Design thinking is a creative process that helps educators facilitate the learning process for their students in a meaningful and creative way. Through our initiative Change Architects, we are aiming to disseminate this mindset in rural communities to increase teachers confidence in the learning process and to make the learning more engaging and practical for the students.
According to the European Commission over 46% of youths are at risk of poverty and social exclusion, a percentage higher than the national average 37%. The educational system was not able to attract, prepare and maintain high-performance educators and couldn’t provide the students with access to practical, life context and authentic skills.
Lack of guidance, the absence of applicable skills and inspiration, leave the youth with few options: dropout, unemployment, transfer to a better school or move to a different country. The effects are largely noticeable in the rural areas, poor communities and Roma communities, where unemployment is rampant, pessimism is installed and many people have already left. This situation is no longer acceptable and the youth need to have the knowledge, skills, and inspiration to build a better future.
To address these complex challenges, young people need to become changemakers. Youth have the capacity to address socio-economic challenges if they are inspired and encouraged to pursue their dreams. We are using design thinking to create a platform for youngsters to reflect, design and prototype their ideas by providing them with access to key knowledge, tools, and resources. The learning process is facilitated by their teachers. We are using 4 simple steps FEEL, IMAGINE, DO and SHARE which transform the youth into change agents. By empowering them we are generating a positive ripple effect, which is changing the status quo in rural and poor communities.
Thruout the process the students are acquiring 21st-century competencies such as empathy, critical thinking, leadership, collaboration, innovations, etc.
The teachers are trained and receive guidance and resources further, they are empowered to bring positive change in their communities while learning to make their classes more creative and meet their students' needs, wants and limitations. We are building an ecosystem of change with the students at the center.
Rural schools in Romania are becoming less and less populated, due to aging and migration. Further, as the European Commission highlighted the difference between early school dropouts is higher with 20% in the rural area versus urban area (26% to 6.2% in cities). As a result, many rural schools are being closed down and students are relocated or studying together in classes with multiple grades.
Change Architects is not exclusively targeting rural communities, however, we believe that the need for creative and new teaching methods is higher in rural schools. Introducing Design thinking in education is helping teachers adjust their teaching methods and increase the enthusiasm and engagement in the classroom. Because of the large population, we are targeting and costs efficiency we are conducting the teachers training online and coaching them by phone.
In the next school year, we aim to engage with over 1,500 teachers from the entire country and reach over 10,000 students.
We are using the design thinking framework (Feel, Imagine, Do and Share) developed by Design for change, an organization started by an Ashoka fellow, Kiran Bir Sethi, in 2009 and currently operating in over 65 countries. The methodology promotes the change in children mindset from I can't to I CAN through experiential learning. The teachers are facilitating the learning process. In Romania the program operates under the name of Change Architects and was started in 2016. Since lunch, we have been engaged with over 250 teachers from 200 schools.
The teaching method has been created in collaboration with IDEO and evaluated by Harvard University. The study showed that the students who experienced the 4 steps teaching method have increased their school performance.
The initiative uses design thinking to create a space where children and youth with ages from 8 to 18 become changemakers. Children learn about social entrepreneurship and community development and they develop small practical projects to solve problems important for them going through 4 simple steps FEEL, IMAGINE, DO and SHARE(FIDS). Teachers' role is to facilitate and create a space for youth to develop.
Children and youth develop a new set of skills and competencies necessary in their daily life and in their future careers. Through experiential learning, they understand they are not spectators of their lives but there are the architects of their future. They discover that they CAN shape the world and all they need is an I CAN mindset.
As an organization, we believe that only through strong partnership we can bring the change for the children attending schools in a rural environment. Our team can offer training materials, coaching sessions with teachers and access to existing creative educational materials.
We want to create a national campaign for rural schools in which teachers can enroll for free. We are providing teachers with a practical toolkit for using Design thinking framework in their schools as well as coaching sessions and access to our library of resources and the opportunity to join a network of educators from over 65 countries.
We are looking for individuals and organizations who share our vision and can support us to promote the program to our target population in a creative and innovative way. Together with the partners, we want to design the concept of a marketing campaign in order to be effective and reach 20% of Romanian schools (1500).
We are compliant with the ethical standards in our work.
We believe in the power of collaboration.