will help prepare students for the job market:
“The aim was to close the gap in the job market between young people who have opportunities to learn about technology from a young age and those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Over the past two years, 30,000 students have submitted 1,000 social innovation concepts under the guidance of 300 HP mentors. In its third year, the Social Innovation Relay aims to reach 40,000 students with the support of 22 Junior Achievement offices.
Students register for the Social Innovation Relay online and participate in interactive online case study presentations, where HP volunteers explain the concept of social innovation and go over real life examples.
Students then test their knowledge with an online quiz and win Responsible Business Certificates if they answer 80% of the questions correctly. Next, students brainstorm and submit their own social innovation ideas.
As blogger Ray Maota noted:
“Following that, they group themselves into teams of three to five members, and are required to develop a socially innovative business idea that would alleviate a problem affecting their communities.”
The top 20 teams in each country qualify for the Social Innovation Relay and are paired with HP e-mentors. Students collaborated with their mentors via HP Virtual Rooms or in person.
Deepti Bansal, member of the winning team in the U.S., reflects on her mentor’s guidance:
“We would give him ideas and then he would respond with questions that got us thinking about potential problems with our idea. This made us think more analytically and ended up strengthening the project. He didn’t just give us the answers; he made us think for ourselves.”
The top 10 teams participate in a national final held online and present their ideas to HP employees who volunteer as judges. One team is selected as the winner, presented with HP prizes, and qualifies for the global round of the Social Innovation Relay, also held online. Global winners win an all expense paid trip to Estonia for the Junior Achievement – Young Entrepreneurs Alumni Europe conference.
Caroline Jenner, CEO of JA-YE Europe and Senior Vice President at JA Worldwide, points out:
“The program was designed to improve students’ business savvy, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. At the same time, it improves their awareness of how to create opportunities for themselves while also making the world a better place.”
In 2013, HP and JA introduced offline case study presentations held at local schools and HP offices:
“Students interested in social entrepreneurship had the opportunity to interact with HP volunteers and to analyze contemporary examples of social innovations. They also contributed with their ideas of social innovation as solutions to important problems identified in their community.”
HP employees and non-HP volunteers attended volunteer training sessions to prep for these presentations. The offline presentations have been introduced in schools in Romania, Kenya and Indonesia, and expand the reach of the program.
HP is committed to innovation in education and with initiatives like the Social Innovation Relay, fulfills its purpose of “working with students, teachers, and entrepreneurs to redesign and complement the learning process.”
HP has worked with Junior Achievement since 1996, to meet this goal and develop new ways of building entrepreneurship and business skills among young people. HP employees volunteer their time to programs like the Social Innovation Relay and various other training initiatives. In fact, HP was recently awarded the Junior Achievement U.S. President’s Volunteer Service Award in recognition of the HP employees’ efforts.
HP also emerged as a top performer in education and human potential in the MSLGROUP PurPle Index, which measures the strength of engagement for the Fortune Global 100 around PurPle opportunity areas of health, environment, education, human potential and purpose.
In addition to the Social Innovation Relay, HP has also launched initiatives like online learning- platform HP Life to equip students and aspiring entrepreneurs with business skills and technology training.
Thinkers believe that collaborative social innovation challenges help combat youth unemployment, a pressing issue especially in the U.S. and Europe.
Erin Krampetz, Co-Founder and Community Director at Ashoka U highlights the need to complement educational programs with such initiatives:
“Many of today’s most pressing challenges – climate change, to government deficits, to poverty both in the U.S. and globally – will be the job of tomorrow’s leaders to address. Yet our nation’s institutions of higher learning, the breeding ground for future leaders, have fallen behind in their ability to provide students with the mindset and skill set essential to effect positive social change and to create solutions where none seem possible.”
Junior Achievement’s Caroline Jenner highlights the role that governments and businesses can play in combating youth unemployment:
“Through programs like [the Social Innovation Relay], governments (through supportive policies in the school system and teacher training) and business communities (through engaging employees and global networks) have co-invested in entrepreneurship and social innovation education, and supported strong school-to-work schemes—and they are achieving great results in the fight against youth unemployment.”
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