Education for Social Innovation

Michael Furdyk, co-founder and director of innovation at TakingITGlobal, writes about his October 18 visit to ASIJ and ongoing collaboration with faculty and staff on resources and initiatives for student engagement. 


In January, the World Economic Forum released their Future of Jobs report, reflecting on the skills and competencies needed from future graduates to fuel prosperity in the coming years. In particular, they looked at the top 10 skills in demand from employers, and how they would shift from 2015 to 2020. Sitting atop both lists? Complex problem solving.

TakingITGlobal has worked for many years to empower young people to understand and act on the world’s greatest challenges. In recent years, our work has migrated from a focus on our online platforms to working through schools and education systems, supporting enhancements to classroom pedagogy that drive student engagement and support the development of many of the key skills highlighted in the report.


After connecting with several ASIJ staff over the past few years, I was pleased to organize a visit in October to share a number of resources and initiatives with various teams at the school. Across of all the conversations I had with ASIJ educators and teams, we dug into the three ingredients that I believe are essential for engagement and lend themselves particularly well to building complex problem solving skills.


In the National Study of Student Engagement, 42% of students attributed their boredom in school to a lack of relevance (and 81% to a lack of interest, which I’d say is closely related!) The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals offer 17 strong opportunities to connect student learning to real-world problems that urgently need their inquiry, ideas and action.


None of us like busywork! Through providing an authentic audience for student work, they’ll be motivated to produce top-quality work knowing it will be seen and that it matters. As an example, we just brought together students from 14 countries in Marrakesh, Morocco for the 22nd United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) Climate Change summit, where they showcased their collaborative work on climate policy as part of our #Decarbonize initiative.


We all want students to be captivated by learning, and pursue ideas and challenges beyond just completing a homework assignment. Through collaborating across grades and subjects, educators can create compelling opportunities for student agency, inquiry, and commitment that will last far beyond the end of the school year.


In the coming months and years, we are excited to collaborate with ASIJ to support the infusion of these ingredients into classrooms, curriculum and collaboration opportunities within the region and around the world, bringing together resources such as our Guide to Action, measurement tools like Commit2Act and curriculum-linked Global Encounters video conferences.

“As we think about how we engage in service and how we develop our students understanding of diverse perspectives, Michael’s network can offer various opportunities,” says ASIJ Director of teaching and Learning, Paul O’Neill. “Opportunities such as sharing our writing or our artwork, finding communities that need support and identifying problems that matter can help us address the question ‘how do we transform our inspirations into thoughtful action?'”

With ASIJ’s mission of developing compassionate, inquisitive learners prepared for global responsibility, we hope to build a meaningful relationship that will last for years to come.