03 Jul 2022

Carlow teens tackling social issues through new transition year programme

Carlow teens tackling social issues through new transition year programme

The B!G Idea

A new transition year programme aimed at teaching creative thinking to students has seen teens across Ireland applying innovation to five of the country’s major social issues, from the housing crisis to future pandemics.

The B!G Idea is now hoping to bag support through a fundraising campaign to deliver the 2022 programme, which already has a waiting list of 10,000 students.

Year One of B!G Idea has already brought 500 students from eight schools through the new, 15-week programme, the brainchild of Carlow-based social entrepreneur and industrial design expert Kim Mackenzie-Doyle.

She decided to use her two decades of experience in the creative industry to build the transition year programme over the last 18 months, along with a team of award-winning creatives.

A total of 62 project proposals focusing on the housing crisis, fighting pandemics, the ageing population, combatting racism and managing teens’ health and wellbeing, will soon be pitched by the rural, urban and DEIS pupils from the inaugural Clare, Limerick and Carlow schools. 

They will be judged next month with a winner from each of the five categories and one overall winner announced at an online awards event.

The B!G Idea wants to bridge the gap between education and industry, and to connect top innovators with students for tangible and long-lasting impacts.

Teaching creativity

“Creativity can be taught,” said Kim.

“Ireland has the most progressive innovators with creative mindsets on the world stage, but we are not educating for creative or innovative thinking, or problem solving. We know that by 2025, creativity is one of the top skills that our world will need,” she said.

“Our education system doesn’t teach creativity as a standalone module. Sadly, we stop encouraging creativity as children get older. Education needs to evolve.”

She said The B!G Idea students were learning skills they will use in the workforce as the next generation of innovators.

“We equip students with the creative mindset to tackle the biggest problems they will face and support them to respond to a range of innovative programme briefs.”

The programme has a whopping 101 mentors from a range of disciplines, with creatives such as Dermot Bannon, Diarmuid Gavin, Timi Ogunyemi, Lorna Ross and Roisin Lafferty also judging the projects.

It has so far attracted the support of Irish innovators such as MSD, UX Design Institute, Netwatch, Blacknight, Applegreen, Portwest, Creative Ireland and many more.

Fundraising campaign

The programme already has a waiting list of 10,000 eager students and teachers for 2022 and hopes to eventually introduce creativity modules for younger and older pupils. 

However, with plans to roll out the programme to 2,000 students next year, Kim said funding support is now needed.

“The B!G Idea is a social enterprise and not-for-profit so we would love to see sponsors jump in to help us reach more students.”

“Sponsors can click onto our support page online and strengthen the programme whether through sponsoring one student, one class or even a school. 

“We want to position Ireland as the most creative, innovative nation in the world by empowering a new generation of problem solvers,” she said.

“The depth and originality that we are seeing already from the students has been astounding. The programme has encouraged the emotional intelligence to provide inspiring, creative solutions and this learning should be nurtured,” she said.

John Cullinane, Deputy Principal of Carlow’s Presentation De La Salle College in Bagnelstown, which is one of the participating schools, said greater levels of creativity and innovation was needed now more than ever.

“The world that we live in today requires greater levels of creativity and innovation than at any time in our history. As evidenced by the design briefs for the 2021 B!G Idea programme, we live in an increasingly complex world experiencing unprecedented challenges that require creativity, innovation, collaboration and determination to manage and overcome,” he said.

Log on to to learn more about this programme and stay tuned to hear more about the winning projects next month. 

The 2021 Big Showcase kicks off on May 21 and will offer inspirational talks from the biggest innovators in Ireland, show the work of the students and announce the winners. The virtual event is free and runs from 1 to 3pm and you can register here.

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