Student-led movements driving for social change hold plenty of lessons about innovation for businesses and the government. Recently, I met a wonderful young man called Daithí de Buitléir. Instantly, I found myself able to engage with him because he was interesting, funny and had energy. Daithi is part of RAG {Raising and Giving) which was set up in DCU in September 2011 and is going from strength to strength. Soon after DCU RAG was set up, the University of Limerick then came on board and were empowered to start their own RAG society. DCU RAG have been approached by students from a number of other universities and third-level institutes who have heard about what they are doing. They have been inspired by RAG’s vision.

Making ideas happen

RAG’s work hasn’t gone unrecognised. They have become the youngest ever Irish awardees of the prestigious Arthur Guinness Fund, a seed capital fund for aspiring social entrepreneurs. RAG believes by engaging, equipping and empowering the youth of today that they create a critical mass of young Irish people striving to create something great, something RAG are proud to call Ireland. Daithi dreams that his generation will be remembered as the generation which rebuilds Ireland. What I found most interesting about Daithi is that he had a simple idea which has really blossomed. People who were not doing anything to improve their communities and country 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.

RAG believes – Engage, Equip, Empower.

Engagement: Ireland needs to proactively engage young people. RAG shows people that they can get involved and encourages them to do so. For example, they 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. Once students have shown support RAG attempt’s to build a relationship with them where they facilitate them to take an action, getting them out there doing something to improve their community.

Equipping: Many young people in Ireland 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 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.

Empowering: 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, can make it easier for young people to turn their dreams of a better Ireland into a reality.

Lessons learned

RAG’s model is working and their movement for student-led social change is spreading. What I learnt from Daithi is that young people can bring about transformative change in Ireland if they are properly supported. RAG is helping young people realise they can play a role in making Ireland a better place whilst having a lot of good craic along the way. Encouraging students to reach out to each other to solve problems and share knowledge not only builds collaboration skills, it leads to deeper learning and understanding. In turn, creating positive social change led by young people. If you want anymore information or would like to get involved make sure to contact RAG at ragireland@hotmail.com.

 Sinead Kane – The Kane Ability, Motivational Speaker

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