Advocating for change is a vital skill

Image courtesy Centennial College whose students worked in community development projects in Honduras.

Image courtesy Centennial College whose students worked in community development projects in Honduras.


It’s long been said that the meek shall inherit the earth. But what will be the condition of the planet they receive? One that’s dried up, burnt and depleted of its resources?

Maybe it’s time to make some noise and get involved. Before it’s too late.

That’s a bit of the bold thinking behind Ashoka, the world’s largest community of social entrepreneurs and changemakers based in Washington, D.C. Ashoka envisions a world in which everyone is a changemaker, a place where all citizens have a voice and contribute to positive change.

A “changemaker” is defined as someone, anyone, who is intentional about solving a social or environmental problem, motivated to act and be creative.

Founded in 1981, Ashoka.org fosters collaborative action to transform institutions and cultures worldwide to support changemaking for the good of society. It recently recognized Centennial College’s commitment to the Changemaker Challenge, a series of social change learning experiences offered to students during their reading week.

As one of only eight Canadian institutions recognized for their commitment to changemaking, Centennial joins leading academic institutions, organizations and individuals in 14 countries who are working together to motivate more than 200,000 changemakers as part of Ashoka’s global #MillionsofChangemakers campaign.

“Activating #MillionsofChangeMakers at our college allows us to expand on our work of embedding the principles of global citizenship, social justice and community inclusion into our curricular and co-curricular initiatives,” says Yasmin Razack, Director, Global Citizenship Education and Inclusion at Centennial College.

“It raises our commitment to shaping a better future to a global level, allowing us to be a collaborative member of the world’s largest community of changemakers,” she says.

Centennial’s partnership with Ashoka is just one of the many ways the college and its Centre are contributing to building a world where everyone is a changemaker – an ambitious goal that is rooted in the college’s strategic plan.

In the short term, Centennial’s aim is to increase student participation in the Changemaker Challenge by 25 per cent this coming year. The Challenge introduces students to changemaking competencies, hands-on learning and networking opportunities with industry.

Recent student-led social change initiatives at Centennial include recognizing International Women’s Day with spoken word and musical performances and an insightful panel discussion on gender issues; a sustainable menstruation products initiative to promote the benefits of eco-friendly products; and a blockchain for social justice event demonstrating how a blockchain can be used for positive social change.

One Centennial student’s proposal to employ a blockchain to protect women against sexual harassment was so inventive, it was selected for entry in a global competition in Hong Kong.

“In an Everyone a Changemaker world, all people have the confidence, skills and freedom to create change for the good of all,” says Jessica Lax, Ashoka U’s Growth & Partnerships Director. Ashoka U is the organization’s higher education initiative (not to be confused with Ashoka University in Sonipat, Haryana, India!).

“With this commitment Centennial College is joining Ashoka U’s global community of higher education innovators who are collectively activating and equipping the changemakers the world needs,” she adds.

Centennial College is certainly no stranger to the ideals of changemaking. Its mandatory Global Citizenship course gives students an understanding of what it means to be a global citizen and how they can advocate for change towards a just and equitable society.

The college backs up the lessons with service learning opportunities overseas for students to develop leadership skills and seed positive social change. Earlier this year, Centennial students worked on community development projects in Kenya, Cuba, Costa Rica and Brazil.

With the Changemaker Challenge, students can look forward to more creative lessons and curriculum that dovetail with the ideals put forward by Ashoka.  

 • For more information, visit http://www.centennialcollege.ca.

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