A dynamic duo wants to "plug in" youths’ social media dependence

Ivan and Stefan, two students from the Orce Nikolov high-school in Skopje decided to utilize young people’s dependence on smartphones and social media to inspire them to be physically more active and aware about the use of resources in the environment.

UNICEF
A hand made model of the project idea involving a bicycle made of paper and an appropriate inspiring message
UNICEF/2018/Georgiev

18 December 2018

Ivan and Stefan, two students from the Orce Nikolov high-school in Skopje decided to utilize young people’s dependence on smartphones and social media to inspire them to be physically more active and more aware about the use of resources in their environment. Their plan to use dynamo based technology so that young people can charge up their smartphones was selected as one of the five ideas that got seed funding during the first UPSHIFT programme in the country.

On a Saturday evening, when most teenagers are getting ready to go out, two high-school students from Skopje, Ivan and Stefan were pondering over the idea of how to better use their free time. Staring at their smartphones, Ivan recalled the UPSHIFT call he saw a few days before.  Thinking about the overwhelming influence that smartphones and social media have on the lives of teenagers, the idea about how to inspire young people to be more physically active sparked. They quickly packed what they thought was “crazy idea” into a project proposal and sent it without any expectation that they might be selected for the UPSHIFT workshop, let alone get seed funding to bring it to reality.

“We still can’t believe that we have been selected,” they say in unison.

“We were simply trying to find something interesting to do to past the time, not entirely aware of the irony that we ourselves were spending way too much time on social media and in front of our smartphones. But it is a reality for most teenagers and from this point of view, we could not have thought of a better way to motivate our peers to be more physically active,” Stefan explains. 

Their plan is to use a dynamo, put it on a stationary bicycle and use pedal power to generate electricity to recharge smartphone batteries. The idea is to put these charging stations in popular locations where young people gather.

Ivan and Stefan presenting their project idea at the first UPSHIFT workshop in the country
UNICEF/2018/Georgiev

“We have received a lot of support from our friends and families. But there were some that thought that the idea was ‘stupid’,” Ivan says. “There is no doubt, however, that young people need more physical exercise and we strongly believe this is also a good way to open their eyes to the need to use resources wisely”.

“When they see how much effort is needed to recharge a single smartphone battery, I’m sure that many young people will have greater appreciation for the electricity use and usually take for granted,” Stefan adds. 

Stefan and Ivan were among the ten teams selected to participate on the country’s first UPSHIFT workshop organized by CEED Hub Skopje with the support from the Ministry of Education, the Bureau for Development of Education, the Fund for Innovations and Technical Development and UNICEF.  They were among the five teams selected to receive seed funding for their idea.  

Together with their mentors, during the workshop they had a chance to further develop their idea and will now work on the very first prototype, soon to become a reality.

Ivan and Stefan holding a big paper sheet containing a drawing of their project idea
UNICEF/2018/Georgiev

“We have never done anything remotely similar to this. But it is an amazing feeling to be innovative and to have a chance to make a change in society,” they say.

When asked, if their experience will motivate their friends to be more active and contributing to the society, Stefan and Ivan say that “there are not that many young people that are willing to initiate positive changes in society, but there are many that will follow a positive example”.

Ivan and Stefan preparing their presentation during the UPSHIFT workshop
UNICEF/2018/Dimishkovski

The UPSHIFT programme is designed to support young people to become social innovators and entrepreneurs. It combines social innovation workshops, where young people can learn new skills, with mentorship and funding.  They detect problems in their communities, find innovative solutions to address them and get support to see their idea becoming a reality. This boosts their resilience, their creativity, their confidence and allows communities to thrive thanks to the solutions that they create.