Our Story of Change
After a combined five decades of work in the Education and Social Change sectors, Cynthia and Shari met through a Consultants' Consortium hosted by UNICEF Headquarters to further advance capacity building throughout UNICEF around the areas of social and behavior change (SBCC), also known as Communication for Development/C4D. During early conversations, both felt that the approaches they and other practitioners were using to build capacity around SBCC/C4D were not achieving long term results, and while they were using participatory approaches in their respective work, the long term capacity was not coming through in a way that felt sustainable.
In 2011, Shari and Cynthia had the unique opportunity to participate in the inaugural online course, Learning Creative Learning (aka LCL-1), presented by the M.I.T. Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group. This online course was conducted in real time, both for students enrolled at M.I.T. and for a group of online students from around the world. During LCL-1, Shari and Cynthia realized that there were more creative approaches to learning that could yield a deeper, lasting learning experience for the country teams they worked with globally. Pulling together all their combined learning from the LCL-1 course, together they reverse engineered what a capacity-building workshop could look like if they incorporated their new-found LCL-1 knowledge and skills into their existing work, building on top of a UN human rights-based platform.
The result in 2015 has been a complete re-tooling of their Communication for Development (C4D) workshops into new learning modules with innovative and thought-provoking formats. Along with this newly reimagined and redesigned approach came a new name – Change Makers Experiential Learning Labs! As Shari explains, "Change Makers, because we’re nurturing tomorrow's change leaders; Experiential, because we are shifting from didactic methods of top-down, expert-driven training, towards facilitating more organic, experiential ways of engaging in deeper learning; and Learning Labs, because we are always tinkering and experimenting in real time with new co-learning approaches and ideas based on the participant group we are with at the time. This type of blended learning is different to the typical top down, expert-driven “training” or “workshop” approaches that are so common throughout the international development sector. What we have found is that innovations in creative learning approaches can result in participants learning more deeply and in a way that is more lasting and impactful because it has a more personal meaning to each individual in the learning lab."
In mid-2014, the second version of Learning Creative Learning (LCL-2) was presented online, and Shari and Cynthia were selected to be storytellers for the class session on Reimagining Creative Learning - using creative learning principles beyond the digital realm. The duo was also selected by the Media Lab team to become online discussion group moderators for the non-digital realm students in LCL-2, and Shari became a moderator for the LCL-3 course in 2015. To learn more about how Change Makers got started, please view our video interview below, with Natalie Rusk and Ricarose Roque, two of the M.I.T. Media Lab team who taught this groundbreaking course.