Virtual Social Network, Real Social Change

TakingITGlobal | by Jennifer Corriero

“Ten years ago TakingITGlobal led a movement as a social network for social change. Today, through programs like Sprout, TakingITGlobal is cultivating a new generation of changemaker as a catalyst for social innovation.”—Kristle Calisto-Tavares, Sprout Program Manager

Meet Valens, a young visionary who is creating hope and opportunity for Rwandan women. Valens was born in Rwanda. Currently a medical student at National University of Rwanda, Valens has been strongly involved in initiatives and projects related to HIV/AIDS and youth empowerment. Fortunately, his peers and colleagues have encouraged his interest in these areas and that encouragement has driven him to excel.

In Fall 2009, through the Sprout E-course, Valens created Let Us Stay Alive – a project designed to to address the vicious cycle of poverty, malnutrition and HIV/AIDS in Nyaruguru, Rwanda since genocide in 1994. Sprout aims to equip a diverse generation of young people aged 16-30 with essential project management skills to develop effective social innovation projects.

Sprout’s E-course (you’ve got to see this video!) offers young leaders worldwide access to training in essential skills, including team building, communications, evaluation and leveraging technology as they imagine, plan and develop social change initiatives. Through a 9-week program combining lessons, assignments and professional development webinars, youth connect to facilitators and to one another, acquiring the skills to convert their change-making ideas into actionable project plans ready to be implemented in their local communities.

Since 2008, over 300 emerging social innovators from 40 countries have participated in the Sprout E-course and online community to facilitate greater global citizenship and transform their world-changing idea into a viable initiative.

Valens’ project focuses on women as the main benefactors and involves 1) education and awareness raising on HIV, health and women’s rights and 2) sustainable agriculture via three community garden cooperatives as a tool to meet basic income needs. Valens is a proud member of Global Youth Coalition on Aids (GYCA). All who know him speak highly of his leadership skills and character. He was recently awarded a Pearson Fellowship for Social Innovation toward the implementation of Let Us Stay Alive.

We showcase Sprout participants’ final projects and offer the opportunity to grow or launch their initiatives with added support through the Pearson Fellowship for Social Innovation.

Pankaj is one of the inaugural Pearson Fellows changing his corner of the world and acting as an inspiration to others. Pankaj is a motivated young man living in the heart of urban India. He is a compassionate advocate for social equity and accessible health care. Medical schooling at a large Government hospital has washed away whatever misconceptions he had about the Indian version of ‘Health for All’ and he became motivated to do more than sit and watch.

In Spring 2010, Pankaj enrolled in Sprout and inspired change in his community by creating Maid in India – a project aimed at organizing domestic housekeepers into a formal labor force. Since designing this project, Maid in India has really taken off and now boasts the successful results of two pilots. Pankaj was recently awarded a Pearson Fellowship for Social Innovation toward the implementation and growth of Maid in India. He and his project are also being profiled in an upcoming documentary.

In partnership, TakingITGlobal and the Pearson Foundation have created the Pearson Fellowship for Social Innovation to recognize and support youth-developed projects created as a component of TakingITGlobal’s innovative Sprout E-course curriculum. The Fellowship combines seed grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, one-one mentoring, specialized training and strategic resources to help Fellows take their projects from the planning stage to launch.

“Pearson believes that young people, with their energy, passion, ingenuity and willingness to dream, are an enormous force for good in the world,” says Mark Nieker, President of the Pearson Foundation. “Through programs like the Fellowship for Social Innovation and our support for TakingITGlobal and the Sprout e-course, we are doing our part to nurture and encourage these imaginative and inspiring young leaders,” he says.

The Fellowship provides a critical link between the training TakingITGlobal offers through the Sprout e-course and the real-world implementation of the plans our participants develop.

As these dreams of Valens, Pankaj and others like them become a reality, they will serve as an inspiration to other young people who are seeking ways to better their communities, their countries and our world.

For more information, visit: Join us on Facebook for e-course updates or follow us on Twitter.


Jennifer Corriero is the co-founder and executive director of TakingITGlobal, an online learning community for youth interested in global issues and creating positive change. Her extensive experience includes developing and driving youth programs related to technology, collaboration and entrepreneurship, and designing and delivering interactive learning experiences to empower youth and community leaders. She has been a delegate to the World Summit on the Information Society; she’s presented and supported civil society engagement at events including the World Urban Forum, World Summit on Sustainable Development and other global forums. Corriero has been a youth engagement strategy consultant for Microsoft, TD Bank, Ontario Science Centre and the Canadian Government. She earned her BA in Business, Communications, Technology and a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University. An innovator, leader and engaging public speaker, she has been widely recognized by various conferences, organizations, universities and mainstream magazines for her tireless efforts in motivating the youth of the world. Contact her through TakingITGlobal.


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