Promoting Student Leadership for Sustainable Change: Compass Tools at GINila 2014

GINila2014_facilitatorsEighty students; four global issues; two days; and one goal.

On September 5 and 6 of this year at the International School Manila (ISM), delegates from six local high schools joined together to take part in the first annual Global Issues Network Manila Conference. Affectionately known as GINila, this student-led conference strived to empower participants to contextualize and engage with global issues in their sphere of influence by creating sustainable action plans. Global issues for this year included promoting education for all, a massive step-up in the fight against poverty, addressing biodiversity and ecosystems losses and natural disaster prevention and mitigation. Over the course of 48 hours, students participated in service trips, a simulation, student facilitated workshops to help them formulate their initiatives to tackle these issues.

GINila2014_compass sorting

Amidst all the commotion and dynamism of the weekend, Compass Education intern and ISM alumni, Daniel Um, had the opportunity to not only get to know some of this year’s GINila members, but to conduct an investigation into how using systems thinking and sustainability tools enabled GINila to achieve its overall goal. For at the heart of the conference structure was ISM’s own version of Pyramid Lite- an abridge version of the ISIS Pyramid Process developed by Alan Atkisson and used around the world as a sustainability planning tool. The hopes of the students and faculty coordinators or GINila was that by using sustainability tools to structure the conference, it would enable to understand their place in the local system and how they could impact it to address global issues in a sustainable way.

GINila2014_systems map 2

Through the use of a survey, interviews and his own observations, Daniel investigated how well the Compass was able to develop delegates’ appreciation and understanding of sustainability, empower students and educate them on how to effectively use sustainability tool to create action plans. His findings indicated that the conference was successful to some extent with regards to all three categories. Some aspects of the conference that were key to promoting success included:

  • Teaching systems thinking: using games like the systems equilateral triangle game and feedback loop circle game to teach delegates about tough systems concept.
  • Saturday service trips: trips to local service sites to observe, conduct interviews and serve help to contextualize issues and shed light on more pieces of the system.
  • Use of the Sustainability Compass: it helps delegates think about issues in a holistic way
In addition to the aforementioned effective aspects, Daniel also identified some goals for improving future student run conference. These included:
  • Increased facilitator knowledge and practice: more practice before hand helps facilitators become more adaptable and dynamic group leaders.
  • Use the Iceberg Model: many of the initial action plans of GANGs were very superficial. Maximizing the use of Iceberg Model could help deepen analysis.
  • Longer time frame: delegates and facilitators felt rushed. More time might lead to better plans.
Based on the findings of Daniel’s report and the enthusiasm of students involved in conferences like GINila, Compass Education hopes to continue promoting student leadership by encouraging groups like GINila to use systems thinking and sustainability tools to engender postive change in their communities! In the coming months, look for more students leadership video, resources and facilitator tools on our website. Meanwhile, feel free to contact us with questions about how to use tool to begin enhancing leadership at your school.

Watch how students effectively using the Sustainability Compass and Systems Thinking tools to address global issues and create action plans at the GINila 2014 .

Video courtesy by GINila 2014 Kaibigan

Compassing Dolphinariums at International School Bangkok


Recently, International School Bangkok (ISB), became interested in the issue of dolphin captivity, particularly as it pertains to the capture and use of wild dolphins for aquariums. To understand this issue and the factors related to it, ISB’s Grade 3 classes (age 8) used the Sustainability Compass as a lens to explore and investigate this issue.  ISB teacher shared that when he asked his students “who would like to go see some dolphins in a show?”. Just about all the hands went up in excitement.


However, before he proceeded to allow the discussion to go further, he asked his students to look at dolphins in captivity through the lens of the Compass.  He divided the children into four groups, corresponding to each of the four Compass points to start the discussion.  Later on the children were able to rotate and look at the issue from another Compass perspective to share their ideas and feelings about this issue.

Teacher explained that this activity helped students to see with new eyes, and were more open to the issues and had more and more questions than they started with.  Playing more of a facilitator role, the teacher avoided steering students in one direction or another in order to enhance their critical thinking skills by allowing them to bring up questions they might not have thought about without the Compass to help them look at the issue with more breadth and depth. “Once started, the kids rolled with it.”  The entire session lasted one hour.

There were many questions from the students that would require them to do more research, however, they had surfaced enough evidence to make an informed group decision about going to see these types of aquarium shows.  In the end, they declined the offer to go see a show, and asked if they could go see them in the wild instead.

A few days later, one of the girls’ who had a birthday said that her initial plan for her birthday was to take her friends to visit Safari World for the day.  After this Compass lesson, the girl asked her mom to cancel this trip and for them to do something else. The mom told the teacher that her daughter came home and said “mom, we can’t go” and then explained everything to the mom and they planned something more appropriate.


Submitted in cooperation with Kerry Dyke, 2014, while serving as Environmental Coordinator at ISB