When Emer Beamer and I first spoke about her accelerator project, in the spring of 2013, I was a bit baffled. Educating children to be designers? As a professional designer who had to go through years of design school in order to obtain the title, the thought had never occurred to me. Spending time with Emer, going through her methodology and design process, I became a believer. In our current educational system, we teach children out of creativity. Emer Beamer has the vision, the tools and the hands on experience to do things differently.
Emers foundation, Unexpect, develops workshops, educational programs and tools, through which children design better futures using new technologies. Instead of being mere consumers of technology, she inspires this new generation to use it to solve societal problems. That sounds very aloof, but her programs are rooted in everyday, real world challenges. She asks children to look at the lives of their parents, and develop tech solutions that could make their lives easier. Solutions show a remarkable combination of empathy and creative thinking, such as a robot to fold the laundry, or a device that helps a father to find his ever elusive car keys. Children use an empathy map, to analyse their neighbourhoods to solve problems such as loneliness, or safety.
For the past year, Emer and I have built the Unexpect brand strategy and the visual identity that accompanies it. Part of this endeavour was the development of an event that showcases what Unexpect is all about. This event came to be the First Global Childrens Design-A-Thon, held this November. With this event we aim to highlight the ability of children to imagine and design a better future and simultaneously we will call for ‘future ready’ education, globally. The children will work together with adults and local designers to develop new solutions for their cities, focusing on people’s well being and the environment. We are documenting the process and outcomes in photo and video and present findings on the themes and concepts the children reveal. Children participating simultaneously in five world cities (Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, Amsterdam, Dublin and Berlin), will present the results to one another via a live connection.
What impressed me most about Emer's initiative, is the results she achieves. Children come up with mind blowing ideas in a single day, that would be the envy of many tech startups or big corporations. It is only half jokingly that I refer to twelve year old Michael as a Chief Creative Officer. If we start taking children across the world as serious as Emer does, a better future is within our reach.