Students develop creative solutions to address social isolation in our communities
July 08, 2019

More than 70 teams of Georgian, elementary and high school students from across Simcoe County and 10 community partners participated in a hack this year to address social isolation. As part of the #CHANGETHENOW changemaker challenge, the teams generated close to 40 innovative solutions that are being catalogued for organizations, businesses and individuals to access and put into action.

“The challenge was part of a unique partnership between Georgian, Ashoka Canada and the Simcoe County District School Board,” says Suzie Addison-Toor, Director, Centre for Changemaking and Social Innovation. “We know social isolation isn’t going to take one solution to solve – it’s intertwined with other complex community issues. We wanted to examine it from as many viewpoints as possible while engaging young people as changemakers.”

Male and female students check out display at Georgian College Research, Innovation, Scholarship and Entrepreneurship Day

How the challenge worked

Teams were provided with two Changers Gonna Change It Kits™ that contained tools to explore the issue, ideate, prototype and model a conceptualized solution. As teams progressed through the challenge, they were supported by mentors, and given access to events and resources that could help bring their work to fruition.

Once a team completed all steps outlined in each box, they could apply to present their ideas at Georgian’s annual Research, Innovation, Scholarship and Entrepreneurship Day.

“It was incredible to see students from Kindergarten to postsecondary engaged in the challenge and coming together as a community to celebrate and display their solutions,” says Suzie. “The results were thought-provoking and simply outstanding.”

Sample solutions

Welcoming Act

Reducing social isolation among students at Barrie North Collegiate

English Language Learners worked with the Grade 9 Gifted Learning Strategies class to ensure their peers coming from all over the world feel supported and welcomed from the moment they arrive at North. The students created a website with videos and a handbook about life at the school, with resources available in multiple languages.

Intergenerational Games Day with Seniors

Sharing experiences to help seniors feel connected

Georgian’s golf management students went to Victoria Village Retirement Home to interact with senior residents through board games, conversations, coffee and treats. Their goal was to show them young people care and offer them company.

Hawk Flock Club

An after-school program for everyone

Students at Andrew Hunter Elementary School created an after-school club for peers who provide after-school child care. The club allows students to bring their siblings with them so they can participate in various activities together.

Recess Allies

Ensuring no one feels left out

A team at Hillcrest Public School created a group of peers who monitor the yard during recess and approach students who seem isolated to join in a game or go for a walk. They also developed a recognition program to acknowledge students who display spontaneous allyship.

Does Technology Make You Lonely?

Encouraging in-person connections

A team of change agents at Shanty Bay Public School created awareness about social isolation and technology. Their goal was to get students to talk to each other rather than being on their phones.

21 Acts of Kindness

It takes 21 days

Students and teachers at Barrie North Collegiate intentionally practised daily acts of kindness for 21 days, which is the time experts say it takes to make an act a habit. Those who were recipients of an act sent kindness cards to the instigators, which fostered new relationships and sparked conversations.

Did you know?

Georgian is Canada’s first – and only – changemaker college, recognized by Ashoka U for our leadership in social innovation and changemaking in higher education. Our students believe they can change the world – and we do too!

A changemaker is someone who desires positive change in the world and, after gathering knowledge and resources, makes change happen.

Young student chats with teacher about her CHANGETHENOW solution on Research, Innovation, Scholarship and Entrepreneurship Day, poster display behind her
Ashoka Canada Logo

Simcoe County District School Board Logo

Georgian Centre for Changemaking and Social Innovation Logo

RBC Foundation Logo