Design For Change

Design For Change

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Alfonso Romo - Mexico
Global Catalyst
(Host of the 2015 Be The Change Conference)

Story told by David Wygant

Taking the first step is famously the most difficult part of any journey.  However, by taking the first step, you begin to move in a specific direction.  This movement is critical to success and to reaching your destination.  Imagine a ship dead in the water.  You can move the rudder all you want, but until the ship moves you’re not going anywhere.  The same principle applies to setting and realizing a vision.  Where there is movement a “success friendly” force is created.   

Also key to realizing your vision is persistence.  Persistence is the combination of conviction or passion for the cause (vision), and faith that a successful outcome is assured if only you don’t quit

So vision, taking the first step, and persistence enable “challenge conquering.”  When I asked Alfonso what his biggest Design for Change (DFC) challenge was, and how he overcame it, his response was definite.

“One of the biggest challenges I faced was to convince donors and allies that something that could be explained in four words could be so powerful and capable to generate a social change movement.  I overcome it with conviction and hard work and a fair amount of luck. Now that we can show more than 15,000 stories of change is different.”

In the discussion, it was clear that Alfonso’s energy went a long way toward “taking the first step,” but his persistence brought the success.  Listen for it in what he said.

“Even in the face of temporary setbacks and micro-failures, we remained determined in our desire to share with everyone.”

“Also, it is been very challenging trying to reach all the schools in Mexico that is something we are still working on. We believe that we can overcome this challenge by establishing strong collaborative relations with the private, public and civil sector, working with other organizations that from all sectors, share our passion about education and the belief that this is the way we can change Mexico… and the world.”

If passion is the sum of vision, energy, and conviction, then Alfonso certainly is a passionate man.  He and his team have had great success in spreading the DFC contagion in Mexico.  His passion has been aimed at finding financial support too.

I asked Alfonso how they’ve raised the needed funds.  What has worked?

“We mainly receive donations from corporate foundations and corporations. Networking is very important, sharing what we do every time we have the opportunity, conferences, and business meetings, being willing to present the project, share the stories and evidence of the impact.” 

Persistence and patience are needed.”

While he didn’t say so specifically, there is little doubt Alfonso has faith in a successful outcome.  He is a true believer!  He’s also willing to work very hard.  To do what it takes.  He and his team are dedicated.

“Stubbornness, you have to be very dedicated and push and push. You have to be willing to put not only strategy and intelligence but a lot of hours behind it to make it happen.”

Have you heard the phrase, “Many hands make light work?”  Alfonso is not alone, and he relies on his team, and they him.  He reaches out and recruits others to help too. 

“Allies, we have to be able to align objectives and see in what we are the same and forget about small difference. You have to let go of pride and put the end result and objective of the project before anything else.”

Ultimately, our conversation drifts back to why.  Why spend so much time and energy?   Alfonso is quick to give inspiring examples. 

Talking to the teachers in schools provides instant feedback:  

“The most inspiring moments for the team are those that come from talking with the teachers leading “Design for Change” in their schools.” 

“Reading those emails or receiving those calls where teachers share their experiences, challenges and above of all, the effort, work and commitment they have to facilitate a meaningful experience for their students.  Those stories are always inspiring for all of us!” 

Sometimes, incredibly inspiring moments grow out of one specific situation.  A single little girl who is a true Superhero can shine as bright as a sun.  

“A little girl form a rural school called our offices crying, we didn’t know what was happening, so we picked up the phone to ask her what was wrong, she told us that none of the teachers or her peers wanted to do DFC but that she really wanted to participated and asked/begged to let her do it by herself, of course we let her, next year the full groups from that school participated thanks to the courage and drive of this little girl… Goes to show, we only need one really driven person…

What’s next?  I asked him what he is most looking forward to in the future.  His answer was in two parts, beginning with the 2015 Be The Change (BTC) Conference.

In the near future, I a looking forward hosting the “Be the Change Celebration” in Mexico. We are working on the details and very soon we will let you know more about the experience we are building.”

For now, Alfonso and his team are asking that we mark our calendars on September 25-26, 2015 for the BTC Conference.  Following the Conference on September 27-28 the Partners meeting will be held.  The host city will be beautiful Monterrey.

The second part is really where he began.  With Alfonso’s customary vision he sees the DFC journey continuing.  He has big plans and larger goals!

“I am also looking forward to increase the number of projects and schools that participate in  “Diseña el Cambio Mexico”. We will do it with the collaboration of strategic allies and by implementing a communication strategy that will allow us to share the amazing stories of our students and teachers, inspiring more Mexicans to be part of this movement.” 


Alfonso was born in Monterrey, a city in the northeastern state of Nuevo Leon in Mexico.  He still lives in Monterrey.  He attended the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (better know as Tec de Monterrey) graduating with a degree in Agricultural Engineering.  After graduating, he founded EducarUno.  He has been President and CEO since the beginning.  He has travelled extensively.  He has journeyed to Japan, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malasia, Tailandia, Macedonia, and several destinations in Europe.  He has been the recipient of a number of highly prestigious awards including the Rockefeller Award Youth Innovator; Index: Design to Improve Life; Leaders in Action (CLASE); Universidad del Valle de México on Social Development.  

Alfonso attended the 2012 and 2014 Be The Change Conferences in Ahmedabad, India. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Nandini Sood - India
Global Catalyst

Story told by David Wygant

Vision is the ability to think about and plan the future with imagination and wisdom.  It does several important things for us as individuals and for the organizations we belong to.  It points a direction and gives us a push to begin moving. Within an organization it unites everyone’s efforts.  

Here’s Nandini’s reply when I asked her about the Design for Change (DFC) India vision:

“The plan is to scale the DFC Movement in India and work with the institutional partners. The end goal is to develop a bouquet of ‘design thinking’ products and services, and transit DFC India into a sustainable social enterprise.”

She related a plan to me that calls for the creation of a range of design thinking products and services. This effort is well underway.  For example, the Design Thinking Guide (DTG) is currently in the pilot stage in the eighth grades of 60 schools across India. 

The DTG nurtures the natural ability of children and students to imagine.  Using the FEEL-IMAGINE-DO-SHARE framework, it equips them with the tools they will use over their lifetimes to shape a better world.  It will keep alive and grow what we know is true.  Children are dreamers, and they have the vision to see the future completed in advance. 

After the pilot stage, the plan is to offer the DTG to schools across the country.  The final stage will be to adapt and implement the DTG across all grade and age levels. 

When viewed positively, and used properly, mistakes made can lead to lessons learned, and an increase in energy pushing any effort forward.  Nandini quickly identified the single most important lesson.

“The single most important lesson learned has been persistence; to BELIEVE in the cause of DFC and to not give up despite multiple challenges.  YES WE CAN!!”

Nandini’s persistence includes obstinate continuance, or, to always move forward in spite of difficulty and challenge.  She clearly identified the largest challenge that DFC India faces. 

Funding! Funding! Funding! This has been the biggest challenge yet!  The only way to overcome it is to keep making the pitches and get better at it.  Also important is to seek feedback, refine one’s communication, and ensure that it is more outside in, more user centered.”  

So, I asked her what DFC India has done to raise funds.  What’s worked?  Nandini described fundraising efforts in three categories: Domestic funding organizations, corporate sponsors and high net worth individuals.  The greatest success has been with the second two.  Recently, out of the second category, a three year sponsorship connection was made with an Indian corporation called Parle G.  They are the world’s largest selling brand of biscuits and are a good example of a situation where the vision and mission of the brand aligned well with DFC.  Out of the third category, a number of wealthy individuals have been generous with their resources.  

The combination of vision, lessons learned and persistence often leads to inspiring results.  It did for DFC India in 2014.  There is evidence.  What do you get when you gather 500 students from 85 plus schools?  In Nandini’s own words, 

Over the last year the most inspiring moment was to see the auditorium teeming over at the I CAN Awards 2014! Over 500 students and teachers joined us. Some of the children had travelled out of their remote villages for the very first time to come to Ahmedabad to be acknowledged and facilitated as Superheroes of CHANGE!”

This year the combination of vision, lessons learned, and persistence was celebrated at the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDI).  1992 projects were submitted from across India representing the largest number received since the beginning of the DFC movement in 2009.  In the first year under Nandini’s leadership DFC India submissions were more than double the previous highest number.  100 schools were invited to the I CAN Awards with over 85 attending.

I asked Nandini what her most personally inspiring moment was.  She recalled a telephone call she received.

“On September 5th which is celebrated as Teacher’s day in India, I received a call from a very enthusiastic teacher who was participating in the DFC I CAN School Challenge. She brought me to tears with her generous praise of the movement and thanked me profusely for helping her recognize the potential of her students.”

Yes, it was quite a year for Nandini and DFC Team India.  Job well done!  What’s next?  The upward spiral continues.  The vision is still there.  Lessons will continue to be learned, and persistence will build more success.


Nandini was born in Calcutta in the eastern part of India.  Currently, she lives outside of New Delhi in the suburb of Gurgaon. 

She is a communication designer and graduate of the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad.

Early in her career, Nandini was in advertising selling detergent and cookies.  Before long, she heard the call from education.  She answered that call and has been in education for sixteen years.  Nandini has applied her energy and enthusiasm across a wide spectrum of education  segments.  She has designed e-learning for the Test Prep industry, and helped set up and scale an urban K-12 school chain.  She lead the design and development of a “school in a box,” aimed at creating a workable social enterprise model for budget schools to serve the poor in rural India.  More recently, in January 2014, Nandini joined Design for Change to lead the India effort, and is CEO of Design for Change-India.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Looking Ahead

2015 looks to be a promising year for Design For change with a number of new partners kickstarting their operations on field and our existing partners working towards increasing their reach, support and impact. 

The 'Be The Change' celebrations bring together and provides a platform to young changemakers where their power to change the world around them is recognized and honoured. In 2015, Mexico gears up to host the 2015 Be The Change (BTC) Celebrations for the first time. In the past the BTC celebrations have been held in Ahmedabad, India. Going forward, these BTC celebrations would be hosted by a different partner country each year. 

With the implementation going on in full swing in 22 countries, training, setting up systems and processes in place are some of the main aspects that most countries will be focussing on this year. Fundraising being another crucial area in ensuring the project's sustainability. 

In 2014, the Design Thinking Curriculum was piloted in around 64 schools in India. The year long immersive ‘I Can’ design thinking curriculum works towards developing and nurturing the required behaviour and skills both in students and in teachers as facilitators at a classroom level. This further empowers educators to create solutions that lead to larger school/ community level transformations. 2015 will see India implement this curriculum in 100 schools. Apart from this, few other countries are also looking to work with the curriculum in their respective schools. 
This year will also see Design For Change in countries like Germany, Lebanon, Venezuela and Brazil. As the global network is expanding, the DFC global team is working towards strengthening the network by setting up processes that would support the work carried out in the different countries and also ensure collaboration and sharing within the network that would in turn increase DFC's impact across the world. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Celebrations & Recognition

The eventful year of 2014 saw two marvelous celebrations of the power of children, manifested in the “Be The Change” conference which took place in Ahmedabad, India and the “Sea Of Change” held in Taipei, Taiwan.

The Be The Change conference was a stunning example of the fact that it does not matter how old you are or which part of the world you come from, as
long as you believe that you CAN, change will happen. The average age of the child attendee at this 2 day conference was only 14 years, and the attendees came from 22 countries across the globe. All these inspiring superheroes lit up the stage with their magnificent presence, sharing with a crowd of more than 500 people the inspiration that drives them, how they dealt with the hurdles and what they took away from participating in DFC.

Both the days of the conference radiated ounces of energy, so much so that it was nearly impossible to spot a single face that left the space without a wide smile on their face or tears in their eyes. This year, Design For Change really proved the power of celebration and collaboration. To make this BTC grand, we saw masterclasses by some of the most brilliant personalities in their respective fields. The highlight would definitely be Abhijat Joshi (filmwriter), Jaaved Jaffrey (actor) and Arnab Choudhary (film-maker, animator) at the BTC celebration. The three of them shared how important it is for them to remember the “I Can” spirit especially because of the industry they work in. Despite tremendous failures and innumerable opportunities where they could have let of the “right” thing to gain a little more fame or wealth, they stayed true to their values. Although the three of them are really distinct personalities, the one thing they agreed on was how the kids at the conference have reignited
hope in them and how proud they are to endorse the spirit of Design For Change. The one thing we can all never forget, however, is Jaaved Jaffrey’s little stand-up comedy act that wrapped up that masterclass.

There were endless more memories I’m sure - the tea break conversations, clicking selfies with the celebrities, marvelling at brilliant graffiti art in the making, the Parle-G installation that took various shapes and sizes, the mind blowing performance by Dhaaravi Rocks!

Catch glimpses of the celebrations here.

The first ever Sea Of Change conference was an unimaginable success. With a whopping attendance of 800 people, it was a “true celebration of children, culture and change,” says Kiran Bir Sethi. The stories that were highlighted in the conference were nothing but inspiring and DFC Taiwan made it marvelous by inviting some very inspiring personalities to interact with the attendees.

Mr. Candle, who is a performer in Taiwan, shared with the kids the importance of grit and courage in anything they do. David Liu, who is an ex-animator from
Disney and has contributed to the production of The Lion King, Mulan and various other renowned films, shared with everyone the importance of imagination in the marriage of his passion, compassion and competence. Another important personality at this conference was Mr Lin, a Taiwanese educationalist, who truly exhibits the fact that action is the most important thing to create change.

A 113 children had the pleasure of attending this event, and truly learnt to appreciate each other as superheroes. At both, the BTC and SOC, every child was made to feel not only recognised for their talent, determination, creativity and good work, but they felt like real SUPERHEROES. Therefore my friends, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Watch the opening video of the conference here.

Stories of Change

Some of the most inspiring Design for Change stories of 2014 were -

BENIN – Fighting Against Forced Marriage.

Helene’s story has been one of the most moving stories of change that DFC has received. In a village where girls are forced to get married, Helene chose to take a stand for herself and her peers and speak out against this practice. With the guidance of FAWE Benin and mentor Tome Constant, not only did Helene successfully convince her own family and the family to condemn this practice, but she also traveled all the way to Ahmedabad, India to share her incredible story at the Be The Change Celebration 2014 and left the audience with goosebumps.

Watch her story here.

PORTUGAL A Story Tale for All

6th grade students of the Escola Eugenio de Andrade in Portugal realized that the magic of listening to stories was absent for their peers who could not hear. To bring this experience alive, these students identified a popular Portuguese children’s story, narrated it in sign language and recorded it on video, thus gifting the experience of ‘listening’ to a story to all their friends.

Watch the video here.

COLOMBIA – Where Our Culture Lives On

Jean and his friends at the Etnoeducativa Bilingue Inga Mocoa School were very sensitive of the fact that their generation was losing touch with traditional Inga culture of their ancestors. With all their collective 17-year-old optimism and determination, Jean and his friends created systems and designed a curriculum through which their younger peers could experience and inculcate their culture and language. As he shared his story at the Be The Change Celebration with a unique wisdom and sensitivity, the audience knew that the future of the Inga culture was in incredibly capable hands.

Watch his story here.

CHILE – A ‘CAN’teen for All!

11-year-old Daniela, Christian and their friends from the George Chaytor English College in Temuco, Chile, took on a problem that they faced in school everyday – the older and taller students would monopolize the school canteen and the younger ones would go back empty handed, not even reaching the counter. In their wonderfully spirited re-telling of their journey at the Be The Change Celebration, Daniela and Christian shared the most important lesson they had learnt in the process – “In order to get respect, you must first give respect.“

Watch their story here.


Sister Vicki and her 5-year-old kindergarten students at the Ecole Maternelle Saint Joseph Manyanet Yaounde-Cameroun proved to the world with this fantastic DFC story that you are never too young to be a design thinker! With a systematic, democratic process that many adults could learn from, these children chose to address the problem of not having a football to play with. With their wonderful brainstorming and prototyping, it was only a matter of time before they succeeded!

Watch their story here

DENMARK – Come As You Are

15-year-old Astrid, Camilla and their friends at Skorpeskolen in Helsingoer, Denmark found themselves feeling insecure about how they looked because of the images of ‘beauty’ as portrayed in the world around them. To show their friends and the world that real beauty lay on the inside, they organized a fashion show encouraging the friends to “come as they are” and flaunt who they were and not what they wore.

Watch their story here.

PERU – Christa McAuliffe School

“In reality, today, education has to do with creating, not repeating, not memorizing. Design for Change enriches regular school curriculum.”

The Christa McAuliffe School in Lima, Peru believes deeply in the idea of Design for Change and the tremendous power that DFC has. The Principal, Sara Mendoza, describes how DFC has been comprehensively integrated in her school and the impact she has seen.

Watch her share her thoughts here

ISRAEL – Jury Process

Behind identifying the standout stories from every Design for Change School Challenge, is a dedicated, exceptional jury which analyses the DFC project through multiple lenses following a rigorous evaluation process.

Meet the wonderful 2014 Jury panel from Israel and have a listen to what they look for in the stories that come to them, and their thoughts on Design for Change.

Watch the video here -

DFC Impact

In 2009, when Design For Change was first launched, over 700 stories of change impacting were submitted by children across the Indian subcontinent. The following year, Design For Change went global receiving a little over 2000 stories from children around the world. 

Today the Feel Imagine Do Share (FIDS) framework is being used 
by children in over 30 countries to lead more than 10,000 stories of change. Ongoing research suggests that children’s confidence developed through the projects, improves academic scores as well. Teachers share that facilitating DFC projects help them discover strengths of their students, develop faith in their capabilities and get to know what the children think and feel about the world around them. Research conducted by The GoodWork Project in 2009 reaffirmed the impact of the DFC curriculum on the development of skills like collaboration, creative thinking & empathy. 

In the past year, DFC impacted over 2 lakh students and approximately 30,000 teachers in over 30,000 schools across the world.