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#ChangeTheNow grows its network of changemakers

A grassroots movement used gamification to move students and educators to take powerful action.


  • 13K
  • impressions since 2019
  • 500
  • new students in 2021
  • 50
  • proposed solutions for Sustainable Development Goal #10

Started by Georgian College in Canada, #ChangeTheNow is a movement launched in 2019 that has since scaled from a regional initiative to one mobilizing changemakers around the world. Their mission: “to bring together a global community of socially focused students, educators, faculty, and community members” and move them to create positive change related to the UN’s seventeen sustainable development goals. Most recently, their focus has been on goal number ten: reduced inequalities. 

Georgian also joins institutions like Duke University and UC San Diego in its distinction as an Ashoka Changemaker Collegethe first and only one in Canada. This designates their participation in a global network that aims to convene people working in the space of social enterprise. 

From the get-go, #ChangeTheNow aimed to engage students, educators, and community members in a unique journey to changemaking with set touch points along the wayand they needed a platform that could help them do so seamlessly. As the plans for the program fell into place, Nicole Norris, Manager of the Centre for Changemaking and Social Innovation at Georgian, landed on NationBuilder as the right fit to track student progress and reward them along the way. Norris then connected with Ryan Vandecasteyen, Creative Director and Strategist at Van City Studios, a NationBuilder certified digital agency. Vandecasteyen and the Van City Studios team then helped #ChangeTheNow identify how best to use NationBuilder’s digital infrastructure for their needs.

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Not long after they started their work, the pandemic hit. The plans shifted dramatically. The biggest challenge: the program relied heavily on on-campus engagement and outreach. Now, the team had to find a way to bring it all onlinerecruit students, engage them, and keep them moving in their journey through the latest #ChangeTheNow challenge. They also wanted something that would reflect a student’s work and involvement at the end of the program that could be used for evaluation after the factsomething they could even share via LinkedIn with prospective employers. 

With the help of Van City Studios, they identified that the answer was in designing customized dynamic public profiles that each student could set up for themselves. The profiles would reflect badges and points students had earned for their work in the program, their activity history, whether they were a recruiter, and moreall in one easily accessible place. 

The concept of the profile was dubbed a “Student Passport” and after a few iterations, #ChangeTheNow went live with the final version in July of this year. The passport is created during the sign-up process, allowing students to create a ‘Changemaker Avatar’ and select their self-identified Changemaker Pathwaylike whether they want to be a volunteer, researcher, policy makeramong a variety of other options that help guide which courses they should take and more. The goal of #ChangeTheNow’s passport is to provide a journal of a student’s engagement, while simultaneously serving as an evaluation tool for faculty and facilitators to support a Changemaker Micro-Certificate. When completed, it provides a unique URL that documents a student’s changemaking journey that can be added to their social profiles or resumés. 

“We've got students from different degrees and master's programs who are coming together globally, who never knew each other a couple of weeks ago, and are now working collaboratively across this platform to solve complex social problems. . . The students running through the #ChangeTheNow challenge, and not just this semester, but always, will be introduced to tools and mindset shifts that they can carry forward with them. These are really transferable skills that they will carry forward into the future working world,” says Jennifer WilsonLee, Project Coordinator for #ChangeTheNow.

And the passport is not limited to students in the programas of October, educators and mentors that take part in the program get their own version of the passport with badges, skill sets, and measures of progress customized to their unique journeys within the challenge. This means a student who has completed the challenge can come back to join the program as a mentor. 

On this, Norris shares: “NationBuilder has allowed us to merge our [unique] journeys together, but yet, honour them. . . the whole reason we brought NationBuilder on board was to build a community-based movement around making the world a better place.”

Most recently, Georgian made its commitment to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development goals official when they signed the SDG Accord for educational institutions. Since July, students have proposed fifty solutions to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal number ten as part of the current #ChangeTheNow challenge.  This challenge also  supported over 500 Georgian students in achieving their cooperative education credit through a unique approach to work integrated learning, and graduate.

As they head into 2022, the #ChangeTheNow team is looking at how they can use subnations to offer this program infrastructure to other institutions and partner organizations looking to run their own instances of the program. And with interest from Georgian’s co-operative education and work integrated learning programs, several Ashoka campuses, and othersthe future for #ChangeTheNow looks promising.

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