This month sees the launch of the Young Enterprise Scotland Social Innovators Challenge, with a £5,000 fund to support new ideas that tackle climate change in the community.

Supported by FirstPort, Pawprint and Good Ideas, the challenge is aimed at 18 to 30-year-old students across all Scotland’s 17 further education colleges, and strives to elevate social innovation as a means to open up new opportunity for a generation hit hard by Covid.

“The first Social Innovators Challenge, last year, was won by Ayrshire College student Fi Thornburn who designed an app, The Yellow Barrow, to bring people together on allotments and exchange fresh fruit and veg,” says Lisa Wardlaw who heads up YES’s college programme, Bridge 2 Business.


“It was the perfect ‘tech for good’ at the beginning of the pandemic, supporting people’s wellbeing and health.”

“This year, the challenge is especially important,” she says. “We hope to inspire, encourage, and open up new opportunities for a group of people who have seen their prospects diminish over the past 12 months. We hope to create the spark that will lead to new start-ups and support young people to bring their ideas to fruition.”

The theme of this year’s challenge is to create a purpose-led business that is “obsessed” with carbon reduction and protecting communities in Scotland from the effects of climate change. Support and encouragement are being provided through online workshops in ideas generation and business development. After series of submissions and presentations, up to 10 ideas will be awarded with a £500 grant courtesy of FirstPort to develop the business concepts further.

Christian Arno, founder of Pawprint, which is creating the tools that help individuals measure, understand and reduce their own carbon footprint, said, “Through our own work, we’re seeing many potential business opportunities in a wide variety of sectors. 

“This challenge will encourage young people to see, and take advantage of, these myriad opportunities – both local and global – in our transition to a low-carbon economy. Its focus on helping vulnerable communities to become more resilient is really important too – this is often overlooked.”

The point is reinforced by Helen Denny, Business Development Lead for Good Ideas, which will deliver the online training sessions. “In a post pandemic world, we know that social innovation has an integral role to play in helping our recovery here in Scotland,” she said. 

“Our catalyst workshops are designed to support individuals to gain a deeper understanding of the social issue they want to address, develop their ideas and take the first step to making change. We are really looking forward to supporting young people through this competition to make change in their communities.”

The final word goes to Ray Bank, the Programme Manager of FirstPort’s Social Entrepreneurs Fund:“I’m naturally excited at the prospect of social enterprise bringing about meaningful environmental and social benefit, and I can’t wait to see what the next generation of Social Innovators have up their collective sleeve.” 


This article was brought to you in partnership with Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) as part of The Herald's Future of Education campaign