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Changemakers are Going to Come
Students get tools and inspiration to turn passion into impact
  In March FIS hosted the first international Changemaker Conference, an event focusing on making the world a better place and sharing examples of projects and ideas.
The conference welcomed more than 300 students from 10 international schools across three continents to take part in a program that included more than 100 workshops, firestarters and community sessions, and ended with a tool-based workshop on personal projects with guidance from Compass Education, Inspire Citizens, SIMA studios and Alex Budak from Berkeley University, among others. Grade 8 student Mads F. said, “For me it was a very thought provoking experience, because we heard from some very interesting speakers. I felt very motivated when listening to some of these speakers because they were really good at telling their own stories but always referring back to or showing us how the changemakers toolbox can help us.”
Running such a large conference requires a lot of logistics, but what made this one particularly special was that it was not just run for students, but also by students; under the mentorship of Assistant Head of School Dr. Michael Johnston, a central conference team composed of Upper School students organized nearly the entire conference. Dr. Johnston explains,
“The rich learning comes from learning by doing. Students not only hone transferable skills by doing this but they also grow tremendously in their character development. Students also know what students need and want for learning and experiences. When you give students autonomy and decision making power they will always surprise you with amazing ideas.”
The same principle carried through in sub committees, which were run and led by students, with teachers working as mentors who quite often found themselves redundant. With the space and time for students to do amazing things, the adults had the opportunity to learn from the students instead.
“Being on the central conference team was very exciting,” explained Vama K. “But at the same time it also felt different aswedelegatedalottothesubcommittees.”“Yes,”addedVera S.“The challenge was to make sure that everyone was listened to and had the opportunity to contribute to the conversation,
Among the workshops and activities at the Changemaker conference, no food waste (left) and creating a tree of hope
and then know when to make the decision. We wanted to make sure that everyone did something they were passionate about.”
Throughout the conference, the students led and took part in workshops, learned how to cook to avoid food waste and got tools to frame and resolve issues they find relevant. “Something I take with me from this conference is how you can help in many different ways,” said Mads F. “Like it doesn't have to be a fundraiser but it could also just be by spreading awareness. But for me, the biggest thing I take with me is how many problems there are in the world and how many different solutions there are for them.”
Testimonials from visiting students who attended the conference confirm the intended impact – specific actions and projects being proposed, and students feeling elevated and with a belief in themselves that not only do they want change, but feel empowered to be the change with the right tools and meeting like-minded people for mutual inspiration.
As this was the first international Changemaker Conference, the seed has now been planted, and next year will see three regional conferences at schools across Europe, South America and the Middle East, run by students who came to FIS to learn and be inspired. Awareness has been spread for projects to support the building of wells, “twin toilets,” and create better connections between charity organizations and young volunteers, while FIS continues to support the global changemaker community.
Mette Sarstedt FIS Teacher
Scan the QR code to learn more
about the 2023 Changemaker conference and Changemaker toolkit.
June 2023 FIS World 9

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