Design for Change (DFC) begins with the simple and powerful premise, ‘I CAN’ – children can. DFC is a powerful yet simple idea that empowers children to identify challenges and use a Design Thinking Formula to bring change. In the process, they build twenty-first century skills of empathy, collaboration and critical thinking.
The traditional educational system, which relies on a ‘one-size-fits-all’, results-oriented model, focuses largely on academic outcomes over whole-child development. Through a simple four step framework of Feel, Imagine, Do & Share (FIDS), DFC equips children with the tools to be more aware and informed of the world around them, to believe and realise the importance of their role in shaping the world, and to take action towards building a more desirable present and more sustainable future. It redefines failure as ‘prototyping’ and gives children the confidence to be innovative and find creative solutions for problems that bother them. In addition to children, teachers experience boarder student capabilities as they listen to their voices and ideas. The FIDS framework was designed from the perspective of the child, the simplicity of which allows for immediate and effective application.
What began as a school challenge in 2009, at an Ahmedabad school in India, has become a global movement. The open-source premise is adaptable to any educational context, allowing for contextualisation that permits individuals to implement DFC while addressing factors which directly influence/affect their particular situation. Through the ‘I Can’ challenge, students are introduced to the concept of design thinking, which enables them at an individual level to realise the power of the worlds ‘I Can’. A yearlong immersive ‘I Can’ design-thinking curriculum further develops and nurtures the required behaviour and skills, both in students and in teachers as facilitators at a classroom level. This empowers educators to create solutions that lead to larger school/community-level transformations. DFC builds an ‘I Can’ culture where teachers, as agents of change, establish and design processes leading to an environment that enables children to learn, engage and create; impacting not just the world of education, but the world in general.
Impact and effect
As the FIDS framework was designed from children’s perspectives, its simplicity allows it to be applied immediately and effectively. DFC has been able to reach children across geographical, socio-economic, linguistic and urban–rural barriers. This inclusive spirit and reach is what sets DFC apart. Conceptualised in 2009, in the very first year students from 700 schools across India took up the challenge. The following year, the challenge went global with the programme receiving 700 global entries in addition to 1,500 Indian entries. Currently DFC has a footprint in more than 30 countries, impacting more than 250,000 students.
The model being an open-source one allows for flexibility, which further allows individuals across the world to contextualise it based on their environmental and cultural factors. Research conducted by the GoodWork Project and participant feedback suggests that DFC projects are improving children’s confidence, as well as their academic scores. Teachers have also shared that facilitating DFC projects has helped them discover students’ strengths, improve teacher–student relationships and better understand student perspectives on the world around them, as well as building their own capacity as teachers.
Furthermore, as DFC works through a participatory approach, the community often plays an active role in student-led projects, or projects result in the broader mobilisation of the community.
What started as a school challenge six years ago has evolved into a movement with a global footprint on education. DFC is looking to continue to grow, collaborating and working with more students, teachers and schools around the world, and establishing further networks to strengthen its footprint. DFC will continue advocating for the design mindset and will remain free of charge, while also looking to advocate the DFC curriculum to policy-makers for its inclusion in all education boards.