A humanitarian and social innovator, Selene Biffi is the founder of Plain Ink, a social enterprise producing free, educational comics for children and communities in India, Afghanistan and Italy. Prior to that, she founded Youth Action for Change, a non-profit, inspiring and training young people in 130 countries for free to become active agents of change.
At age 22, with only 150 Euro, she conceived and launched Youth Action for Change, a global, youth-led organisation harnessing the power of ICTs to inspire and empower young people worldwide to become active change makers in their own communities. Through its peer-to-peer, free online courses, YAC trains youth in some 130 countries in field such as sustainable development, human rights, water access and many others. The first organisation of this kind, YAC has trained about 2,000 young people and has reshaped the field of youth empowerment and participation. More recently, YAC has launched two unique ventures: Forgotten Diaries – the first platform training young people in neglected conflict zones such to become war reporters and act as peacebuilders in their communities – and Young Innovations Europe, a magazine showcasing youth-led best practices in politics, economy, academia, science, art and others.
After a six-month stint if Afghanistan, Biffi created Plain Ink, a social venture that produces and distributes free educational comics teaching skills in health, agriculture and others to children and communities in India and Afghanistan, giving local people a say in their own development. To support its programs overseas, Plain Ink produces and sells unique children’s books in Italy.
Biffi has worked with Amnesty International and several UN agencies in the past, where she has also been elected to run the Major Group on Children and Youth at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. Moreover, she has managed humanitarian projects in 10 countries and has contributed to national and international youth participation policies, articles and books.
She has been a consultant, trainer and speaker for organisations the likes of the Council of Europe, OSCE, World Bank, Oxfam, Columbia University and Microsoft.
She regularly writes about ICTs for development and social innovation, and her work has appeared in WIRED and The Washington Post.
For her work and impact, she has received over thirty awards and fellowships, and in 2009 she has been named a ‘Young Global Leader’ by the World Economic Forum. She has also served as ‘Social Sector Ambassador’ for the Italian Minister of Youth Affairs, On. Giorgia Meloni, and is currently the ‘Italian Ambassador’ to the European Year of Volunteerism of the European Commission.
She holds a Bs in International Economics and Management from Università Bocconi (Italy) and a NOHA Master in International Humanitarian Action from UCD (Ireland). She also holds diplomas from INSEAD Business School (France) and Harvard University (US).
Through my work with NGOs I have come to see how education can shape lives and communities. In 2009 -2010 I worked with the United Nations in Afghanistan to draft a visual manual for children. There I witnessed extreme poverty and a general feeling of hopelessness. However, in a remote village a group of schoolgirls shared their dreams with me: despite the fact that their school had no blackboards or even teachers, they wanted to become engineers, doctors and teachers themselves. They desperately wanted basic education, “to be of help to their community and to help the village escape poverty”. These young girls inspired me, and my experience of meeting them prompted me to start Plain Ink.
WEBSITES: Plain Ink, Youth Action for Change, Forgotten Diaries, Young Innovations Europes
INK BLOG PIECES: Fellows Insights/February 6, 2012