Design for Change

How do you inspire a classroom of students to think, to be aware and to be motivated? When that is done, how do you inspire children in the world to do the same?

Here is a thought : By Design.

A quest to “do things better” for children led to the founding of a school and the continuous growth of the world’s largest children’s movement, Design for Change.

These achievements were born from humble beginnings in Ahmedabad, India. Kiran Bir Sethi sought to educate children in a more innovative and child friendly manner after finding that the rote learning approach of the public schools restricted the creative thinking of children. With a background in design, she created interactive learning methods which attracted many parents to join her “home school”. Student numbers gradually grew and the Riverside School was found, with its school curricular revolving around the concept of design.

Classroom Projects in the Riverside School are engaging and very interesting, to say the least. How many children (or adults for that matter) would have the opportunity to design, produce and sell new ice cream flavors for an ice cream retailer? Or would a typical primary school student have the chance to design a children’s audio guide at the local zoo? They even participated in the recording of the guide! Such school projects engage students with the real world and enable them to apply creative thinking and implement them in their very own community. Students finish school with skill sets that prepare them for the next stage of life. The success stories of Riverside School has been far reaching, with not just growing student numbers to show but also outstanding national examination results to boast. And most importantly, children develop a love for learning.



With such success achieved on home ground, the Riverside School curriculum started to gain reputation. Kiran began promoting creative thinking and empowerment through the Design for Change program in 2009. The numbers started with 500 schools, and 1000, then 30,000 schools in India alone.

DFC World is now running in 35 countries, over 300,000 schools with 25 million children saying “I CAN” and effecting change in their communities.

Through this program, students conduct community based projects over one week and participate in the DFC Challenge. The program provides tool kits, media kits, promotional videos, guidance notes all prepared and ready to be shared freely with everyone. The organisers of DFC also welcome feedback and will improve on the materials as deemed fit, much like how open source programs work.

Each partner in every country has a free hand to run the program when providing guidance and when prize giving time comes. Some partners come up with their own coaching materials to guide teachers and students formally in schools, while others conduct various activities to promote participation in a more casual manner. Some partners also incorporate exhibitions and fairs as part of the sharing segment of the DFC Challenge.



DFC’s ideas are rooted in the concept of empowering children. Hence the catchphrase “I CAN”. It encourages children to feel and think about the issues closest to their hearts in their community, develop plans and ideas on how to resolve them, execute, and share their results.

The passionate founder Kiran told me once that using the word “wrong” to a child is such a negative way of teaching. How about using words like ‘fine-tuning’, ‘try again’. Positive reinforcements are much more encouraging for the young minds. Children need to be enabled and think for themselves. Parents and teachers should inspire them to think freely and let their mind roam throughout the education process.

The DFC Project focuses on several goals:

Encouraging creative thinking

Empowering children

Increasing social awareness

The impact of this movement has been phenomenal. All over the world, DFC Challenges have brought out amazing ideas by children. Their projects are shared through books, videos, and study materials, which are also available in various translations.

Design for Change is definitely a force to reckon in the world. They have definitely transformed “Can I?” to “I CAN” for adults and children alike. The statistics show 25 million children effecting change, with teachers, parents and communities involved, that number could easily double! Is your country and community part of this life changing movement yet?

More information available here:


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