Oscar Torrez and Naidelin Lagos, who participated in the social mapping workshop at the “Virgen del Carmen” School in El Bluff. ®UNICEF/Nicaragua-2015/ W. Obando
23 de September de 2015

El Bluff-Managua.- In conjunction with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Innovation Laboratory of the Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University (BICU) organized a first social innovation camp in September over a period of four days in El Bluff, in the Southern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCS). The initiative mobilized the conscious and active participation of over 80 people, including children, youths, university students, representatives from local and regional authorities, and community leaders in the search for solutions to the problems affecting them.

"This camp allowed the participants to help resolve a problem by contributing their ideas, which was of great social and emotional benefit for the children and youths,” commented Rinko Kinoshita, the officer in charge of UNICEF in Nicaragua. She also stressed that this kind of initiative contributes to the development of local competencies to promote innovation as a strategy for resolving social problems in a context of limited resources.

Analysis of social problems through innovative tolos

The first step was the analysis of social problems. Primary and secondary school pupils expressed their ideas on the perception of risk in their environment through the drawing up of a collaborative map of El Bluff, identifying the places of risk in their surroundings, environmental problems, and the infrastructure they need for recreation and socialization. “Among the problems we found is that there’s always rubbish on the pier, our park is damaged and we have to be careful when we’re passing by the stadium," commented Oscar Torrez, a sixth-grade student from El Bluff’s “Virgen del Carmen” School.

They were also sensitized on the recognition of their rights in order to guarantee their protection. “I learned to identify those places with a lot of dangers, those that flood and the dark places. I learned to be more careful in relation to those risky places," explained Naidelin Lagos, a fourth-grade student from the “Virgen del Carmen” School.

Meanwhile, students from the BICU and the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua (URACCAN) interviewed community leaders, authorities and other key informants for an in-depth examination of the causes of the social problems identified in the mapping. "This was a unique initiative because we hadn’t previously been able to identify the municipality’s needs and we’ve now achieved this with the community’s participation,” said Jacoba Cerrato, a delegate from the El Bluff Mayor’s Office.

In addition to the collective production of an assessment study of the social problems, technicians from the Ministry of the Family, Adolescents and Children in Bluefields and two Peace Corps volunteers trained parents on the new Family Code (Law No. 870) and on the prevention of violence.

Innovative solutions

Using the inputs from the social mapping, two parallel innovation laboratory sessions were held employing the “knowledge café” or brainstorming methodology to generate innovative solutions to six identified problems: drug and alcohol consumption, relations between parents and their children, the environment and hygiene, the sexual exploitation of children, the prevention of violence, and unemployment.

As a result of the laboratory sessions, 12 prototypes were obtained that will help provide an innovative response to the problems identified.
The next steps for the BICU Innovation Laboratory and UNICEF, together with the local authorities, will be to support the participants in developing these “prototypes”, or “rapid tests”, of the solutions, using the results obtained during the camp as inputs.


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Olga Moraga, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Nicaragua omoraga@unicef.org.