Emer Beamer – Designathon Works

Title: Beyond the Research – Children as Designers in an array of global contexts

Designathon Works is in its 10th year of work on its mission to empower children around the world as designers of a better future. Founder Emer Beamer will share insights on what it takes to grow a distributed organisation to facilitate children across 45 countries to learn about, design solutions and make prototypes for multiple SDG challenges. Furthermore, the organisation and its collaborating Community of Practice strives for the participating local children to be seen as co-designers of our shared futures by local communities, businesses and policy makers. She will zoom in on their annual global event, the Global Children’s Designathon that has reached more than 10,000 local children in 45 countries since starting. The organisation and partners all use the centrally “designed for adaptation” design thinking method, how does that translate from Tanzania to China? How does sharing a design thinking methodology work across such diverse cultures and socio-economic contexts?

She will share stories of the challenges and delights of collaborating with partners, local teachers, facilitators, and a wide variety of stakeholders. We will also ‘meet the children’ (of course), and see some of their designed outcomes.

Short bio

Emer Beamer, social co-designer, educator and social entrepreneur, inspired by children’s

imaginations and altruism founded the Design-a-thon Works foundation in 2004. The aim of Design-a-thon is to empower children globally to design a better world and secondly to have society in turn includes children in co-designing the future.

Prior to Design-a-thon, she co-founded Butterfly Works to co-create social change. Her first social enterprise back in 2000 was NairoBits, Kenya, a web design college for young people from informal settlements. Nairobits is still going strong with graduates employed across the formal tech sector in Kenya and beyond.

The connecting principle in her work is empowering learners to become the author, creator and maker of their own worlds.

Ole Sejer Iversen, Aarhus University

Title: Reimagining Participatory Design- Building sustainable futures with CCI research

The talk focuses on the opportunities (and commitment) to pursue sustainable outcomes when engaging children in PD. This includes  back-stage activities, infrastructuring work, and partnerships needed to make sustainable futures. PD is not just a matter of doing front-stage workshops with children. I will present how we managed to get a new (mandatory) subject into the national Danish Curriculum and how we scaled some of our PD work from 3 to 1500 schools in Denmark, and now into curriculum in all UK classrooms. My focus is not on all the stuff we have been doing in Denmark, but to talk about the strong commitments in Participatory Design that we tend to forget or at least by-pass in current research.

Short Bio

Professor Ole Sejer Iversen serves as the research lead at the Center for Computational Thinking and Design at Aarhus University and has recently assumed the role of director at the National Research Center for Digital Technology Comprehension in Denmark. Over the past two decades, Professor Iversen has been actively contributing to the intersection of Participatory Design and Child-Computer Interaction through his publications. Especially the concept of computational empowerment has been a concern in Professor Iversen’s work. In 2024, this research has led to the development of a pioneering curriculum on “Technology Comprehension” that will be implemented in Danish K-9 education nation-wide.