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Ashoka Ireland is thrilled to welcome our newest Ashoka Fellow, and only our second elected in Northern Ireland: Vernon Ringland, creator of YouthBank International.

Based in Belfast, Vernon Ringland has spent 20 years developing a simple, flexible and transferable approach to promote young people as decision makers in their communities. Youthbank allows young people to become team philanthropists for initiatives started by other young people. Vernon’s work is driven by his extensive youth work experience and view that greater opportunities should be afforded young people to experiment and test out their own ideas.

For many young people the thrill and challenge of generating their own funding to be placed solely in their hands to address causes that matter to them raises questions of shifting power, attitudes to money and risk. In 2017 over 2,500 young people were involved in running their own local YouthBanks, granting over 245k euro, supporting 450 youth-led projects in 24 countries.

Starting out in Northern Ireland he quickly saw the potential of sharing his expertise with organisations in other parts of the world who were looking to combine philanthropy, social entrepreneurship and youth development into one initiative.

Vernon has been influenced by the work of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) and their crafted processes as methods of enquiry to build consensus in groups and organisations. This experience - the human dimension of endeavour was instrumental in building the YouthBank model and its values, creating the space for a group of young people to work together to make a difference to their lives and their communities.

He is currently working with some new organisations and partnerships interested in the YouthBank model and how it can be applied to their own cultural circumstances.

Ashoka is thrilled to welcome Vernon to our community of Ashoka Fellows, and looks forward to finding ways to support his work as it expands around the world.