About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

ScOLARGeno on empowering secondary school students to act against climate change

ScOLARGeno is one of ten finalists for EUSIC 2018. Here, Project Coordinators, Felix Hollerbach and Burghard Flieger tells us more about why their project is so important and about their experience of the European Social Innovation Competition so far.

What is the inspiration for your project, and how do you think it will help to empower young people in a changing economy?

We are convinced that as the climate is changing, we must change with it. Social and ecological issues become more severe every day. Change is scary, but for us, change also means a huge opportunity to create a society which benefits everyone and the environment. There are many good ideas to enable such a society, one of them is cooperatives. We want cooperatives to become a major part of the future economy. Therefore we train young people to found and operate their own solar-energy-cooperative at their school. They learn about climate change and why renewable energy sources are an important part of climate protection. They search for fitting rooftops, acquire members for their cooperative, act as members of the management and supervisory board, plan and install the solar collectors and finally sell the produced energy to a regional consumer and distribute the profit back to the cooperative’s members. The cooperatives are integrated permanently in the school structure and supported not only by the pupils but also their teachers, parents, friends and local citizens. Pupils can enter the cooperative in 5th grade. By the time of their graduation they will have up to seven years of cooperative experience. We believe that these young adults will not make decisions on economical aspects alone, but will have a strong ecological and social mindset, that enables them to change their future for the better.

EUSIC logo

What have you enjoyed most about your experience with the European Social Innovation Competition and how will you apply that learning to your project moving forward?

The support of our coach and working on the Development Plan was very helpful for us. We were forced to ask ourselves questions we have not thought of and to think more strategically. The sessions with our coach were very intense and he always added a fresh perspective to our project and our ideas. I think this process helped us to build a solid foundation for the development of our project, as well as helping us to think big. Until our participation in the competition our goal was the creation of several cooperatives around Freiburg and then somehow spreading the idea in Germany. Now, we want to change the European economy towards social and ecological welfare and we have a plan to achieve that goal. That feels great and gives us a big boost!

Scolargeno young people

How do you see social innovation in Europe progressing over the next 10 years and what role do you see for yourself in that?

We hope that social innovation will have a much bigger impact on our future economy and that we embrace alternative ways of economic activity. A social economy should bring people together to work for and with each other towards a ‘good life’ that no longer depends on making a lot of money or on constant economic growth. We hope that, in ten years, we will have a vibrant network of scholar-solar-cooperatives throughout Europe, with thousands of members. We hope our idea catches on and will be transferred to other social innovations that transform our society towards sustainability. We would love to be an active part of that transformation.


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

The three winners of EUSIC 2018 will be announced on the 8th November.

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.

For competition updates sign up to the newsletter and follow the Twitter account.


Gary Fawdrey

Gary Fawdrey

Gary Fawdrey

Assistant Programme Manager - Sustainable Communities, Nesta Challenges

Gary worked on social innovation and tech for good prizes.

View profile