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Want to empower young people to create solutions to local and global problems?

Design for Change

Marker India
Design for Change empowers students to be socially aware and proactive change agents in their community. Through undertaking self-directed community projects, children shift their mindset from "can I?" to "I can!"

What is Design for Change?

Asma Hussain
“We have received more than 20,000 stories of change from 45 countries and have impacted 2.2 million students.”

Kiran Bir Sethi, Design for Change Founder

Design for Change firmly believes that all children have the ingredients to "be the change".

The vision of Design for Change is to ensure, by design, that all children grow with the “I can” mindset – the belief that they are not helpless, change is possible and they can drive it.

Every child has the right to express their views in matters that affect them and to have those views considered. Education systems have an opportunity to develop each child’s personality and talents to the full, to encourage the child’s respect for human rights, their own and other cultures, and the environment. In short, children should be empowered to be active citizens, able to make change in the world. Academic competence and character development are the two most valued outcomes, for both educators and the public, yet the prevalence of standardised testing shows that academic competence is increasingly prioritised, leaving a lack of opportunity for a child to develop their unique personality and talents and to have their voice heard.

Since 2009, Design for Change has empowered children to be active change-makers in their communities. The goal is to create a learning environment that balances academic attainment with character development, focusing on passion and compassion, content and character, doing well and doing good. Design for Change is completely decentralised – the ideas for projects will come from the schools and communities themselves. This means any school around the world can adopt the key principles and utilise the method to suit their unique context and particular needs.

The four-step Feel, Imagine, Do, Share process used by Design for Change leads students to understand situations empathetically, imagine creative solutions and work collaboratively to put those solutions into action. The approach builds employability skills, such as empathy, collaboration, leadership, presentation. Through taking control of their own learning, children are able to unlock skills they didn’t even know they had. A 28% increase in overall grades and 39% increase of performance in standardised testing have been evidenced. In addition to academic improvements, teachers see their students become empowered, and are able to shift their practice from teacher to facilitator, as children become the driving force in their own education. 

Design for Change organizes an annual global conference, Be The Change, to allow young superheroes from across the world to showcase their stories of change and to inspire others with their determination and courage.

Design for Change has received much recognition for their work and have won 8 awards to date.

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Intended Outcomes
8 - 13
Age Group
Resources Needed
As this is a student-led project, minimal adult input is required. Resources for schools are available on the website and Design for Change supports teachers to implement this approach in their school.
HundrED Criteria
Design for Change is very contextual. It can be replicated and used in multiple ways to teach content and inspire children to participate in projects and become self-aware. It is the simplicity of the framework that allows so much innovation to happen. The programme develops problem-solving skills, critical thinking and a high level of empathy.
Design for Change has received over 20,000 stories of change from 45 countries and has impacted 2.2 million students. Research conducted by The Good Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, shows significant attitudinal shifts: most students begin the sessions feeling frustrated and helpless and the majority leave feeling motivated, hopeful, proud and excited to make a change.
Design for Change partners with other organisations to bring the programme to as many children as possible. For example, in collaboration with the International Office for Catholic Education, Design for Change has been taken to over 240,000 schools worldwide, while Scholas Occurrentes has taken Design for Change to over 4,46,000 schools worldwide.

How do you implement it?



Learners take a close look at their surroundings, identify a problem they feel strongly about and engage with the community to scrutinise this situation through multiple perspectives, developing empathy in the process.

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Think from the heart - the first step towards making change happen is trying to understand how people feel. Learners are encouraged to look at their surroundings closely and observe things that bother them (hotspots).

Learners then share their observations with their team and vote as a group for one situation they would like to see change. 

After selecting the issue, learners dig deeper to understand better through asking questions such as: when does it happen? Where does it happen? Who is being affected? 

The next stage is to speak to people who are involved and affected by the situation, in order to understand their concerns so that a solution can be designed with them rather than for them.



Tap into the wildly creative optimism inherent in children to visualise an ideal scenario and brainstorm ways to achieve it.

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Learners brainstorm potential solutions as a group. They are encouraged to think big and build upon the ideas of others. Key considerations are whether the solution is bold in nature, easy to replicate and long-lasting, while impacting the maximum number of people. The group then votes to decide which ideas best address each part of the situation they want to change. 



Young people get to step out of the classroom and put their ideas into action, redefining "failure" as "prototyping".

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In this step, young people make change happen - this is where they can "be the change"! 

First comes the planning stage, where learners will need to consider what resources they will require, what their budget is, how they will raise the money, how many people will be required, how much time it will take and how their work will be documented. Within the group, the learners choose their roles and responsibilities, keeping individual strengths in mind. 

Next, the plan will be put into action.

Finally, learners will reflect on their work, considering what they learnt about the situation, their teammates and themselves. It is also important to consider how to sustain the impact of their project. 



Learners are encouraged to share their stories with the world to enable other young people to say "I can!" too.

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Stories can be shared with Design for Change at challenge.dfcworld.com, where submission guidelines can also be found. Learners can submit either a photo story or a video story. 

Going even further, young people are encouraged to spread the magic of their stories through school assemblies, TV and radio shows, social media, newspaper articles and performances. 


What does it look like in practice?

Used in
Eduheroes create superheroes
Kiran Bir Sethi teaches kids to take charge
Kiran Bir Sethi - Global Teacher Prize - Top 10 Finalist
Kiran Bir Sethi, founder of the Riverside School


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Want to reach out to the innovators?

Asma Hussain