Thursday, January 19, 2023

Students from Borris Vocational School among those involved in the Big Idea

Kim Mackenzie Doyle of The Big Idea, overall winner of the County Carlow Web Awards last year


By Suzanne Pender

AROUND 4,000 Irish teenagers will take on five of Ireland’s toughest social issues from this month – from hidden poverty to displaced populations – with the help of hundreds of industry mentors.

The challenge is through The Big Idea, an educational programme which teaches creative thinking and problem solving.
A Big Idea survey revealed that Irish teens are concerned about displaced people, hidden poverty, climate change, diversity and inclusion, and mental health.
Transition year and leaving certificate applied students in 84 schools across 22 counties will use these issues to inspire their Big Ideas through the 14-week award-winning programme.
Students learn the process of problem solving through creative thinking, mental agility and critical thinking. They are tasked with applying those new skills to collaboratively develop real solutions in the form of a digital experience, product, space or place, a service or a tech solution – on a local or global level.

CEO and founder of The Big Idea Kim Mackenzie-Doyle says the innovative programme reflects the massive changes Irish society has witnessed in the last year and the students’ pressing concerns about their communities and the wider world.
“We simply have to think differently. Creative thinking is a transformative way of solving the biggest problems our children are now living through. The most in-demand skills – creative skills – can help them make real changes locally and globally.
“Innovative solutions are now needed more than ever, and what drives innovation? Creativity!”
Kim, who has a background in product design and is a former president of Institute of Designers Ireland, founded the programme to bridge the gap between education and industry and to address Ireland’s critical creative skills shortage.
The Big Idea, a not-for-profit in its third year, is a free, inclusive programme for students and schools, which is funded by corporate partners and grants, sponsors and multi-sector mentors.

It is accredited by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) at the Department of Education.
Niamh Cooney is head of development and sustainability with the programme and has been recruiting the mentors for this year’s programme, with online registrations for mentors closing on Tuesday 31 January.
The mentors will begin to give feedback and support student teams online through the Big Idea platform in February and May.
“We still need more mentors and would particularly love to see companies around Ireland giving employees the opportunity to sign up together in groups. It’s an incredible way for any professional to pay their knowledge forward, connect teams, boost morale and join a thriving community to really get behind our nation’s young people – our future innovators,” said Niamh.
“The two-to-three hours that mentors offer is so valuable to our students – sharing knowledge and real-world resources and experience to help them to think big and develop their big ideas, all of which align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
Diversity is vital and mentors cover a wide range of industries and roles, whether CEOs or graduates, and include tech gurus, designers, creative directors, financial advisers, entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, architects, educators, graphic designers, legal experts, marketing and brand specialists and more.

If you or your team would like to register as a mentor, visit or email [email protected].

Those interested in finding out more about becoming a Big Idea mentor can register to come along to a free online information event on Wednesday 25 January at 1pm.


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