The Ideathon: How IRI Promotes Social Enterprise, Economic Opportunities and Youth-led Solutions to Local Governance Challenges
The International Republican Institute (IRI) launched its citizen security program in Panama in 2015. The program focused on supporting local governments to find new ways to engage youth from at-risk and low-income communities to help develop solutions to citizen security and local development challenges. IRI hosted the first Ideathon - a team project design competition paired with soft skills training and the centerpiece of IRI’s approach - in March 2016 with local partners from civil society, government, and the private sector. The Ideathon created an opportunity for at-risk youth to develop skills and confidence to play a more active role in creating solutions to challenges in their communities, share their ideas, and connect with local governments stakeholders interested in supporting youth-led projects. Through the Ideathon, teams produced concepts for tangible projects they could implement with government support. So far, IRI has awarded six projects to young people in Panama through the Ideathon model, and these projects have engaged over 900 youth from at-risk communities. In 2017, IRI implemented the Ideathon model in the municipality of Colon. The winning idea proposed to create a new arts and cultural center for youth in an underserved area. The idea has garnered support and investment from the municipal government. All three local governments who have participated in the program have replicated the Ideathon model or incorporated the approach into existing youth programming.