Ciara Kenny

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Young people need to be engaged, equipped and empowered

Young people can bring about transformative change in Ireland if they are properly supported, writes Daithí de Butléir.

Wed, Sep 26, 2012, 00:45


Young people can bring about transformative change in Ireland if they are properly supported, writes Daithí de Buitléir.

Daithí de Buitléir (second from left) with other RAG Ireland members

John F Kennedy once visited NASA. Upon coming across a cleaner he asked the man what his job was. The cleaner replied: “My job is to help to put a man on the moon.” Imagine an Ireland where each young person clearly felt they had a role to play in creating a brighter future for the country, where every young person was striving to make social, cultural, environmental and economic contributions. Where everyone knew Ireland could be a better place and was trying to make it just that.

Currently many young people aren’t arsed with the system anymore. They look around and see very little opportunity. Many people who have so much to contribute to this country are leaving because they have lost faith in project Ireland. This is worrying.

We have the potential to be so much more than economic contributors who slowly chip away at the excesses of past generations. We can bring about transformative change across all walks of life on our island. I know young people who are doing really exciting things on local and national level across a wide range of areas.

Around 12 months ago, a group of friends and I started an organisation called Raising and Giving Ireland. We wanted to make sure that young people realised they could play a role in making Ireland a better place. We wanted to show that it wasn’t all about doom and gloom, that doing good could be good craic but at the same time that each and every young person in Ireland could make a real difference in their communities and in their country.

We have really made good progress. What started off as a simple idea has really blossomed; we now have over 600 members who are working out of our two hubs of activity in Dublin City University and the University of Limerick. We have people who were not doing anything to improve their communities and country who are now positively active and promoting change. They are fundraising, volunteering, establishing social enterprises and setting up community initiatives. They are proud to be Irish but not happy with Ireland and they are keen to do something about this.

What have been the drivers of this explosion of activity? Well RAG believes it three fold – Engage, Equip,Empower.

Engagement: We need to proactively engage young people.

RAG shows people that they can get involved and encourages them to do so.  How do we do this? We run large events which attract students, like UL’s “Nearly Naked Mile” where 100s of students ran around the beautiful Castletroy campus in their underwear and DCU’s “RAG Rumble” where students dusted themselves down for an old fashion dust up. These events and other events like them have helped us mobilise thousands of students in support of charitable events. The key however, is not to simply stop there. Once students have shown support we attempt to build a relationship with them where we facilitate them to take an action, getting them out there doing something to improve their community.

Equipping: Let’s help young people develop the skills and confidences needed to make real and meaningful impact.

Many young people in our country have massive potential once they realise they have a role to play in the future of Ireland, but they must be supported to fulfil this potential. Very few people can start up a fledgling social enterprise with little or no experience working with social organisations. However, if someone has developed a history of action working with a series of organisations on a series of projects with various commitment levels they are much more likely to be able to take the next step and start up their own initiatives. RAG believes that by building a structure where students can easily get involved in social action on a level which suits them, we can facilitate more and more students to get out there making a wider deeper impact in society.

Empowering: Let’s support young people to get out there and start up their own projects.

It can be a daunting task to set up your own social project or community initiative. Even with all the passion and experience in the world many young people just don’t know where to start. RAG believes by providing a support network of young people who have been there and started up projects, as well as access to networks and practical supports in areas such as finance, law and marketing, we can make it easier for young people to turn their dreams of a better Ireland into a reality.

DCU RAG was founded in September 2011. Soon after students in the University of Limerick were empowered to start their own RAG society. We have been approached by students from a number of other universities and third-level institutes who have heard about what we are doing. They have been inspired by our vision and they prove that our model is working and that our movement for student-led social change is spreading.

Our work hasn’t gone unrecognised. Last May we became the youngest ever Irish awardees of the prestigious Arthur Guinness Fund, a seed capital fund for aspiring social entrepreneurs. This award shall total €50,000 over two years.

RAG believes by engaging, equipping and empowering the youth of today that we create a critical mass of young Irish people striving to create something great, something we are proud to call Ireland. While generations gone by have been renowned for building the London, New York and the railroads, I dream that my generation will be remembered as the generation which rebuilds Ireland.

If you want anymore information or would like to get involved make sure to contact us at We are building a new website which will be live soon.