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How social innovation helps to promote a more sustainable and inclusive society

Fleur HUDIG, Head of Corporate Citizenship, NN Group

The COVID-19 pandemic is putting our economies under unprecedented pressure. Increases in unemployment figures are unfortunately reported every day and the continued uncertainty is threatening many companies of all sizes, across all sectors. 

While governments are putting forward rescue packages to support their economies, we believe it is important to remember that the former challenges have not gone away: sustainability or social inequalities, to mention a few, shall still deserve our full attention.

Since 2015, NN Group has been partnering with Junior Achievement Europe on the initiative called “Social Innovation Relay”. Together, we aim to empower young people to tackle societal challenges by using innovation and entrepreneurship. More than ever, providing students with entrepreneurship skills while underscoring the link between businesses and society appear to us as a key contribution to support the next generation and the world in the recovery that awaits us.

Making the innovators of tomorrow

Over the last 5 years, over 63,000 young people across 13 countries in Europe and globally have had the opportunity to be supported by experienced NN colleagues to come up with the innovative ideas that would address their communities’ most pressing challenges. 

Earlier this year, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the students participating in the first digital Social Innovation camp in Bulgaria were tasked to look for financial solutions that would help to maintain existing businesses and help people to manage their finances in times of crisis. Their ideas included security insurance for individuals, a phone app to offer online pandemic insurance and an individual insurance that provides a secure home with internet connection. The students’ creativity, positive mind-set and ability to work in teams was impressive – something we recognise in the other teams participating in the Social Innovation Relay. 

Supporting students from challenging backgrounds 

The closure of schools across the world has been an unprecedented disruption to the education systems, the teachers’ jobs and students learning experiences. We learn from JA Europe’s and our own experience that young people  growing up in already challenging circumstances  have been most hit by these overnight changes: unequal access to technology, little digital literacy in several countries and sometimes the inability to get support from family with home schooling.  

Increasingly, the programmes in our partnership with Junior Achievement are focusing on students who can benefit from additional support. In Greece, for example, NN Hellas has funded travels and sent volunteers within Greece’s most rural areas to support more than 650 children to have access to vocational guidance and mentorship. In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, NN Hellas’s contribution has continued by offering children an online professional orientation test to further help them better understand their interests, identify areas for further studies, and desires for the future. 

Helping where we can through volunteering

Offering volunteer opportunities to NN employees has always been a great way to keep staff motivation up, provide them with occasions to give back, learning opportunities and contribute to a positive impact on society. 

The involvement of NN volunteers is a key component of the Social Innovation Relay programme. By exchanging knowledge and experience with students and by helping them to discover ways to fund, promote and scale their social business ideas, all participants benefit and get inspired.

More recently, online mentoring has proven to be an effective tool. It gives volunteers the opportunity to invest more time with the students and to talk to more of them across different areas in the countries. We are proud of the NN volunteers who put their time, knowledge and energy in empowering the young people to create positive changes within their communities.  

More than ever, social innovation will be necessary for our societies and economies to tackle the challenges we are facing. We are looking forward to the upcoming global final of the Social Innovation Relay on 16 June and to continue supporting students across communities in Europe and beyond.

Category : JA Europe Network Posted : 10 June 2020 06:00 UTC
About the Author
Fleur HUDIG, Head of Corporate Citizenship, NN Group

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