European Youth Award: Join the Movement!
Officially established in 2012 by Peter A. Bruck the EYA is a European-wide movement of and for young innovators that organizes several activities and events throughout the year: its flagship initiatives, the EYA contest and the festival winners event, coding events like SHacks (social hackathons) and game jams, the Youth for Innovation student programs, mentorship programs and more. It is targeting social, digital change-makers and is driven by the desire to improve the world by supporting the use of internet and mobile applications for social empowerment.
The mission of the platform is to help young, talented people make the world a better place by using digital technologies addressing the goals defined by the Council of Europe, Europe 2020 and the UN SDGs. Because young people are driven by incredible energy and creativity and they also want to improve the community and society they live in. EYA enables them to do so by connecting them with other change-makers, international experts, mentors, and coaches from all over the continent to help them to bring their solutions to the next level and gain inspiration from each other.
Impact and biggest achievements
Since the first year when the contest was held with only around 80 participants, the EYA has grown to be so much more than a simple contest for innovative digital solutions. Last year alone EYA coordinated 10 events in 7 countries, the biggest being the EYA Festival in Graz, Austria – uniting over 600 attendees from 60 different countries celebrating in a three-day event the outstanding winning projects.
Each year the EYA identifies the most promising digital solutions with an impact on society, but Birgit Kolb (EYA manager) considers their biggest achievements to be the change they have on someone individually by connecting them to other social change-makers. Through EYA many individuals have found their (social) business and project partners, set up joint projects and start-ups.
The EYA community shows that digital technologies are very powerful tools to tackle real-life problems and social challenges and that there are a lot of smart youths out there, who are motivated to work on a solution and are not driven by the “big money” but by the huge impact.
Challenges and future development
Currently, the EYA is funded in part by the “Europe for Citizens Programme” from the European Union. Apart from that EYA offers a lot of cooperation and sponsorship models for business partners to sustain the initiative. They are very grateful for the appreciation from the European Union, the Council of Europe and national politicians like the Federal President of Austria. The funding is a great support to concentrate on making an impact instead of looking for donations and sponsoring.
In the future, they want to continue what they are doing and keep on growing. The community is encouraging and other people want to join, make a change and support. Many more events in different countries with an impact for people all over Europe are following.
Social entrepreneurship and the situation in Austria
Birgit has the impression that many young entrepreneurs want to develop an all-in-one solution at the beginning. She points out that it is easier to get started if you have a clear focus and concentrate on one thing at a time. Also, sustainability is a huge challenge in the non-profit sector:
“To be a social entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you should live from funding and donors. You have to set a business plan to survive and to charge for your service (at least a little amount) or find sustainable sources for your income.” – explains Birgit Kolb, EYA manager.
The situation in Austria has benefits, but also disadvantages. The good and supporting eco-system offers many options for free coaching, capacity building, and networking. However, the country is pretty bureaucratic with many legal requirements and constraints.
To encourage more youth to start their own business Birgit suggests to improve the educational system – especially some of the conservative study regulations at the universities. As an example, she mentions “TEAMlabs” from Spain that offers an innovative educational methodology from Finland to earn an international bachelor’s degree for entrepreneurs. You have to start a real company and develop real products and services to earn this university degree.
“Digital technologies are powerful tools to tackle societal challenges people face every day. We can make the world a better place. Together.” – concludes Birgit Kolb.