Taoiseach gives backing to national initiative aimed at tackling key social challenges

Change Nation event seeks to create jobs, improve education and empower citizens

Sat, Jun 15, 2013, 11:21

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged to provide Government support to a nationwide initiative which is tackling some of the country’s biggest social challenges.

He was speaking at a meeting of Change Nation in Farmleigh House yesterday, a movement launched more than a year ago by Ashoka,the world’s biggest network of social entrepreneurs. It aims to import and expand solutions which have proved successful elsewhere to help create jobs, improve education and empower citizens.


Justice system
The solutions include placing people with autism into jobs in the IT sector; a classroom programme in which a baby and trained instructor teach schoolchildren about empathy; and reforming the criminal justice system by using former offenders as mentors.

Mr Kenny said these solutions had the potential to impact on the lives of tens of thousands of citizens. “One year on, I am delighted to see Change Nation thriving, continuing to mobilise Irish citizens from all walks of life in spreading practical, innovative solutions, taking ownership of social challenges, and embracing their role as change-makers.”

At last year’s event – billed as a “social innovation platform” – more than 50 of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs met dozens of philanthropists and business and political leaders to help implement many of these solutions.

One of the solutions that is being launched is the Eden Alternative, a system of care for older people that transforms nursing homes.

Stephen Cassidy, who is spearheading the project, said: “Helplessness, hopelessness and boredom can cause massive suffering. Pills and therapies don’t address this. We’re shifting the focus back to the individual and what brings meaning and value to their lives.”

Founder of Change Nation Paul O’Hara said each solution had the potential to expand nationwide and, in time, to inspire a culture shift in how people see their role in society.

Irish Times managing director Liam Kavanagh told the gathering that the newspaper was delighted to be a media partner with Change Nation, and would be associated with the initiative over the next three years.