Global Change is Hard. Here’s how to use simple competitions to get students started.

Posted January 18, 2018 by Joshua neubert

Article Highlights

  • Large scale problems need to be broken down into bite-sized chunks.
  • Students need easy entry points to global change-making.
  • Competitions like the World of 7 Billion provide a great starting point for students.
  • 3 simple steps can get your students involved.

At one point or another, every student has dreamed of saving the world. They still have the exuberance of youth and the spark to go head-long into the unknown. They see challenges in their schools, communities, or watch videos on Youtube of environmental catastrophes across the globe, and they want to do something about it. Thousands of students have these feelings every year and yet global challenges persist. Why? Well, because global change is hard. And many of the young enthusiastic change-makers get disillusioned by the sheer magnitude of our challenges. They simply decide that they want to take on something a little easier.

One thing we know from competition sciences is that when people are faced with extremely complex or difficult challenges, more often than not, they give up or choose to not even take on the challenge. They choose to spend their time on something that is a little more “winnable.” So what does this mean for the future of such large complex challenges as environmental or social change? First is that it's critical to break them down into manageable parts. For students just getting introduced to the ideas of global change-making, it is most important to give them a place to start that doesn’t ask them to tackle a whole global challenge on their own from the get-go.


Start small and grow.

Asking students to take on projects that tackle large-scale global challenges as their first entry into global change-making may be daunting for many students, and may actually have the opposite effect as environmentally minded educators would like. For teachers it can be very difficult to help students get excited about global change making without getting disillusioned by the size of the problems or the amount of work there is to do.

World of 7 Billion Competitionthis featured challenge in the ICS environmental competitions database helps students take the first steps into global change-making by researching challenges associated with global population change, and creating a video describing their solution to the problem. Check it out today.


So what’s an educator to do? The key is to start simply. Don’t try to change the world all at once. Luckily, there are levels of competitions in the global change-making space that are good for students who are just getting introduced to this kind of thinking. Whatever age your students are, it may be best to start them with what we call “ideation” or “creative” contests rather than diving head first into outcome-based challenges where they are evaluated on tangible impact. The World of 7 Billion student video contest offers just such a starting point. This contest allows educators to help students get interested in environmental sustainability, and change-making content, without being overwhelming and asking too much of students at the start.


A Step-By-Step Entry into Global Change-Making.

The World of 7 Billion contest provides an easy but valuable entry way into global change-making for your students. We can make it even easier to get started by breaking the contest down into three simple steps (or concrete classroom projects) to help students begin their journey in global change-making. Here’s a simple process to use with the World of 7 Billion, or many other introductory style change-making competitions, to help get your students get going:

  1. Part 1: Research the Problems & Needs (1 Classroom period or a take-away home project).

The first step for World of 7 Billion, and many other competitions is to help your students understand the problem. Conducting a research project or lesson in the classroom can be a great initial touch-point for students on the ideas of global change-making. The World of 7 Billion actually provides a number of great classroom ready lesson plans and activities to help with this initial step. Make sure to check them out. Then, after students have conducted research and learned about the global problems, they can take the next steps toward actually understanding the solutions.

  1. Part 2: Identify what is being done and why (1 classroom period or a take-away home project).

To really understand how to create global change, students must also first understand what has been or is being tried to help solve the problem. Global challenges are not new, and many people have tried many things to combat these challenges. Have your students take their initial research projects one step further by researching specific projects or solutions that have already been tried. Ask your students to identify positive or successful aspects of each solution as well as negative aspects that may have limited its impact or caused it to fail all together. This will help students gain a stronger understanding of the challenge at large as well as giving them better ideas for how they might help create real change in the future.

  1. Part 3: Finally, get creative! (1 to 2 classroom periods or home-projects).

Students love to create things. The final step to introducing your students to global change making is to have them propose their own solutions to specific parts of the challenge in a fun creative medium. The World of 7 Billion contest does this by having students create short videos describing their solutions to one of the global challenge topics. Defining their solution through a fun project like this helps solidify a student’s interest in the topic and show them that there are real, actionable things that they can do in these areas.

Competitions like the World of 7 Billion video contest are sure to help provide an easier first touch to global change-making that may be a critical piece to helping your students actually take action. There’s still time to get involved for the 2018 competition. Video submissions aren’t due until February 22nd. So check out the World of 7 Billion topics and website resources now to get your students taking their first step in saving the world!