Change Nation, a three-day event, convened 50 of the world’s top social entrepreneurs in Dublin last weekend — including a strong showing from Ireland’s homegrown changemakers—to bring big ideas to Ireland that have proven effective in other parts of the world. The goal was to adopt and adapt these ideas for novel problem-solving in a country that has been hard-hit by the global financial crisis.
Change Nation provided a forum for interpersonal bridge-building between Ireland’s existing change infrastructure — philanthropic or citizen sector organizations, as well as key business and political figures—and global social entrepreneurs who have already achieved measurable results in their own communities. The event is the brainchild of Ashoka Europe director Paul O’Hara.
“Change Nation offers . . . a platform to learn from these leaders’ successful strategies, and to forge partnerships to replicate them in your own communities,” said Bill Clinton, former U.S. President and founder of the Clinton Global Initiative, in an open letter addressed to attendees.
The meeting, held March 22 to 24 at the Dublin Castle and Farmleigh state guest house, emphasized one-on-one conversations between Irish leaders and global changemakers with big ideas, including a cross-sector focus on topics such as economic development, civic participation, education, environment, health, and inclusion. Scores of individual and small-group meetings generated nearly 300 handwritten “commitments to action” that can be feasibly and reasonably carried out over the next year.
The meetings with changemakers are vehicles to spread social innovation, O’Hara said, adding that the ideas and commitments coming out of Change Nation will allow Ireland to “re-imagine and re-frame where we’re going.”
While discussing education, participants emphasized the critical importance of science, technology, math in the classroom, and noted that cultivating is equally important. Health care experts put patients front and center as they explored preventive measures to reduce overall costs. The value of Ireland’s remaining natural resources, and the importance of reducing its reliance on fossil fuels, were also hot topics, as was the importance of fostering an entrepreneurial spirit to promote job creation through microfinancing.
Change Nation’s goal—to generate 50 solutions at the convention, and implement at least 25 during the next 12 months—was blown out of the water. Participants pledged hundreds of commitments to action, and now the Change Nation core staff and volunteers are primed to rally a country in which everybody can and will become a changemaker.