CoderDojo named cream of the crop in Ben & Jerry’s social entrepreneur competition

13 Jun 2013

Ben & Jerry's co-founder Jerry Greenfield with CoderDojo co-founder James Whelton

Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield and a panel of leading business minds have named CoderDojo as winner of the Irish leg of the Join Our Core social entrepreneur competition. CoderDojo scoops a cash prize of €10,000 and its logo will be included on Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream tubs next year.

CoderDojo was formed two years ago by James Whelton, just weeks after he completed his Leaving Cert, with the help of entrepreneur Bill Liao. Whelton started up non-profit organisation CoderDojo on a Saturday morning with the simple idea that kids would show up and with the help of mentors learn how to code. Within weeks, CoderDojos began happening in community halls and office canteens from Arranmore off the coast of Donegal to major cities like London and New York.

Today, more than 16,000 children worldwide are taught to code every Saturday in more than 120 dojos in 22 countries, including places such as LA, Silicon Valley, Tokyo, Africa and the Caribbean – all on a voluntary basis.

CoderDojo was one of 10 organisations from across Europe that pitched ideas to 10 of Europe’s top ethical business minds

The winners will have their business logo featured on an exclusive Ben & Jerry’s tub in 2014. In addition, each has also bagged a trip to Ben & Jerry’s birthplace in Vermont, where they will gain additional training and hear from US-based entrepreneurs and socially responsible business leaders.

In addition, they will receive expert business mentoring from Ashoka, the world’s leading network of social entrepreneurs.

Incidentally, Whelton last year became the youngest-ever recipient of the prestigious Ashoka fellowship, joining social entrepreneurs that include Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia and Nobel Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank.

“Join Our Core has been such an amazing experience. Getting to pitch to a panel that included Jerry Greenfield was one I won’t forget!” said Whelton.

“We’re thrilled to have won and can’t wait to visit Ben & Jerry’s home turf plus see CoderDojo’s logo on a Ben & Jerry’s tub next year!”

The winners were whittled down from more than 430 entries and selected from a final 18 after impressing a panel that included Ashoka’s Paul O’Hara.

Greenfield said: “This year’s Join Our Core competition was extremely competitive. All of the finalists are worthy entrepreneurs with aspirations of operating businesses formed to directly address social or environmental problems in our global community. We loved the ethos and vision of CoderDojo, they are a worthy winner of Join Our Core. I’m looking forward to seeing them on a tub next year!”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years