Next steps in launching Ashoka Changemaker Schools in Scandinavia

Release Date: 
March 14, 2014
Publication name: 
Forum for Social Innovation Sweden (Mötesplats Social Innovation)

How can we prepare children today to be the change they will wish to see tomorrow? One of the answers might lie in Ashoka's new initiative, Changemaker Schools. The team at Ashoka Scandinavia gives us thoughts behind this idea.

The Nordic region is known for it’s leadership in Education and many countries’ educational systems are interested in models of teaching and learning used in schools to identify new ways of teaching and learning in order to develop tomorrow’s adults.

In the last few years however, we have been seeing much debate around the Educational Systems in Sweden, Norway and Denmark whether it be the age a child needs to go to school or the process and purpose of a particular curriculum – with conversations emerging around school performances, student achievement and student drop out rates across the region.

In parallel, we have also been seeing an outburst of new models of designing and delivering school curriculums and new methods of student-teacher-school interactions that not only prepare tomorrow’s professionals, but also tomorrow’s society. For example, Forskerfabrikken (Scientist Factory) in Norway is building a culture of experiential learning and cutting edge science to teach Science; Mattecentrum in Sweden is creating a network of math programs to make math vibrant, exciting, and respected as a key skill for success; and Pøbelprosjektet in Norway works with young people who drop out of school by designing educational programs around the resources they already have to contribute to society and enter the job market.

Since society is constantly changing so is education. With change come many opportunities to act on and make it become what we wish to see it turn into – from how we interact and express ourselves, to the how we build and understand everything around us. Yet, in order to keep up with this change, foresee it and act on it, we need to cultivate skills that enable us to become individuals with freedom, confidence and support from each other to drive it in a positive direction.

Ashoka, as a leading organization for social entrepreneurship has been working with change for over 30 years. Through its work and support of 3,000 men and women who are solving the world’s toughest challenges – Ashoka Fellows – the organization has realized that making change move in a positive direction relates to having the Changemaker Skills of Empathy, Creativity, Leadership, and Teamwork. Ashoka calls individuals who have these skills – Changemakers – and believes that being a changemaker is possible as early as childhood.

To begin cultivating Changemaker Skills among children, Ashoka has developed the Changemaker Schools Program worldwide and Ashoka Scandinavia will be launching the program this year in Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

As part of this launch, Ashoka Scandinavia in partnership with the Ekskäret Foundation, gathered 12 co-creators from Sweden, Norway and Denmark to a Changemaker School Summit between February 13 and 14 – “Education for Change: Changemaker Schools and Skills in Scandinavia” – in an effort to delve into how the Education System needs to transform in Scandinavia in order to cultivate these skills among young people.

Participants included innovators in the education sector, thought leaders, Ashoka Fellows, social entrepreneurs, teachers, principals and local representatives from the education system who discussed topics such as:

  • The purpose of Education and how the Education System can develop Changemakers;
  • How teachers, students, parents and everyone involved in students’ learning can understand and integrate Changemaker Skills into the curriculum, school environment and society;
  • Ways society at large can work together to identify, connect, and support schools who are already equipping students with these skills – Changemaker Schools;
  • Ways Changemaker Schools can connect with other schools wishing to integrate Changemaker Skills into their daily work with children, share best practice and inspire new ways of thinking within the educational system; and
  • A world where every child understands and expresses empathy, creativity, leadership and teamwork to bring about lasting change in their communities, organizations, lives, and society, wherever they are most needed as adults.

A few insights from the discussions included a need to develop skills among students that can prepare them for an ever-changing world. In addition, there was an interest to identify ways social entrepreneurs could offer examples of how changemaker skills could be applied in a subject area to contribute to society. Moreover, it was suggested that schools and teachers who are cultivating these skills among students in Changemaker Schools could be great collaborators to co-create new learning tools and methodologies that can be shared with other schools. Finally, there were reflections on the possibility of schools that are teaching Changemaker skills to be positive role models for other schools within a county or region.

”Education has an impact how society is structured in the future. If we cultivate Changemaker Skills among young people, we can prepare them to better address change and social challenges as youth and adults. The Changemaker School Summit gave us hope in seeing how important these skills are to the Scandinavian region.” – Maja Frankel, Director of Ashoka Scandinavia.

Ashoka Scandinavia believes that the Education System and everyone involved in children’s teaching, learning and skills development can prepare today, tomorrow’s Changemakers. As the team builds the program in the region, it will be organizing future opportunities for schools, teachers and educational experts to connect and meet with social entrepreneurs, social innovators and thought leaders within Ashoka’s Changemaker School Program.

Want to know more about the program or insights from the Summit? Contact: Yatin Sethi at ysethi@ashoka.org.