Bringing it home: Tapping into Youth Activism literature
10 Apr 2019

Bringing it home: Tapping into Youth Activism literature

“Social Innovation Education is a collaborative and

10 Apr 2019

“Social Innovation Education is a collaborative and collective learning process for the empowerment and socio/political activation of students to drive social change […]. It builds their competences to identify opportunities for social value creation, to form collaborations and build social relationships and take innovative action for a more democratic and sustainable society”.

This is NEMESIS working definition of Social Innovation Education. You may have noticed it swims against the tide of prevalent market-led views where Social Innovation tends to be equated with or assimilated by (Social) Entrepreneurship. So, no, Social Innovation does not start in a garage nor is about entrepreneurial individuals delivering technological solutions for complex social problems.  

In stark contrast with Entrepreneurship Education, literature on social innovation in education is scarce so where should we be looking at?  Luckily, an entire stream of literature connecting civic/youth activism, participation and engagement in educational contexts was out there waiting for us.  

NEMESIS has tapped into an important body of research exploring young people’s involvement in attempts to achieve change within their communities (whether local, national or global) (Davies et al, 2014) and some of the questions they pose have informed the development of NEMESIS learning framework.

The projects co-created by teachers, students, social innovation practitioners and families in NEMESIS piloting schools encapsulate the key qualities of learning environments in Youth Activism (Kirshner, 2007).  Collective problem solving, meaningful youth-adult interactions, exploration of alternative frames of civic identity and bridges to academic and civic institutions are all present to a certain extent in each of these experiences.  

Does Social Innovation de-activate or displace Social Activism? There’s certainly a risk if action is decoupled from its critical and transformative potential.  Kahne & Westheimer (1996) make a clear distinction between “community service programs where youth clean parks, tutor children, and serve food to the homeless and youth activist groups where youth seek to influence public policy and change institutional practices, often with a social justice focus”.  By combining action and activism, NEMESIS seeks to provide opportunities for young people to participate in creating a better version of democracy.


Further reading

Davies, I., Evans, M., & Peterson, A. (2014). Civic activism, engagement and education: issues and trends. Journal of Social Science Education.

Kahne, J. & Westheimer, J.(1996) In the service of what? The politics of service learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 77(9), 593-599

Kirshner, B. (2007). Introduction: Youth activism as a context for learning and development.

American Behavioral Scientist, 51(3), 367–379.


 Do you want to learn about other schools projects in NEMESIS? Click here.

Are you a school willing to learn more about NEMESIS or thinking about joining the project? Feel free to surf the web and drop us a line ( or fill our contact form.

Are you a social innovator who – as those mentioned here- would like to collaborate with the schools in your area? Click here for more info on how to become a mentor.



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