“If it's good for the planet, we want to be a part of it,” says Greg Attwells, head and co-founder of Creatable, an education disruptor launched by FINCH. Set up in Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world, the company aims to leave "no one out and no one behind". If there’s a project that requires “a tremendous amount of imagination and a huge amount of compassion, then that's the work that we as a production company will always gravitate towards”, adds Greg on the synergy between Creatable and FINCH.
Creatable implemented a highly successful education curriculum that inspired local teachers and encouraged student entrepreneurship. It was also adopted as a policy by Burundi’s Ministry of Education with plans to develop further course modules.
It took gumption to launch an international education programme in the middle of a pandemic, and in East Africa, no less. The success formula for Creatable was relying on local resources and communities to develop the curriculum. Teachers were the heroes and they shared learnings with real-life applications that benefitted the community. In the case of Burundi, entrepreneurship turned out to be an unintended consequence of the programme.
“When we created the rocket stoves project to help solve the serious problem of people in Africa dying from smoke inhalation, it was to help young people realise that it was a problem they could solve with creativity expressed through technology,” says Greg.
But this creative project in a classroom turned into a business opportunity that became a sustainable initiative for a village. A group of young girls in one of the villages got together and turned it into a business. They started creating rocket stoves for all the families in their village as a way to generate income.
From Rural Village to Cosmopolitan City
Taking these lessons and insights back home, Creatable is now helping teachers to prepare students for industry relevance. Courses with companies such as Atlassian and Meta have been created, while other topics are being explored with Mars and Spotify. Its aim is to focus on what’s relevant in the industry and look at courses that will enhance the personal development of traits, skills and knowledge.
“We're focusing much more on the professional teaching development of teachers these days, as a way to scale our ambition. We upskill teachers to impact students by partnering with industries to illuminate those pathways and to contextualise learning,” says Greg. Increasing employability in the long-run is the goal.
Contextual learning is something that Greg stresses a lot on. It makes all the difference between textbook learning and practical learning that meets the demands of industries and international organisations. Greg shares, “A lot of what these companies are looking for in new workers are skills that are not taught in school curriculums. For instance, traits that determine how evaluative, influential, curious, imaginative and persevering a person is.
“We ask companies, ‘What kind of methodologies, frameworks and insights do you have at your company that we can use to help teachers teach these skills in a more contextually relevant way so that young people are engaged?’” This has resulted in the development of courses such as active listening and data literacy with Atlassian and intentional creativity with Meta.
Education Becomes Community Engagement
Greg emphasised that the basis of what Creatable does is essentially community engagement via education. “One of the things we have learnt is that teachers play an important role in driving social change. Students are in a classroom for six hours a day and five days a week for up to 13 years of their lives. What they learn and how they learn is dependent upon the teacher. They have so much power and influence on hearts and minds,” he says.
Driven by this focus, Creatable aims to equip teachers with the resources required to contextualise learning and to help young people realise they are the change agents in their communities. Teachers are seen as key enablers who push young people out into the world to create change in their communities.
‘Leave no one behind.’ That is the ethos that governs Creatable. Giving the disadvantaged the right skills by equipping teachers with the know-how is the mission. That includes women, minorities and the financially strapped, who may fall through the cracks in the education system.
The strong traction for Creatable’s educational courses is a nod to UNICEF’s support, which began with the Burundi project. Greg says, “We have a really forward-thinking partner in UNICEF. They believe that partnering with industries could provide impactful pathways for students. As industries shift, education shifts, because education prepares young people for the workforce.”
“Working with Creatable has meant that UNICEF could connect with industry leaders with expertise in STEM and entrepreneurship education. Creatable’s focus on equitable education also means that there is great alignment with UNICEF’s work in reaching the most vulnerable, including girls and adolescents from ethnic minorities in all their diversity.
“Hearing back from them on how the first year of the programme has impacted their lives has been both humbling and inspiring, to see how much it has lit a creative spark within them and the far-reaching impacts of the practical modules on their lives,” says Vivien Harvey-Wong, international programs coordinator, adolescents & CP at UNICEF.
In the grand scheme of things, “global skills are required to solve global problems, and they're only going to be solved by big global thinkers”, shares Greg. “We believe that a better future is creatable; and a better future begins with a better education,” he concludes.
Burundi was a start, and moving on, Creatable will continue to work with UNICEF to develop relevant courses in other parts of the world, and East Timor is next