Students as social entrepreneurs

The Year 11 collaborative Design project is an opportunity for students to work in groups across the design disciplines to solve a design problem. Students are using the theme of social entrepreneurship to identify the design problem. Social entrepreneurship is empathetic, innovative and sustainable, but is not charity.

Social entrepreneurship aligns closely with the caring learner profile attribute: “Students show empathy, compassion and respect to the needs and feelings of others. They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive difference to the life of others and to the environment” (IB Learner Profile, 2013).

Max Geilenkirchen, Mikhail Jaura and Kengie Tang worked in a group that has brilliantly demonstrated caring through their design project. Through their research, they noted that less economically developed countries often have a mismanagement of waste, creating poor living conditions for children and families. They focused on an impoverished area in Manila, where children are not allowed to go to school if they do not have shoes. Since most of these families cannot afford shoes, the children are then denied the right to education and also face health dangers from walking in dirty or unsafe areas without shoes.

To get an idea of what others have to deal with, one day Kengie tried walking home from the Tung Chung bus stop without wearing shoes. “Towards the tunnel to the bus stop, the ground was extremely rocky and painful to step on,” she noted in her project. “The experience really helped me empathise with the target audience. Even walking for an hour felt like a day, and the pain really showed me how some children are going through such pain in such unsafe places.”

Their project focused on designing a type of shoe that is sustainable, inexpensive, protective, and made from resources available in the area, to try to address this critical need. They researched materials commonly found in the targeted area, such as gunny sacks, tires, and felt to determine which materials would be practical, comfortable, safe and appropriate to the environment. They then put their ideas to work by producing a 3-D model from their sketches and are now conducting testing to determine what can be improved to ensure that their product meets the needs of their audience. As the project evolved, students were able to demonstrate their understanding of a social issue, and the ways in which a design project can address a critical need in a community.