To say that the world faces many challenges today would be an understatement. In recent years we’ve witnessed all matters of crises ranging from economic to natural disasters to geopolitical. And while at a glance these challenges may seem insurmountable, we dare to believe in the power of individuals and groups who band together and become active agents of change.
That is what both Impact Hub Yerevan and Social Impact Award (SIA) strive for: Supporting the development of social ventures that offer innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.
This year, the Social Impact Award falls under the scope of the Collaborate for Impact program, financed by the European Union and implemented by the EVPA in partnership with Impact Hub Yerevan in Armenia. The SIA2022 awards were a contribution from EFSE Development Facility.
What makes SIA unique, is the focus on empowering youth to make a difference, encouraging teens as young as 15 years old to put their creative minds to work and give them the opportunity to realize their ingenious ideas. After all, youth is our greatest asset and our brightest hope for our future.
And the 17 ideas that were submitted for this year’s Social Impact Award were nothing short of inspiring! In mid-July, we were tasked with the difficult responsibility of choosing among them the 8 most exciting and promising ones.
After being chosen, the real work began.
At the start of the program, the participants were nurturing a good idea, but during the rigorous 2-month incubation phase, those ideas were formulated more fully, hashed out, and refined.
They received training, watched webinars, worked with professional and caring mentors, received invaluable feedback and advice, and prepared pitches (both video and live) that would inspire the masses. Each idea was meticulously polished until it sparkled, and the participants were filled with excitement and anticipation for their chance to win over the crowds with the online Community Voting and jury during the live, final pitching event.
Then on September 13, the day that the video pitches were made public for Community Voting, a day that should have been an exciting one filled with link-sharing and motivation, that day was overshadowed by something painful and dark.
Armenia was under an onslaught of military attacks from the neighboring government of Azerbaijan.
Many lives were lost, many homes were damaged, and the future became unclear. Once again the world proved its potential for darkness and depravity, as a cloak of gloom covered the country, sucking the cheer and enthusiasm out of each individual.
But once again, the youth proved themselves to be a beacon of hope, with a show of resilience and determination. Defiant in the face of adversity they worked harder than before, full of hope and conviction and confident that they were offering a unique solution that will make the world a better place, a light in the darkest of times.
Out of the 8 projects, only one was unable to see the program through to the end. The other 7 took the obstacles in stride, overcoming the odds and working hard to prepare for their final pitch on September 30.
In her opening speech, Social Impact Award Armenia Country Coordinator, Nairi Melkom Melkomian summed it up perfectly, “The projects you will get to know today are based on care, energy, innovative thinking, responsibility for the environment and love for the community. It is these approaches and the work based on them that can help us face these extremely difficult times and put our community, and our state on the path to a stronger future.”
Meanwhile, the Deputy Head of Cooperation, the European Union Delegation to Armenia, Ms. Silja Kasmann, emphasized the importance and necessity of social enterprises at large.
“To put it simply: social enterprises are businesses with heart and a social impact. In a sense, it is creativity and solidarity at the service of a greater impact on the most vulnerable people.”
And while on one hand, there are those in the world who will value politics over lives, these young people are offering solutions to global problems from clean energy, to healthy foods, to free education for all and the fight against deforestation.
“It’s not a real competition,” Kasmann admitted, “I would say everyone is a winner and the pre-selected projects can already be proud to be present and to expose objectives and expected impacts.”
We are proud to present the 7 finalists of the Social Impact Award 2022:
Creating the first digital forest of Armenia, and restoring the forest cover that has been cut down in 34 years, with digital solutions in a more controllable and efficient way.
Raising people’s awareness of unhealthy habits, by carrying out anti-smoking, anti-alcohol, and anti-drug campaigns on social media platforms and providing educational services and workshops to combat unhealthy addictions.
Training newly graduated young teachers to start their careers by carrying out an internship in the language school, during which they will teach English to kids from vulnerable families for free.
Health Food Hub Cafe Club
Creating a place where the people of the Vayk community will get knowledge on how to produce and grow ecological and healthy products and sell them in Eco markets. Some portion of these eco products will also be used in VAYK Healthy FOOD CAFE, which is to be established.
Recycling Leftover Bread Project
Preventing the loss of bread products thrown into the trash by residents by recycling them and selling them to farmers as animal feed.
The Real Dream
Creating an educational-community center in the village of Marmashen. The center will have paid educational programs as well as free programs for the children of socially disadvantaged families of the community (as well as the neighboring 2 villages), giving them the opportunity to receive specialized and subject matter knowledge outside of the classroom.
Clean Energy Project
Recycling aluminum waste to acquire parts necessary for solar energy equipment the demand of which is increasing in Armenia.
Teach Free - Community Vote Award
Digital Forest - Jury Award Winner
The Real Dream - Jury Award Winner
Recycling Leftover Bread Project- Jury Award Winner
While the jury posed tough questions to the participants, they answered brilliantly. Online, the community voting results were extremely close, with only one or two votes separating the winner from the runner-up.
Choosing a winner was extremely difficult, but in the end, Teach Free won the community vote, and the 3 jury winners were Digital Forest, The Real Dream, and the Recycling Leftover Bread Project.
Each of the winners was awarded €1,500 financed by the EFSE Development Facility and the opportunity to participate in the “SIA Summit 2022” event in Vienna, while all the participants were offered a 1-year membership to Impact Hub Yerevan, so that they may develop their ideas and continue to make them a reality.
And so, while the fate of Armenia remains uncertain, we can take heart thanks to the glimmer of hope provided to us by the incredible youth, the true architects of our future.