Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge - Uruguay
Find out about the final of the social innovation competition and the two teams that will represent Uruguay in the Global Youth Challenge
July 21, 2020 - After six months of learning and hard work, the day in mid-June arrived when six teams of young entrepreneurs took part in the closing event and made their final pitches in the Generation Unlimited social innovation competition. COVID-19 enforced a change of plans, and what was meant to be a face-to-face ceremony became an online event with over 180 viewers from all over the country, including Melo, Durazno, Mercedes, Palmitas, Salto, Paysandú, Pan de Azúcar, Tala, Tarariras and San Ramón.
“My name is Geraldine, I am a student in the Pan de Azúcar high school, and a team member of the Juntando Yerba project. Today I want to share with you our biggest worry: the ongoing degradation of the environment. (...) We created this project to help solve this challenge.” Geraldine is 16 years old; she was the spokesperson for the project and the one who kicked off the team’s pitch when the round of pitches began. She, together with Matiu (18) and Fernando (17), is a student of the 2012 night-shift plan at the high school in Pan de Azúcar, Maldonado, a plan for high school students who had abandoned formal education. The team created Juntando Yerba, which promotes collecting, recycling and making compost from used yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis), in Uruguay, the country with the highest per capita consumption of yerba mate.
From Salto, Candelaria (18) began the second presentation by telling us how she and Manuela (18) had experienced the team process. “Although university is free, there are many extra costs, one of them being books (...) so we thought of a possible solution: an application that makes it possible for university students to exchange study books no longer being used. This would help students save money, and also provide a quality educational tool. Furthermore, books would be reused, thereby helping the environment.”
Lucía (18) is one of the creators of Ecotire. She began her presentation by asking the participants: “Did you know that 800 tonnes of used tyres are collected each year? This worried us, and we decided to find a way to reuse tyres, thereby generating a new life cycle.” The project seeks to facilitate mobility for people with visual impairments by creating portable rugs and tiles from recycled rubber. “We wanted to design and produce a national product, made from recycled material, to help the lives of both people and the planet”, she said in her closing statement.
“Did you ever stop to think how something as simple as a bicycle can be so useful?” This was another question the audience was asked. This time it was posed by Nicolás (14). Nicolás is the spokesperson for Bicicletean2, a project created in the No. 2 high school in the city of Melo. “Our proposal is to receive, repair and lend bicycles no longer being used, to assist students who need transport to continue their studies. In this way we hope to decrease inequality in education, and to help both personal health and the wider environment.”
The project with the strongest technology component was Durazno inclusivo 3D, led by three students from the UTEC (Uruguayan Technological University): Romina (22), Facundo (28) and Micaela (20). The project promotes the 3D printing of urban locations, such as parks, museums, town squares, etc. to make it easier for people to access them, including people with visual impairments. “Forever thinking of a city accessible to everybody”, Romina said.
The final pitch was made by Sofía (15) from the Rompiendo fronteras team that aims to eradicate discrimination towards the migrant population through awareness-raising workshops and generating job opportunities. When closing their presentation, they shared the words of a migrant who took part in the project: “we arrived here as immigrants, we experienced many problems, we couldn’t find regular work; through your project people experienced our Cuban food, and got to know us, they saw the way we Cubans are, and we have you and your project to thank for this”.
Throughout the event, we heard testimonials that demonstrated that young people are agents for the social changes the world needs: “We are young people who want to be a part of the big changes in our community, not just as spectators, but as people with important roles to play. We want to engage in not only changing our lives, but also the lives of people around us, through real participation and by being sensitive to the reality of our surroundings”, Geraldine (14).
Ecotire and Juntando Yerba will represent Uruguay in the global contest
“This is not the end, but rather the beginning, of many dreams”. The words of Luz Ángela Melo, the UNICEF Representative in Uruguay to the young people of Ecotire and Juntando Yerba, the two social innovation programs selected by the jury to represent Uruguay in the Global Youth Challenge.
Juntando Yerba promotes the collecting and recycling of yerba mate. Uruguay is one of the world’s main consumers of yerba mate: 85% of the country’s population drinks mate at least once a week, an annual consumption of 10 kilos per person. The weight of yerba triples when wet, so it is calculated that in the country’s capital city alone, 125 tonnes of used yerba are collected daily. The project makes and sells compost with worms, using collected yerba. It also sells compost-making kits for homes. The jury highlighted that the project trains young people in problem-solving, while at the same time offers cheap and easy-access solutions for home composting and has the potential of being scaled up to other communities.
EcoTire, in turn, attempts to solve the growing problem of used tyres, including the risks to people’s health and the environment. It also enables the social inclusion of people with visual impairments. The jury took into account that the team had formed alliances that made it possible to turn their idea into a reality (it has already been tested in a school for partially-sighted children). It has an effective operational model, whereby the project receives donations of rubber that are transformed and sold as tiles. The project can be upscaled and can make other products.
The Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge is a global initiative that seeks to design innovative ideas and co-create solutions where young people have a leading role. The initiative aims to promote access to education, learning, training and jobs for young people enabling them to develop new skills so that they can play a positive role in society.