Design-a-thon Works empowers younger generations to design a better world by hosting hackathon challenges, called “design-a-thons,” where children tackle complex global problems related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), use their creativity to develop prototypes with simple technologies, and present their solutions to an audience. Amplifying its global impact by networking with local authorities, companies, social enterprises, and NGOs, the organization uses an innovative partnership and fundraising model to spearhead its initiatives. Design-a-thon Works draws on income from its commission-based challenges to invest in network development, new lesson material, and training of its global network of teachers and facilitators. The organization works with corporate partners to develop customized design-a-thon programming in order to achieve strategic impact objectives related to a specific global issue or a particular region, gain children’s perspectives to inform policy and decision-making, and collaborate with a specific community by engaging its children. A small percentage of funds are also raised through membership fees from network partners, who receive access to all lesson materials, joint fundraising opportunities, and capacity developing resources. In response to the financial impact of the pandemic, the organization strengthened their teacher training services and secured a “soft loan” from private philanthropists under flexible terms and lower interest rates, contingent on meeting impact goals.
Design-a-thon Works restructured its program model to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Focusing on networks and online platforms, it collaborated with local partners to organize events for children that discussed and designed solutions to the impacts of the pandemic on their communities. In March 2020, as an immediate response to online schooling, it adapted the Design-a-thon method to launch an online educational project that worked with children and partners in the Netherlands, Turkey, Mexico and Tanzania. The project eventually led to the Design-a-thon Works community platform, an online learning initiative with challenges and learning materials related to the SDGs. This has resulted in increased participation opportunities for children around the world. Online learning will also be leveraged in the next Global Children’s Design-a-thon which will allow children and their educators to explore methodological and content-specific learning related to climate change solutions.
Theory of Change
Providing children with tools to co-design their futures helps them develop their capacity to take action and prepares them to prosper in a rapidly changing, increasingly technological, and complex world, thus fostering a network of future changemakers.
Design-a-thon Works organizes various challenges in which children design solutions to complex problems like clean energy, water scarcity, inequality, and poverty. In addition to organizing events, it trains local partners to host their own in local communities around the world and provides educators with free lesson materials through an online platform. Its methodology is based on the OECD’s Future of Education 2030 framework, UNESCO’s SDG’s Learning Objectives, and the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report. During design-a-thons, the organization captures and conveys ideas created by the participants for an adult audience. To ensure that children learn and internalize the skills that these challenges aim to cultivate, Design-a-thon Works engages them in multiple initiatives each year on different themes related to the SDGs. The 2022 Global Children's Design-a-thon will focus on Climate Action and will be funded through corporate, NGO, and government sponsorships. Additionally, Design-a-thon Works has been commissioned to create and customize programs for specific needs of partners, like teacher training initiatives and assistance with retooling company policies that focus on supporting children around the world.
Design-a-Thon Works seeks to create structural change at the individual, regional, and global levels. Schools that adopt the design-a-thon method have reported a noticeable change in children’s behavior. In addition, children have presented ideas from design-a-thon challenges to policymakers and regional summits. In 2020 alone, children who participated in design-a-thons in Amsterdam and Rotterdam met with local officials in their respective cities to present reports on their ideas about poverty and climate change. Youth representatives of design-a-thon programs joined leaders at the Ashoka Changemaker Summit the same year to discuss youth-led change and ideas of success for their generation. Since its establishment, Design-a-thon Works has reached over 100,000 children in 45 countries around the world. 50% of participants come from marginalized communities. Thanks to a network of over 1,800 teachers and facilitators, children have created over 30,000 designs over the course of its programs. Through the combination of corporate and local government commissioned projects, institutional fundraising, member fees, training tuition fees, and soft-loans, the organization has diversified its funding sources to build its resilience.