Tackling global challenges by inspiring future innovators
Around the world, people are facing the same challenges: inequality, climate change, loneliness. So far, traditional approaches have struggled to overcome these issues; the Tomorrow's Land project aims to nurture and encourage social innovation to address these global issues.
Merseyside-based Regenerus is the lead partner in this Erasmus+ co-funded initiative, working alongside partners from Portugal, Denmark, Italy, Latvia and Germany.
Together they aim to create the next generation of social innovators, people working to develop practical new solutions to social and economic challenges.
Through the project, partners will create resources to help educators train these new social innovators. Ultimately it is about helping thinkers and practitioners to create a better, more inclusive and more innovative economy and society.
Key elements of Tomorrow’s Land include the production of a strategic research paper, the creation of a learning framework and online learning resources and a major international social innovation conference in Liverpool.
Among the educational tools created is a MOOC, supported by a guide for facilitators, to help them design face-to-face learning experiences to inspire potential social innovators.
What is social innovation?
"Social innovation is about trying to do things differently because we now know things aren’t working, with potentially damaging consequences," says Ruth Livesey from Regenerus. "It’s about people from all sectors and communities working together, because we all have different experiences and different ideas. If we create spaces where all those ideas can come together and people work together, that is where we start to achieve change.
"Whether you look to examples of young people living with older people in order to tackle social exclusion and soaring rent prices, or to projects bringing together children and care home residents to bring simple joys to people's lives, social innovators are needed more than ever. It's all about finding solutions that benefit everyone."
Innovation in action
Changemakers from across Europe and the Liverpool region were introduced to the Tomorrow’s Land journey in a week-long Champions of Change workshop in March, also taking the chance to road-test some of the learning tools and initiatives.
The reaction to the project was overwhelmingly positive.
Rasmus Dilling from Roskilde University, in Denmark, said: "It really got me thinking; it has given me some practical tools, ideas and personal insights for me as a facilitator."
Claire Morgans, from Bootle-based YKids, added: "It was great, I’ve never had the opportunity to work with so many people from different countries, to share perspectives on social innovation and to make such great connections."
Regenerus does not leave all the social innovation to the trainers either, they are keen to embrace it in their own working style, as Ruth explained: "The whole thing about social innovation is working cross-sectorally, pulling in public sector, private sector, social economy and academic and that is what we wanted to do with our partnership.
"We have six partner organisations and everything is covered, it is a really well put together partnership. One partner leads on promotion and dissemination and the website, another on the MOOC. Everyone works to their area of expertise and shares their creativity and it's brilliant. We’ve all got shared values, I don’t think I’ve ever worked with such an equally committed group of partners – it really is a fantastic partnership."
Personal and wider achievements
Ruth has personally benefited from her involvement in the project.
"Every time I’m involved in a European partnership, I learn so much; you are thrown in with people from different mind sets, different cultures, different approaches and finding out about how things work all over the world," she said. "My IT skills have come on leaps and bounds; I’m supported by our partners step-by-step, there’s so much practical work-related learning.
It was great, I’ve never had the opportunity to work with so many people from different countries, to share perspectives on social innovation and to make such great connections.
"We are a local organisation and the work we do is great, but what Erasmus+ helps us to do is think beyond that and not get stuck in a local bubble. Erasmus+ helps us connect more widely across Merseyside as well as across Europe."
Regenerus is looking to the future and how the team can utilise the project in their own work.
"We’re looking at developing this into something we could deliver with local partners next year, to inspire more social innovators," said Ruth. "There are enough initiatives out there already helping people develop as social entrepreneurs, we don’t need to teach people how to create a business plan as these courses already exist. What we don't have is something to help you come up with the idea in the first place. The Tomorrow's Land learning experience is for people who want to do some good but don’t know what they want to do yet."
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