Based on their experience in social design and community development, Laura Howe and Simon O’Rafferty created Voidstarter. This initiative, one of the laureates of the European Social Innovation Competition in 2014, ambitions to tackle two major issues : youth unemployment and vacant buildings in urban areas.
Ireland has indeed one of the highest youth unemployment rate in Europe, with nearly one in five people aged 18-24 who are either unemployed or not enrolled in any type of education or training. There is also thousands of empty properties across the country. Vacant buildings not only lower real-estate value, but also have a negative impact on neighbourhood life, especially in deprived areas (mental health, anti-social behaviours, homelessness etc.).
“We want to help young people to become job creators instead of job seekers”
As a first step, Voidstarter will involve young people who are either unemployed or out of school to refurbish empty houses in their neighborhood and transform them into pop-up offices. Then, these spaces will be used as incubators for social entreprise through training and mentorship programs for young people. During this whole process, Voidstarter would help each individual build their own projects according to their interest, and therefore “improve their confidence, skills and employability [..] in a way that will benefit their communities”.
For now, the project is in its early stage ; Laura and Simon have already published a map of vacant buildings in Dublin where such initiative could possibly emerge. They will choose one site to implement a pilot project and use this first experience to set up an open-source toolkit that would help spread this concept all over Dublin and elsewhere in Europe.
To make it happen, they need to build partnerships with local authorities and already existing organisations in Dublin that work with young people or focus on vacant properties. So if you want to learn more or contribute to this exciting adventure, feel free to contact Voidstarter team !