Young Innovation HUB was started by Sissa Pagels och Louise Lindén. It started as an idea to motivate municipalities and decision-makers to see the potential in young people. In just five years, Young Innovation HUB has met and inspired over 10,000 decision-makers and youth. Last year, Reach for Change recognised the impact of the organisation which has meant that Sissa Pagels became a Change Leader of the network and has been able to work with making her dream a reality on a full-time basis since January last year. She is now 26 years old.
“All my life when I grew up in Blekinge, I had so many ideas and I didn’t feel like an entrepreneur because all my ideas were about changing society. When I first knocked on the door at Impact Hub, I really felt like home. It was the first time I talked to people and I didn’t need to explain why and I loved it. I realised I was a social entrepreneur. This culture became a source of inspiration to start Young innovation HUB.”
Growing up, Sissa felt that many people were talking about involving young people but few were actually taking action. Sissa describes how she felt like she was always asked to justify why she was working so much and dedicating so much time to her work. But at Impact Hub, people naturally understood and shared her passion for creating change. She was just 20-years old when she joined Impact Hub Stockholm’s team as the Event Manager. During her time here, she began wondering why there weren’t more young people getting involved so with Louise Lindén, she developed a plan to open a hub for young people.
Young Innovation HUB made its debut as a pop-up space in Ronneby that gathered youth with decision-makers. Every part of the arrangement was youth-driven. She got into contact with Fryshuset and suddenly they had the opportunity to expand to a space in Stockholm. Municipalities began approaching Sissa to find out more about the concept. “We were the target group so it was easy for us to talk with other young people”, she says.
Sissa soon realised that many municipalities don’t know how to involve young people in their daily work life and decision-making process. So the team has developed a process that is sold to municipalities to enable systems change through different programs and methods that are designed specifically by youths. Today Young Innovation HUB is the bridge between young people and the public sector. Their work has made it possible for five youth leaders to be employed by municipalities.
Young Innovation HUB has grown into a national network, modeled after Impact Hub’s global network to engage youth in rural areas and to give them the tools to adopt leadership roles. Municipalities are given processes to engage youth leaders in a better way for greater involvement that is more meaningful. “We want to be a bridge between them to make it easier for municipalities to employ them”, says Sissa.
During the spring and together with partner municipalities and hub-leaders, the pair has reviewed their concept and will soon be launching Young Innovation HUB 2.0, or as they so succinctly call it – an educational tool kit that contains methods both for municipalities and young leaders on how to empower the local youth, adapted to local challenges. Young Innovation HUB promises a program that places even more focus on developing young leaders and improving their impact.
“My partner and I had the pleasure of being invited to SKL which is the umbrella organisation for all municipalities in Sweden. The mission was to talk in front of eleven or twelve hundred decision-makers. I didn’t understand what kind of event it was. I was about 23 and had never been to an event like that. We went into this enormous room where people were seated all the way to the roof. We talked for 20 minutes and we were personal and funny, telling them about our work and our solution. Afterwards it was crazy. They were almost running after us to ask about our methods and they said this was brilliant. But it’s not only me. To be a young person and to have an idea, we can change peoples minds and we have a mission to do this.” – Sissa Pagels, Young Innovation HUB
Sissa admits that she hasn’t taken the easiest or the most direct route: “Everything is about daring to really follow your dream. You really need to be patient. I have a dream in my head but sometimes it’s challenging. It’s so easy for people to say an idea isn’t good and that it’s never going to work. Also the bureaucracy system stopping many people to jump and test their idea. I didn’t really believe in myself when I was younger. My self-esteem wasn’t the best so I think it’s so important for young people to never stop and to follow their dreams. Just stay focused and you can do whatever you want to do.”
One of her passions is to inspire young people about what their future work life could be like. She burns for the new kind of work life that is being adopted by digital nomads who travel and work as they wish. “You don’t need to separate your passion and your work” she says. While working at Impact Hub Stockholm, she realised that work doesn’t have to feel like work. It can be a lifestyle. “It’s not about where you live. It’s about who you are and what your passion is. With digitalisation, you can work all over the world.” She laughs and says she has better contact with her friends in Bali than she has with her neighbours in Sweden.
Her dream now is that Young Innovation HUB allows people to not be limited by location. She’s in the process of gathering her ideas to develop a new immersive program to drive more youth towards having more sustainable lifestyles but details are still top secret. The team is currently looking for someone to join them who is experienced in social media and is fluent in Swedish, who can help them to develop the network and showcase their impact online.
“Since being the Event Manager at Impact Hub, I really love when I see people from different backgrounds and I see them meet. There’s a special atmosphere in the room when they connect and they learn together and grow together. That’s the best feeling I know. That’s so cool with Impact Hub. You get that moment every day. It’s really shaped my mindset. I always think quite big but in this organisation I was really encouraged to think bigger. All the people and the amazing entrepreneurs who are following their dream really made me feel that I am not alone. When I started there I had no idea how to do things, but after being there for two years I learned that nothing is impossible.“