The future of our planet lies with the youth of today. In an effort to cultivate a cohort of youth ambassadors to become youth leaders operating with a compassionate systems framework, the Center for Systems Awareness has launched a global youth leadership strategy centered on tackling the 17 World Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This effort takes place in two parallel tracks and intersects at a third. The strategy encompasses three main intentions. First, The youth leadership program started in formal educational systems by training students to become student ambassadors. We are thus committed to provide training and support to students in schools who wish to learn about the Compassionate Systems Framework and are interested in launching projects that target any of the Sustainable Development Goals in their school or their community. Second, since the work has now grown to a number of schools around the world we are now focused on cultivating and facilitating a global network of compassionate systems youth leaders. We are committed to provide opportunities for students from different countries to connect with each other through meaningful learning experiences and concrete collaborative projects, with a focus on climate change and the safeguard of our planet. Third, we are in the initial phase of bringing the Compassionate Systems Framework out into the defining social youth movements of our time to address the struggles for equality and the climate crisis beyond the formal education system. We are keen on exploring how learning about the framework can help activists stay grounded in the face of challenges and achieve more meaningful and lasting change.

Our compassionate pedagogy

All of our efforts are centered around some pedagogical foundations which we have experienced to be important to motivate and engage youth. An important cornerstone of this is to take the students and young people seriously and treat them as equals.

We always aspire to create an inclusive space where the young students feel safe and welcome. Through this aspiration, we have come to appreciate the practice of check-ins and it is an ingrained part of our work with the youth. Our youth coaches are also younger than the teachers and adults, the kids usually meet. This helps the young people to relate to them more easily and has shown to contribute to the kind of safe and generative spaces that we are aiming for in our training sessions as well as community gatherings.

When considering the students and youth as equals it becomes natural to work with issues that matter to them which is why most of our work is centered around project based learning. By working with the students on specific projects, they get to explore a real issue relevant to them and their local context. Through our focus on the inner, other and outer perspective, this approach also allows them to relate to the global extent of the issue.

Ambassador groups

One of the main ways in which we are working with schools is to support the creation of Youth Ambassadors groups. These groups are formed by students who are eager to develop their leadership and contribute to the school and larger community. They meet regularly, learn about the fundamentals of Compassionate Systems and get involved in concrete projects of their choosing that contribute to other people’s wellbeing or tackle one of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Developing groups of ambassador students in schools has several intentions. Firstly, learning the Compassionate Systems tools and practices helps students to enhance their well-being, understanding of complexity and ability to act with compassion. Secondly, these groups of students are also very motivating for the teachers of the school who can see how they start to behave more independently and generally feel better, which contributes to a gradual shift in the culture of the school towards being more centered on well-being. Thirdly, the concrete projects they are working on are occasions for students to apply and integrate their learning and to develop their sense of agency in the world and their capacity for collaboration.

Some of the many exciting projects that were realized in the last few years are:

  • A group of students from BSJ (the British School of Jakarta) helped the leadership team of the school redefine their entire well-being curriculum as it did not match what they had learned about the science of well-being.
  • A group of students at GLTS (Greater Lawrence Technical School) has developed a student-led Compassionate Systems podcast addressing systemic issues such as racial justice and discrimination and struggles within the LGBTQIAA+ communities.
  • A Danish group of students has worked with large companies to work on systemic perspectives on real life problems.

Map of most of the schools and organizations working with Youth Ambassadors groups or planning to develop some.

The global community

We like the phrase “Think globally, act locally” and we consider it vital for the future of the planet to develop global citizens. Furthermore the problems of our time are not bound by borders. Therefore we are currently cultivating and facilitating a global network of students and young people from across the globe trained in the Compassionate Systems Framework. When young people have the same models and languages to speak about complex issues it becomes evident how the structures of our local problems are very similar. Furthermore it has proven extremely meaningful for young people to get to know, and work with, other young people who are closely linked by aspirations, although being far away geographically.

One ongoing project is between the Danish and Indonesian ambassadors who are working on the problem of plastic waste in the oceans. This has proven to be very interesting since some of the plastic consumed in Denmark ends up in the Indonesian sea. They have created a webpage with their learning journey:

Another ongoing project is our global group of teachers, students and activists who are learning to use the En-Roads climate simulator in a compassionate systems way.

Beyond formal education

Since this is the latest addition to our efforts we are still developing our strategy and prototyping our interventions. We recently hosted a Compassionate Climate workshop with climate activists from various activist organisations and movements in Copenhagen and we plan to expand this effort to form a Compassionate Systems academy for activists from across the globe.