Guest Author: Harshil Vyas
Last weekend, Kiran Bir Sethi, founder of Riverside School, hosted the second ever ‘Be The Change Conference’ on 28th and 29th September on the campus of the National Institute of Design. The ‘Be The Change Conference’ is an annual event of the Riverside initiative – Design For Change (dfcworld.com).
The conference targets to bring together young change makers from all over the world to share their stories of change and their impacts. It celebrates the movement that is Design For Change with lots of inspiration from the change makers, role models and design thinkers, providing an educational platform for everyone to continue their efforts in developing empathy in the children and spreading Gandhiji’s message of “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.
The conference commenced with everyone so full of enthusiasm and anticipation. People had come from all across the world and it may be curiosity or just their energy that got each one so excited to meet and be in company with the other. This year, change makers, mentors, teachers, global partners and design thinkers from 19 countries including India took part. The average age of a student being just 14 years and over 20 languages spoken at once, and we had people travel over 12,000 km to attend the conference. This was a huge feat and much larger than the first ‘Be The Change Conference’ in 2012. It was already so fantastic.
Even more amazingly, this year we celebrated the Superheroes of Change and aptly so, we witnessed students as young as 9 with an ambition to clean out their neighbourhood outside their school because of the foul smells and the nuisance it caused when they were there – studying, playing. There was Wakan and his classmates battling against the high dropout rates in their school in the US and there was Miranda from Zimbabwe securing her school walls to prevent theft and vandalism. Students assisting the elderly to taking action against bullying, every story has been just as empowering as the other. All in all, a total of 20 really inspiriting and impactful stories were shared, cultivating a very powerful atmosphere full with the determination and spirit to create change.
Alongside the change makers, on Saturday, 28th September, a representative of Amar Chitra Katha and the brand ambassador of Design For Change, Rahul Bose along with Kiran Bir Sethi unveiled the 3rd edition of the I CAN Comic book featuring the best of the stories of change to go ahead and inspire children from all over the world to believe in change followed by the launch of the Design Thinking guide for teachers and the first Design Thinking textbook for children on Sunday.
The conference though, is not just storytelling through presentations and talks, to make the event even more fun and breath-taking there were entertaining theme-based student-run games and then there were the workshops conducted by few of the greatest design thinkers from across the globe. We had Michael Koefoed from Denmark on stimulating the design thinking process using illustrations; Illac Angelo Diaz from Philippines teaching everyone his global movement idea of ‘A litre of light’; M. P. Ranjan for a very thought-provoking workshop on Design Thinking.
The Riverside teachers too, holding up the main motto of Design For Change, conducted four workshops – the FEEL workshop to get the children use all of their senses but their sight, the IMAGINE workshop helping kids create something innovative using their imagination, the DO workshop teaching music and finally getting the students to make connections with random objects given to them and sharing their experience of the BTC2013 in the SHARE workshop.
The attendees at the conference on Sunday had the privilege of interacting with four champions in the Indian sports world at once on stage – Geet Sethi (8 world titles in Billiards and 1 world title in Snooker), Mary Kom (Olympic Bronze medalist 5 world titles), Viren Rasquinha (former Indian hockey team captain, CEO of Olympic Gold Quest) and Rahul Bose (former Indian Rugby team captain) – and listen to their stories of their hard work, perseverance and the love for their sport. In one short afternoon, it couldn’t get any more inspiring than this. Except it did. Ramji Raghavan, founder of the Agastya foundation shared his insights and Kiran Bir Sethi talked about reaching out to as many as 300,000 schools within 5 years and introducing the idea of Design For Change in 25 countries today.
AProCh (A Protagonist In Every Child) is another initiative of the Riverside School, working towards making Ahmedabad a child-friendly city, partnered with Disney India at the Be The Change Conference to present ‘VoluntEARS’ program where the attendees of the conference reached out and helped transform a nearby government school to make it colourful and a fun place to learn. To conclude the conference, on Sunday, AProCh came back with yet another event of Street Smart out on Law Garden road with a special performance by Sidi Goma. Over a thousand people had gathered including the many spectators from all over the world to make this event a huge success.
The ‘Be The Change Conference’, let me assure you, was entirely student run, from the designing to documenting to the press crew to the social media. It was by the students celebrating students and their power to make a change. That, I believe is the greatest gift you can hand a child – the ability to make a change. I had the honour of being the head of the Social Media crew and I had the best time ever meeting new people, making new friends, getting inspired by the stories, being exposed to different cultures and most of all – tweeting. The response has been unbelievable. “There are 19 countries in the house here today, but it feels like one”.
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