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Professional development to cultivate creative changemaking in children

Designathon: Teaching for creative changemaking

location_on Amsterdam, Netherlands
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.
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


HundrED has selected this innovation to


Key figures

Innovation Overview

Target Group
75 000
Updated on May 30th, 2021
about the innovation

Teachers empower children to design a better world

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.


HundrED Academy Review

Wow! Giving students the chance to create with their teachers and communities co-creating a better world, groundbreaking!
So many creative elements infused to create prototypes and present their solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals.

- HundrED Academy Member

The project’s global reach is already apparent so it clearly has high scalability. I like the way in which creativity is embedded into teaching and projects in such a way that students are encouraged to develop creative skills and a creative approach for later learning.

- HundrED Academy Member
Designathon empowers educators and schools to cultivate a creative mindset among young learners. Through this curriculum or framework, every classroom across the globe can integrate design thinking among students.
Academy review results
High Impact
Low Scalability
High Impact
High Scalability
Low Impact
Low Scalability
Low Impact
High Scalability
Read more about our selection process

See this innovation in action

Corona challenge | DW School
In the Corona Challenge children come up with solutions for dealing with boredom,  missing loved ones and for parents and teachers struggling with home schooling. It is an online competition held in the months of April and May for classrooms and children from (8 - 12). Teacher can give the lesson live or send the challenge lesson to their pupils and discuss ideas either in an online classroom or via email. The local mayor for arts and digital culture will select three winners online. Only in Dutch so far but working on English next..Corona Challenge
Tacher Adam on the designathon challenge on single-use plastic
Video of Teacher Adam BaileyThe Dopper Changemaker Challenge Junior is an international competition for children aged 8-12, to save the oceans from single-use plastic. Designathon Works developed the format of this school challenge, all lesson materials and teacher guidelines. So far 25.000 children took part in this competition. 
Research meeting ‘Playful Learning - Meaningful Learning’ at TU Eindhoven
Link to Talk webpageDesignathon Works founder Emer Beamer gave a lecture at the Eindhoven University of Technology on how we can teach children to design a better future. During the research meeting ‘Playful Learning - Meaningful Learning’ we explored how new technologies and exciting activities can help children and students become the problem solvers of the future. .
Teacher training: how to use designathon in language development
We developed lesson materials and a training on how to use the designathon method in language development. This was focussed on helping children who have recently arrived in the Netherlands learn the language while doing our projects with a few additional lessons and tools. The We successfully delivered two series of designathon lessons: in May around the theme of Waste and in October (with the same group of children) on Food. In total we collaborated with 5 schools on this project. 
WWF Annual Review 2019
The WWF Annual Review 2019 was published, and our Global Children's Designathon is featured in the education section (page 54). We are so proud to work with partners that are pushing so hard for a New Deal for Nature and People. Great report and a must-read! 
Attending High Level Political Forum in New York
Designathon Works was present at the UN High Level Political Forum in NYC. There was extra focus on reviewing SDG 4: quality education. Quote of the day by Ms Jaob: ‘we don’t need more power but we need more courage!’
Our Planet Live: 45-minute Designathon lesson on deforestation
In order to reach children all over the world we have teamed up with WWF and Microsoft to provide Designathon Skype in the Classroom lessons called Our Planet: Deforestation. We offer a 45-minute Designathon lesson on deforestation. This is a great way to slowly involve the teachers into this new type of educating, since we involve the teacher closely in the lesson.So far ±100 children across India, USA and Europe have received a Designathon Skype Lesson in their own classroom. 
Webinar: how to use the designathon assessment tools
We hosted a webinar on how to use our assessment tools for qualitatively assessing the child’s work.  Topics we covered during the webinar: assessment: step-by-step, rules and guidelines, observation rules and guidelines and collecting data 
Training Nepali educators
As part of the Changemaker Challenge Junior Competition, we trained a group of 15 teachers of our partner in Kathmandu: Karkhana.
Jenga Hub: training Tanzanian educators
Our network partner in Tanzania: JengaHub offered a FREE Designathon workshop to parents, teachers, school administrators, aspiring educators and all children stakeholders. 
Online projects | Designathon Works
Are you a teacher or a parent looking for a way to provide quality education to children, despite the COVID-19 virus? We might have what you are looking for! Our online projects offer a great way to engage children in a problem-solving activity that fosters creative thinking and changemaking skills.Online Designathon Projects
New training in creative failitation at Mayama, Mexico
Last June two Designathon trainers trained  the whole team of facilitators at  Mayama education in Mexico. Mayama works with children who live in extreme poverty and violence, giving them the opportunity to develop their full potential and enjoy a happy childhood. The Designathon method is now official part of the Mayama education model, where the children learn to design and create solutions to local problems and so increase their own and their communities resilience.
Online training with participants from 10 countries
Snapshots from our online training for new Designathon facilitators with  participants from Nigeria, South Korea, Chile, the Netherlands, Turkey, France, USA, Serbia, Switzerland and Albania. Through a series of webinars and offline projects the facilitators learn the in's and out's of facilitating a Designathon in the classroom or an after school space. The best way to learn is of course to practice being creative yourself!. Here you can see some of the participants sharing the sketches of their inventions to solve water problems.


Achievements & Awards

November 2020
March 2020
Launch of our 3rd research report: the Global Voices of the Next Generation
January 2020
Launch of the Dopper Changemaker Challenge Junior
November 2019
5th edition of the Global Children's Designathon
June 2019
Appointed by the Amsterdam Municipality to help schools to develop creative education
July 2018
Ashoka Austria, Education without Borders program
April 2018
Global Innovator, Dubai Expo 2020

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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.
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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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