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Professional development to cultivate creative changemaking in children

Designathon: Teaching for creative changemaking

Amsterdam, Netherlands, Worldwide
Our mission is to unleash the creativity of children, empowering them to design a better world. Together with teachers, parents, schools, clubs and through challenges, children on every continent, learn about, investigate, create prototypes and present their solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals. Step by step with their teachers and communities co-creating a better world.

Teachers empower children to design a better world

Emer Beamer, Founder, Ashoka Fellow
“When adults discover their own agency and ability to empower the creativity of children, then things really start to flourish. ”

Emer Beamer, Founder, Ashoka Fellow

For 6 years Designathon Works has been advocating for a radical rethink on how society and education systems see children. What if we all saw children as creative changemakers, engaged humans, scientists and inventors? What if we then helped them to develop those abilities? By working with teachers, parents and after school educators, helping them to grow their creative mindset and in turn enable the next generation of changemakers!

Why we want to educate a million changemakers
 Our work is driven by the belief that two highly important abilities to have for our complex and rapidly changing world are creative thinking and changemaking ability with digital and technological literacy as a close third.
That is why Designathon Works designed training and tools for teachers to foster creativity through a design thinking approach applied to the Sustainable Development Goals and backed up by Maker education.

Key points in Teacher and after-school Facilitators Professional development
Having a user friendly method that fully engages children is one thing, enabling teachers and educators to adopt new approaches and facilitate children's growth towards unknown outcomes is a whole other journey. Our on and offline training include of course a DIY process where teachers rediscover the joy of inventing their own solutions and making prototypes, but just as important has proved sharing an understanding of creativity, it’s development and tools for assessing it’s development. Here follows are overview of the foundational aspects of the professional development experiences we work with:

  1. Mindset reframe: The child as source of ideas and vision to be taken seriously
    Moving from ‘I will tell you’ to ‘I want to hear your ideas’
    Moving from ‘I answer’ to ‘I ask questions to help you formulate your own ideas’
  2. Explaining creative thinking, creativity and that it can be cultivated, using models and studies, from Teresa Amabile, Guildford, Torrance and Dialogical education, Rubert Wegerif;
  3. Encouraging teachers and facilitators to practice their own playful creative development;

The learning model behind the professional development
Moving from the foundations above the second module includes tips and tricks for teachers so they can develop their ability as a dialogical practitioner, meaning: prompts for feedback on ideas, suggested questions they can ask to elicit children’s ideas, becoming aware of the tone of voice we use when talking with children so that we don't influence their choices by subtly indicating our preference but instead help them explore their own imagination.
We focus on navigating the following shifts:

  1. How can you as a teacher help your students explore routes to finding potential answers?
  2. How can you teach the students a process versus asking them to come up with the right answer?
  3. How can you co-create an environment in the classroom where the focus is on collaboration instead of hierarchy?
  4. How can you shift the focus from narrowing down to one right answer to a celebration of the abundance of different ideas and outcomes?
  5. How can you assess the childs’ process outcomes qualitatively?
  6. How can we create conducive environments for creative and collaborative work?
  7. Mapping the designathon project contents to the national curriculum.

What are the various teacher training and tools

(online) training: how to work with the designathon method and lesson materials

  1. (online) training: how to design your own creative learning materials
  2. (online) lesson materials and tools to use while teaching in the classroom
  3. Assessment tools for qualitatively assessing the child’s work

And of course last but not least learning together from experiences in our classrooms and after school program with settings, materials, groups size, themes, warm up exercises, peer feedback, new technologies among others.

What makes the designathon approach different?
The designathon method is different from other existing education methods, lesson materials and ways of learning because:

  • A designathon is a structured process with an open-ended assignment on the SDG's, this promotes student agency as proposed in the OECD 2030 Future of Education and Learning Framework 2030;
  • The students gain knowledge on the topic, a variety of  21st century skills (i.e: creative thinking, complex problem solving and global citizenship) and empowerment to take action in whatever shape or form they feel best;
  • The method works for students despite their socio-economic background, ability or country, which means it is a universal and inclusive way to create the next generation of changemakers around the globe.

How we create impact at scale
The organisation operates through chapters in 10 global cities which are run by independent partner organisations, facilitated by our HQ in Amsterdam. Together we have worked with 60.000 students and have trained over 600 educators who use the method in classrooms and workshops. The yearly Global Children’s Designathon, now in its 5th year, has 40 global cities participating on all continents and keeps growing. We work with students of all backgrounds in all situations, from shanty towns in Africa to private schools in Europe. The method recognises that all children have something of value to contribute. Our beneficiaries are the students we impact, the educators who work with them and the organisations we work with.

We believe this is just the beginning of this creative teaching movement, but it is definitely a great sign of the type of education experiences and mind-shifts that we wish to see in the classroom and beyond.

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Innovation Overview
Target Group
75 000
Tips for implementation
Do you want to empower children's creativity to design for a better world? Then we recommend starting with our online lesson materials and tools. A next step is to follow our (online) training. This will further develop your competencies as an creative education professional.
Contact information

See this innovation in action

Corona challenge | DW School
Tacher Adam on the designathon challenge on single-use plastic
Research meeting ‘Playful Learning - Meaningful Learning’ at TU Eindhoven
Teacher training: how to use designathon in language development
WWF Annual Review 2019
Attending High Level Political Forum in New York
Our Planet Live: 45-minute Designathon lesson on deforestation
Webinar: how to use the designathon assessment tools


Achievements & Awards


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Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Subscribe to our website
Online designathon projects are design-based projects for children aged 7-12 years. The project takes about 120 minutes and can be done in parts Subscribe to our website to start immediately, including free teacher guidelines, lesson materials and tools. In English and Dutch with Spanish coming.
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Follow our (online) teacher training
Our on and offline training include of course a DIY process where teachers rediscover the joy of inventing their own solutions and making prototypes, but just as important has proved sharing an understanding of creativity, it’s development and tools for assessing it’s development.
Read more
Join our Global Community
Participate in one of the biggest world saving events: the Global Children’s Designathon. With this project we are highlighting the ability of the children to imagine and design a better future and simultaneously we are calling for changemaker education, globally.
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