Social entrepreneur Kim Mackenzie-Doyle making big impact

Kim Mackenzie-Doyle is bringing schools and businesses together to encourage creative thinking and problem-solving in teenagers, she writes Robert O’Brien

The Irish education system has traditionally focused on providing knowledge for exams and fails to adequately prepare students for creative thinking. According to the World Economic Forum, creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking are the indispensable career attributes for graduates.

This non-linear approach is not often encouraged in our current education system. When it comes to the senior cycle, Professor Chris Morasch of Trinity College Dublin addresses these concerns.

“The Leaving Cert dampens students’ innate curiosity and creates a culture of student dependency on class notes and exam expectations,” he notes.

Kim Mackenzie Doyle launched The B!G Idea in 2020. It is an educational program for 15-19 year olds that bridges the gaps between industry and education by having students work on projects that solve social problems.

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A former President and current Director of Institute of Designers IrelandOver the course of 20 years in the creative industries, Mackenzie-Doyle has seen how important a creative and divergent mindset can help businesses and how little these skills are encouraged in schools.

After seeing the challenges young people face, she was inspired to bring about change and stimulate innovation and student action.

Together with a mentor, students work for 12 weeks to use creative thinking on societal issues such as mental health, healthcare and the climate crisis.

B!G Idea was first piloted in 2020, launched with 500 students in 2021 and has grown to over 2,000 students this year, supported by 400 mentors from 225 companies across the spectrum of industries.

B!G Idea was also a hit with mentors, with nine out of 10 continuing from 2021-2022 and paying the all-important €200 mentor fee, which allows schools from across the education system to take part.

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Mentors also have the opportunity to network and build relationships with other project participants. This growing community is made up of creative professionals, project coordinators, business strategists, product developers, engineers and more, from CEOs to graduates.

According to Mackenzie-Doyle, “Our students are provided with a platform to share their feelings about issues that cause them stress. They contribute their thoughts on what they want to learn before even engaging in the content of the B!G Idea program.

“Co-developing the program with their needs in mind allows students to connect and benefit from the program on multiple levels.”

The workshops are moderated by teachers and the support is digital and designed to be both interactive and flexible.

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Kim Mackenzie-Doyle Education
Kim Mackenzie-Doyle’s initiative receives financial support from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

Mackenzie-Doyle expects program enrollment to expand to approximately 5,000 students in 2023. As the number of students increases, however, so does the need for mentors, and the social entrepreneur is looking for 800 mentors for the coming year.

Mackenzie-Doyle was recently selected for a place on the Social Entrepreneur Ireland Impact program, a nine-month accelerator worth €60,000. Social Entrepreneurs Ireland has been providing mentoring and advice to organizations since 2004.

With the help of SEI, Kim now wants to further develop the organization and its capacity to meet the growing demand for the B!G Idea program in schools.

+ If your company or team would like to get involved with The B!G Idea, contact hello@thebigidea.ie

Photo: Kim Mackenzie-Doyle and Tim Griffiths. Managing Director of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

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