Meet the Young School Pupils Realizing Their Dreams

Design for Change puts youth in the driving seat!

Special Collections: CHANGEMAKERS
High schoolers participating in Design for Change, Israel

(Courtesy of Design for Change Israel) 

Imagine a program that doesn’t talk down a good idea from a young person. A program that instead, always wants to know about an inspiring solution from tweens and teens, that gets schools and their teachers on board, and then says, “Go for it, make it happen!”. Design for Change (DFC) is that program!

Goodnet is pleased to cover how an inspiring vision that encourages young people to act for a better world, has been making strides in Israel. DFC Israel is implemented by Ruach Tova (good spirit). It is supported by the Ted Arison Family Foundation, a nonprofit promoting an improved social environment and giving back to the community. We were delighted to catch up with Ruthie Sobel, DFC Israel Educational Director, to learn about some of the awesome projects this DFC program has mentored to fruition.

DFC as a global can-do education movement 

Design for Change (DFC) has its roots in India, Sobel explains. There, a mother, Kiran Bir Sethi, homeschooled her son, feeling that school didn’t offer him the best experience. This designer and teacher who grew into an education reformer, used a “design thinking” method to help her son. This is an empowering approach to learning, putting the child at the center.

Bir Sethi worked with friends, opening a class and later her own school, going on to inspire many in India with her method which became a movement. Today, it is active in almost 60 countries. At its core is a belief in the ability of kids to create good change.

Sobel explains that DFC has been in Israel for over a decade. It works with hundreds of schools in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.

Her eyes light up as she outlines its solutions-focused approach. This is based on a four-step process Bir Sethi launched in 2009. As the DFC global website explains, this “FIDS Framework (Feel, Imagine, Do, Share) [is harnessed] to cultivate the I CAN mind-set in all children.” These steps ensure that kids identify problems, develop creative solutions, test and finetune them, and then share them. Sharing is key, Sobel stresses, as it inspires and motivates others with the progress made.

Sobel loves how the DFC logo reflects the program’s can-do attitude, and was excited to point out how the positive message, “I can” is built into it.

Addressing loneliness in schools

Sobel explains, for instance, how pupils at Merchavim School in Rishon (near Tel Aviv, Israel), created a program to address loneliness in schools.

Sobel views DFC programs as a win-win. For the kids, of course, who become expert problem-solvers and who also come away with empathy, tolerance, respect for animals, the environment and their learning.  “Kids are like little people,” she says. “They have the will to change things for the better and influence and help other kids. So they have the ability to effect change in themselves”

But DFC spreads positive vibes for the teachers and their schools too. Sobel passionately believes that the knowledge gained through DGC programs transforms the schools and their atmosphere, and “helps their DNA evolve to do good, to believe they can do good.  Everyone involved feels empowered, people are listening, and the positivity is contagious!”

Tech hotline for grandparents and other seniors

Not everyone is a digital native, but tech-challenged seniors can be supported to feel more like one! This is what dawned on school kids at the Alon Middle School in Ra’anana (near Tel Aviv, Israel) when they realized that their own grandparents were always asking questions about using their mobile phones and other digital devices as they struggled with technology. 

Understanding that this problem was probably more widespread among seniors generally, the pupils conducted a survey which confirmed this. After examining help options that took in 1-on-1 meetings and tutorials in nursing homes, they had a lightbulb moment.

Their inspired solution, developed within the DFC framework, saw them suggest an “Alon Golden Line” to help elders with tech issues. This idea received lots of positive feedback when they presented it to a Hewlett Packard “Golden Age” conference.

So their idea became a reality. They came up with optimal times, and shared responsibilities. Their local Ra’anana City Hall Call Center was delighted to give them access to their call facilities, and The Alon Golden Line went live, meeting a real need!

Israeli Arab community pupils want to make daily life easier for visually impaired people

It all started when math teacher, Monaya Halabi Maklada, decided that she wanted to inspire her pupils at Coptan middle school in Dalit El Carmel, a Druze town near Haifa, Israel, during the pandemic period as part of DFC. So she invited graduate student, Eliza Farhat, to give a lecture remotely, over Zoom, about how she copes with blindness, and her daily routines which often require help from others.

And inspire them she did! Six seventh-grade students felt motivated enough afterwards to start talking to visually impaired people from their village. Using the four-step DFC process, they found that there were basic things that these local visually impaired people couldn’t do alone. Things like supermarket shopping, when they need others to help them read out product details.  They then put their heads together to brainstorm solutions. 

This enterprising group decided to create an app. This features sound clips with information on products, It is accessible via barcodes that visually impaired people could scan via their mobile phones. As Maklada told local media outlet, Ynet, “The students recorded themselves reading the product name and its expiration date, and prepared versions for several products including milk and coffee.”

And they brought their innovation to Eliza Farhat so she could experience the fruit of their work: “Eliza experimented with the pilot and said it really helps her,” giving her a feeling of independence, they revealed. Following this positive response, the students took their idea to companies marketing food products and are waiting to hear back from them. 

As shown in these two examples, DFC programs put youth in the driving seat. For Sobel, DFC is all about empowerment for kids “We believe in the ability of kids to remind educators of what needs to be changed. The sky’s the limit —they aren’t afraid to dream!"

Special Collection