CASE STUDY: The Planet’s Champions, Romania

New Horizons Foundation (FNO), founded in 2000, is one of the most well-known national NGOs working on education at the national level, supporting young people, teachers/educators, and schools. 

The FNO mission is to inspire youth to lead and to produce social change. They do this by innovating and sustaining experiential education models that empower young people to develop themselves, their communities, and the world in which they live. Through their programs, young people between 11 and 19 years old become more involved, responsible, and courageous. They are developing values, attitudes, and abilities to help them for the rest of their lives truly.

In the last years, they have decided to bring their contribution to the 2030 Agenda by focusing their efforts on the following four key SDGs:

  1. Quality education (SDG 4)
  2. Good health & well-being (SDG 3)
  3. Sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11)
  4. Reducing inequalities (SDG 10)

They chose these four key SDGs based on the needs of the communities with which they worked. Since 2002, they have been working in schools from all over Romania by using the IMPACT Club model. Young people (gymnasium and high school students) start and join the IMPACT Clubs in their schools for leading community service projects. FNO trains the IMPACT Club members and the teachers who act as club leaders on Service-Learning projects. It provides seed money for projects, thus empowers the young people to have an impactful contribution to their communities. Over 180 IMPACT Clubs are running in Romania, with more than 3500 young people being involved in delivering Service-Learning projects. When analyzing the projects that young people run in their communities, FNO discovered that these could be grouped in these four directions: education, health, social inequalities, and sustainable communities. Thus, they have decided to structure their work on these four SDGs, which meant to create more learning resources on these SDGs for young people and teachers, to refine the financing and the competitions process they had in place to support these specific SDGs and to support young people to implement their projects through design thinking processes that emphasize the selected goals.

Description of the initiative

Project title: The Planet’s Champions (Campionii Planetei), 

Time period: 2019-2020 (during the school year)

Target group: children and young people, and teachers

Geographical coverage: national level

Main objectives:

  • Train teachers on using Service-Learning for developing young people’s competences to support the 2030 Agenda;
  • Inspire and involve other teachers and students in solving community problems through valuable educational resources and local projects focused on the 2030 Agenda;
  • Develop the skills of students to act as change agents for supporting the 2030 Agenda in their communities.

Budget: 50,000 euro

The Planet’s Champions project was inspired by the FNO IMPACT Clubs’ activities in the last years, which were developing community service projects aimed at reducing inequalities or supporting education, health, and communities’ sustainability. Willing to empower young people to contribute to the 2030 Agenda directly, FNO decided to structure its activities on the four SGDs (SDG 3, SDG 4, SDG 10 & SDG 11) and develop more learning resources and more activities on these topics for young people and teachers.

The main activities of the project were:

  • training courses for teachers on SDGs and Service-Learning;
  • online training courses for young people and teachers on Quality education (SDG 4), Good health & well-being (SDG 3), Sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), and Reducing inequalities (SDG 10);
  • Service-Learning projects, contributing to the selected SDGs, implemented by IMPACT Clubs (almost half of the projects received seed money for raising more funds and have a more significant impact in the community);
  • national competition for teachers to develop innovative learning plans for their students, teaching them about SDGs and how they can contribute directly to the 2030 Agenda; 
  • national competition for children and young people to promote the 2030 Agenda, mainly the selected SDGs, through posters, vlogs, podcasts, or community projects prototypes. 

The project involved educational experts and experts working with the four SDGs coming from 12 organizations. The experts trained and inspired both teachers and young people for their learning and community service activities. Moreover, to reach the projects’ objectives, each of the 100 community service projects involved relevant stakeholders from the local community, providing additional information, resources, support, etc. Also, the project was co-financed by Lidl Romania.

The project ran smoothly without specific problems. Surprisingly, the COVID-19 crisis worked more as an enable for the project. The online courses that FNO prepared for the teachers and young people (before the outbreak started) were accepted more naturally by the young people and the teachers.

Regarding the project’s key results, FNO directly trained and reached with their educational resources over 2000 teachers and educators on SDGs and Service-Learning. Also, over 2000 students acquired new knowledge of SDG and how they can directly contribute to the 2030 Agenda. Furthermore, through the IMPACT Clubs, young people developed and ran 100 community service projects supporting the four key SDGs: Quality education (SDG 4), Good health & well-being (SDG 3), Sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), and Reducing inequalities (SDG 10). 

The main lessons learned by FNO in this project are related to online pedagogy – they had the chance to build online training courses and acquire valuable knowledge and expertise on how to teach, engage and empower young people through online learning. Also, they are now very confident to organize again and keep in their services the online courses on SDGs, the design thinking process for developing the Service-Learning projects, but also to involve external experts and stakeholders in delivering specific knowledge or inspire young people, and to combine offline educational activities with the online learning. Finally, the project’s success was possible thanks to teamwork, collaboration with the other organizations and experts in education and SDGs, FNO’s pedagogy expertise, and the project’s short-term activities with specific and clear objectives.

Comments & Reflections

FNO will continue its work on the four SDGs through all their projects. Regarding this project, FNO is committed to relaunching the online training courses (they already exist, they only need small adjustments) and organize annual national competitions for students and teachers to promote the four SDGs. However, because of the COVID-19 crisis, the work of the IMPACT Clubs are still under question – they might not happen during the following school year (2020-2021). The project looks self-sufficient and sustainable, but FNO does count on the support of relevant stakeholders – other organizations and external experts that can provide the content of their learning processes – while FNO will continually improve the quality of the offline and online learning processes for young people.