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Designathon: Teaching for creative changemaking

Professional development to cultivate creative changemaking in children

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.

HundrED 2022


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2022


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Target group
October 2021
When adults discover their own agency and ability to empower the creativity of children, then things really start to flourish.

About the innovation

Teachers empower children to design a better world

For 7 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 online 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 to share an understanding of creativity, its development and tools for assessing its development.

Here follows an overview of the foundational aspects of the professional development experiences we work with:

  1. Mindset reframe: The child as a 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 practitioners, 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

  1. (online) training: how to work with the Designathon method and lesson materials
  2. (online) lesson materials and tools to use while teaching in the classroom
  3. Assessment tools for qualitatively assessing the child’s work
  4. Community platform as a dissemination point and meeting point for the global Designathon community of teachers and educators.

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 a global network of regional partners and community organizations, facilitated by our HQ in Amsterdam. Together we have worked with more than 100.000 students and have trained over 600 educators who use the method in classrooms and workshops. To support our work and our network partners, teachers and facilitators, we have created a community platform. A dissemination point and a meeting point for the global Designathon community of teachers and educators. The annual Global Children’s Designathon, 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 educational experiences and mind shifts that we wish to see in the classroom and beyond.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

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.

HundrED Academy Reviews
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.
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.
- Academy member
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


Global Children’s Designathon 2022: Our Planet, Our Future!
An international challenge for children on climate change crisisThe issue of global warming is becoming ever more urgent with time and the lack of action being taken. The latest IPCC report leaves no room for doubt that global warming is manmade, we can’t afford to dig up any new oil or gas fields, we are not on target to keep rising temperatures to 1.5 degrees of warming.During the Global Children’s Designathon (GCD) 2022 children (ages 8-12) learn about the main causes of the climate change crisis, science behind it and how it affects the planet and vulnerable people. The teachers and children are invited to reimagine and restore our relationship with the earth. By learning to restore ecosystems such as our cities, rivers and farmland and getting inspired as to new ways of co-existing with life on our planet. Ways in which we no longer exploit natural resources for short term use but start thinking of future generations and long term thriving of the planet and people. The Global Children's Designathon (GCD) 2022 will take place from January 24 to April 9 2022, and is divided into four phases: Stage 1 | Launch and workshopsThe GCD 2022 will be launched on January 24 2022, the International Day of Education. In this stage, the registrations will be open for classrooms and after-school clubs globally. The teachers/facilitators will be provided with the workshop materials. [24 January to 21 March]Stage 2 | Global Learning & Exchange WeekTo give the participating classrooms an even richer experience, classrooms and after-school clubs can register for multiple online sessions during the Global Learning & Exchange Week. [14 to 18 March]Stage 3 I SelectionDuring this stage each GCD host will select the 10 team finalists and invite them for the finale.(Optional: Children who did the workshop before the Global Learning & Exchange Week and now want to adapt and re-submit their sketches/ideas can do this in this period too.) [Between 22 and 25 March]Stage 4 I FinalsChosen finalists are invited to the festive finals, where they will build prototypes and present them to a panel of experts, and an audience. [On 9th April](If your country doesn’t have a GCD host the in-person finale is, unfortunately, not possible. In that case, we will choose one finalist per country and invite them to present their ideas in an online session. Their ideas will receive a special mention on our website and communication channels, and will be included in our annual report ‘Global Voices of the Next Generation’.)You are invited to sign in to the GCD platform.
Children in the spotlight
Including young people and their ideas is a growing worldwide trend and one we have been actively advocating for, where young people are finally being seen as active stakeholders in their own futures. Below, you will find a selection of examples of the Design-a-thon children taking stage:Presentation at the Municipality of AmsterdamIn February 2020, the three teams from the Global Children’s Designathon, visited city council member Touria Meliani (Alderman for Art and Culture and the Digital City, Amsterdam), to present her with the three most empathetic, innovative and sustainable solutions for food and climate action. Wij Amsterdam, Platform for Amsterdam heroes and initiativesIn April 2020, Mijntje (10 years) took stage during the promotion of the Wij Amsterdam initiatives, to talk about the online Corona Challenge and her ideas to tackle the problems around the coronavirus. Mama Gaia TalksIn May 2020, Mijntje (10 years) was interviewed by Merijn Everaarts, founder of Dopper, about the online Corona Challenge and her ideas to tackle the problems around the coronavirus. EducautionIn May 2020, Lya (11 years) was interviewed during the ‘Educaution’ livecast by Pakhuis de Zwijger about her dream to become a scientist and to tackle environmental pollution. Presentation at the Municipality of RotterdamIn September 2020, children from the Nelson Mandela School in Rotterdam met with Michiel Grauss (Alderman for Poverty Reduction, Debt Management and Informal Care, Rotterdam) to present him with a report on the insights and ideas of 164 children to tackle poverty in Rotterdam. Cinekid FestivalIn October 2020, as part of the Cinekid Festival Francis from Tanzania, Nora from the Netherlands and Joppe from Belgium talked about their inventions for the climate. Ashoka Changemaker SummitIn November 2020, Mijntje and Breno (10 years) joined a panel discussion at the Ashoka Changemaker Summit session ‘Over the New Frontier: Youth Defining Success’, about youth leading change and redefining an idea of success for their generation.#LearningPlanet FestivalOn 24January 2021, Mozes (10 yrs) presented his idea on the Clean Energy to Stefania Giannini, the ADG of @unesco and Francois Taddei of @cri.paris. The occasion was the #InternationalDayOfEducation and the #LearningPlanet Festival. Together with 8 other inspiring Youth Organisations from Kenya, Morocco, France and India, he represented the Netherlands.
Global Children's Designathon 2021
The sudden shift in learning and working environments, caused by the pandemic, forced us to adapt the way we organize and run our annual event. As an international organization, we wanted to make sure all our global partners were able to participate, no matter the circumstances. Therefore we presented three event scenarios: In-person, Online and a Hybrid. We have also introduced a
challenge component prior to the GCD day itself:Stage 1 | Design-a-thon challenge: Children follow the first four steps of the Design-a-thon process: Inspire & Research, Ideate, Sketch. This stage took part in the months of November and December.Stage 2 | Final event: Chosen finalists were invited to build prototypes and present them during the finals, to a panel of experts, their parents and an audience. On the 23rd January.
In total, 18 global hosts in 15 countries took part from which 10 of them did the challenge. With over 1.300 participating children.This video of the GCD gives a very good overview of the entire event and its impact.
Poverty Challenge, Rotterdam
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics 15 percent of Rotterdammers live in poverty. In 2019 and 2020, Commissioned in 2019 by the Rotterdam city council and in collaboration with Camping Onbestemd, we ran 10 designathon workshops about poverty with 164 Rotterdams children. In the workshops, children learned about different forms of poverty, came up with ideas, and made prototypes to solve the problems around poverty among Rotterdam city families. 
In September 2020, children from the Nelson Mandela school in Rotterdam met with Michiel Grauss (Alderman for Poverty Reduction, Debt Management and Informal Care, Rotterdam) to present him with a report on the insights and ideas of the participating children to tackle poverty in Rotterdam. The aim is to share the perspective and the voice of children towards influencing policy-making around poverty in Rotterdam. You can download the report here (in Dutch).
Amsterdam Designathon Challenge 2020
Amsterdam Designathon Challenge 2020 was a city-wide designathon challenge commissioned by the Public Library of Amsterdam for the second year in a row. During the challenge, more than 300 primary school students took part in the Amsterdam Designathon Challenge with the theme Global Citizenship. They were challenged to come up with technological and innovative solutions to the question: How can we connect all the different citizens of Amsterdam? Every week one idea has been selected from each participating class, from which one winner was announced. The jury consists of Ilias Admi - former (first) children's mayor of Amsterdam, Emin Kececi - teacher, designer of a better world and co-founder of Masters with Dreams, Sarah Swart - former production coach, now OBA program maker Digital Literacy and Esther Lagendijk - City district administrator Stadsdeel Noord, portfolio social domain.
Teacher training in Tanzania
In late August 2020, we were able to execute a program together with our partner JengaHub in the rural Kilombero Valley in Tanzania. The project consisted of a teacher training, school site visit, a children’s Designathon and an exhibition. In this program we chose to start with a teacher training program. This allowed us to equip teachers with the necessary skills to interact with technology and integrate design thinking skills. It also made teaching more efficient and the program more sustainable.
Corona Challenge in Mexico
With Mayama, our partner in Mexico, 150 children from very marginalised groups took part in the Corona Challenge. To design solutions to issues their communities are facing during times of COVID-19. All the sessions were done by phone. One educator said: 'I learned to trust children more and their creative power.'
Designathon Works community platform
To support our work and our network partners, teachers and facilitators, we have created an community platform that contains multiple challenges & learning materials on the SDGs such as clean energy, water pollution, food waste. This platform enables our community to engage students in these topics so that the participating children gain knowledge about the topic, develop 21st-century skills and notice that their ideas and concerns are taken seriously. Our wish is to enable everyone to run the workshops self-sufficiently, and to connect with one another in order to collaborate and exchange their experience. We have regular Community Cafe gatherings during which we come together as a community, to highlight new and old members and their running initiatives.
Corona challenge
In March 2020, as a first immediate response to online schooling, we launched an online Corona Challenge. In the challenge children come up with solutions for dealing with boredom,  missing loved ones and for parents and teachers struggling with homeschooling. We worked with children and partners in the Netherlands, Turkey, Mexico and Tanzania. This educational challenge is based on the Designathon method but adapted to be done online and at home, with instructions for parents and teachers, and supported and realised by our global network partners. The online challenges were a springboard for the Designathon Works community platform.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!https://lnkd.in/gaQMA-i 
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.

Implementation steps

Join our community platform

Designathon Works community platform

Founded in 2014, we have been working with more than 100.000 children worldwide, spreading the Designathon method through local and global Sustainable Development Goals challenges. Through our global network, we are teaching children new competencies and empowering their agency to co-create a better world and thrive in it!

On this platform, you can find the designathon projects, current ongoing challenges, guidebooks, workshop materials and libraries of children's ideas. Our wish is to enable you to run the workshops self-sufficiently, and to connect you with each other in order to collaborate and exchange your experience. We have regular Community Cafe gatherings during which we come together as a community, to highlight new and old members and their experiences.

What do the designathon projects entail?

A designathon workshop is a design hackathon where children (8-12 years old) tackle complex global problems (aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals), use their creativity and develop prototypes (with simple technologies) and present their solutions to an audience. During a designathon workshop, children are guided through a 7-step experiential process, linked thematically to a bigger global challenge such as clean energy, plastic pollution, water scarcity, etc.

By doing a designathon workshop, many children discover that their possibilities are unlimited and they think beyond their borders, literally and figuratively. Children gain knowledge on the SDGs, develop 21st-century skills, creativity, readiness to deal with complex futures and embrace a changemaker attitude. The method focuses on building the inner abilities of all children, regardless of their gender, race, class, skill level or learning situation.


Free of charge.


If you are looking for more in-depth knowledge and skills regarding the Designathon method, we offer group training.

Follow our teacher training

Professional Development during training

Join an international group officially trained educators by following our (online) teacher training!

The core competencies of our (online) training are:

  • 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’
  • Explaining creative thinking, creativity and that it can be cultivated, using models and studies, from Theresa Amabile, Guildford, Torrance and Dialogical education, Rubert Wegerif;
  • Encouraging teachers and facilitators to practice their own playful creative development;

After the successful competition of the training, you will receive a Designathon method license, access to the designathon workshop materials and our global network.


Online training: € 150,- per person ex VAT

Offline training: €1.995 for a team of 10 people ex VAT.

Join our Global Children's Designathon

What is the Global Children's Designathon?

The Global Children’s Designathon is our annual educational challenge dedicated to celebrating what the world could be like when children design better futures for people and the planet.

Each year more than 1.200 children in 40+ cities worldwide work in parallel to design and develop innovative concepts for a better planet. The theme children tackle is drawn from the Sustainable Development Goals. The children will use the Designathon method to develop their own ideas, then design and build prototypes.

During the Global Children Designathon, children from more than 40 cities worldwide work in parallel to design and develop innovative concepts around the Sustainable Development Goals. Through the Designathon method, they develop their own ideas, design and build prototypes, and exchange their ideas with their peers, experts & professionals.

Watch here the videos of the Global Children's Designathon 2021.

Browse here the children's Library of Ideas.

Download here the Impact Reports.


The next edition will take place from January to April 2022.


Free of charge to join and host the event in your city/region.

More info?

Email ina@designathon.nl

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