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10 approaches to turning local challenges into opportunities for young people

10 different countries are represented in the final stage of the competition, which this year is looking for place-based approaches to supporting young people in a changing economy.


Youth unemployment is a persistent problem in Europe. It currently stands at double the unemployment rate of the adult population. Increasing numbers of young people are also starting their working lives in short-term or casual jobs, often in the gig economy.

Different localities have different histories of industrial change, migration and regeneration, which affect young people and the whole community. Each place has its own challenges and assets arising from its unique story. This year the competition called on Europeans to ask themselves what’s available in their local community and what’s presenting a challenge. How could this be used to design solutions that ensure young people can fully participate in the economy and society?

The finalists were selected by a jury of international experts from among 30 semi-finalists covering a wide range of sectors and activities. These, in turn, were selected from a pool of 729 eligible entries from 39 countries. All semi-finalists participated in an intensive training and coaching program including the Academy in Cluj-Napoca.

The finalists come from 10 different countries and work in diverse fields:

Career Bus (Romania) brings career orientation to young people living in rural areas by combining innovative technologies and a face-to-face interaction. Traveling to remote places, Career Bus will boost the employability and knowledge of young residents.

ConnecTech (Hungary) offers modular coding courses, internships and mentoring from tech professionals to young people with physical impairments in order to expand employment opportunities and promote flexible working conditions.

es im-perfect (Spain) has set up a network of hubs that are helping to save fresh produce that would be wasted in conventional processing settings by turning it into jams, patés and other delicious products. Simultaneously, they offer employment opportunities for young people.

GoFundEd (Ukraine) is an online crowdfunding platform that enables students and teachers to move towards newer teaching and testing methods in order to equip young people with the relevant skills to find good employment or become successful entrepreneurs in their home country.

HeritageLab (Slovenia) teaches established innovation incubation methods to young people in small towns, supporting them in the launch of new businesses and services based on local cultural heritage that deserves appreciation.

imagiLabs (Sweden) introduces teenage girls to the tech field by providing them with a platform to develop their programming skills by means of fun practical projects such as customising mobile phone cases.

MTOP goes digital (Austria) combines smart offline and online solutions to prepare young qualified refugees to enter the Austrian labour market. Long-lasting working relationships are ensured through post-placement support.

REvive Greece (Greece) combines traditional classroom and e-learning methods to re-skill young unemployed Greeks and refugees in computer programming. It then connects them with companies from the IT sector, so that they can secure internships as software developers.

ScOLARgeno (Germany) empowers secondary school students to act against climate change by supporting them in establishing cooperatives to plan and operate their own school photovoltaic energy generating systems. It hence prepares them to contribute to a more ecological economy of the future.

Ulisse (Italy) is the first ever European digital platform that creates, markets & promotes local travel experiences and full holiday bundles designed by deaf people for deaf people. By doing so, it also fosters international sign language education.

The three winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony on 8 November 2018 in Brussels and will each receive a €50,000 prize to develop their projects.

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The European Social Innovation Competition, launched in memory of Diogo Vasconcelos, is a challenge prize run by the European Commission, now in its sixth year. The competition is open to applicants from EU member states and countries associated to Horizon 2020. The competition is delivered by a consortium of partners including Nesta, Kennisland, Ashoka, ENoLL and Scholz & Friends.

This blog was originally posted on the European Social Innovation Competition’s website.


Gary Fawdrey

Gary Fawdrey

Gary Fawdrey

Assistant Programme Manager - Sustainable Communities, Nesta Challenges

Gary worked on social innovation and tech for good prizes.

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