In 2010, Design for Change (DFC) Pakistan held a widely successful national contest for school children to ideate and execute socially responsible initiatives. As the DFC team gears up for the 2011 contest, TC-P contributor Hussain Bandukwala had a chat with two of its vibrant members, Ali Habib and Rabea Malik, to learn more about DFC and get a closer look at the action.

Q: What is Design for Change (DFC)?

Design for Change is an initiative that places change in the hands of children, and provides them with the opportunity to step into the world and take action that has a social impact.

By launching nation-wide contests in countries across the world, DFC challenges students to choose a social problem present in their surroundings, devise a solution and implement it for a brief period, and share their experiences with DFC. This initiative started in India in 2009 and was launched in Pakistan (and globally) in 2010.

As a result, DFC is helping to raise citizens who are conscious of the problems in their surroundings’ and who know how to cure them.

Q: Is there any specific mission or guiding principle that the core team is using to operate DFC Pakistan?

Feel. Imagine. Do. Share. — This is our mantra for DFC Pakistan. As a team, we believe in the children of Pakistan, and want to encourage all adults to listen to them and engage them in meaningful conversations about our society.

In particular to our contests, we want to invite all types of schools in Pakistan (street schools, NGOs, public schools, and private schools) to participate, and be democratic and flexible throughout. (We are currently focusing on only inviting children from grades 3 – 8 to our contests, which may be extended to other students in the future)

Q: How are you spreading the word about DFC Pakistan and the contest?

In order to ensure touch points with as many schools as possible, we started reaching out to school systems like SOCIETY and HANDS to help us in distributing our (informational and contest-related) toolkits to all branches in their networks. A couple of members from our team (Nida Alavi, Saman Ansari, and Natasha Ansari) also made trips to Lahore and Islamabad (from Karachi) to support our outreach efforts. Butool Rizvi (another DFC team member) maintains an extensive list of contacts for schools and networks that is updated each year.

As a result of these efforts, we were able to reach a total of 1500 schools throughout the country for the 2010 contest.  This year, we are aiming to deliver toolkits to 5000 schools and extend our partnerships to many other school systems, including CARE, Tameer-e-Millat Foundation, and the National Rural Support Programme.

We are reaching out to blogs like yourself, writing to newspapers and spreading the DFC Pakistan documentary that we’ve put together. In 2012, we will launch a traveling exhibition that will pass through children-friendly places in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Q: Have there been any challenges that you’ve faced thus far?

Some of the challenges that we’ve had to deal with have been:

  • Creating a sense of adoption and a willingness to participate from schools across the nation
  • Finding sponsorship and securing pertinent partnerships
  • Working with limited resources (personnel & financing)

Q: What type of issues are the contest entries proposing to solve: community-, national-, or global-oriented?

We hold no restrictions here – the problem for example, could be as simple as ensuring that pothole lids don’t get stolen from streets. But our general observation from the 2010 contest has been that the problems chosen were very local and community-based because it was much easier for the children to incorporate the solutions. Some of the genre of problems we saw in 2010 included access to education, recycling, pollution and electricity conservation. The entire list can be found on our 2010 contest website.

Q: What are the criteria to accept an entry?

For us to accept a contest entry:

  • The core team should have a maximum of 5 students
  • There should be 1 team per school (or school branch, in the case of a school system like DIL)
  • Students in the team should only be from grades 3 – 8
  • The team should’ve completed and submitted its registration form (There are no fees to participate in the contest)

The winners list of our 2010 contest can be found here. The judges for this contest were respected leaders and experts from the fields of Education, Art & Design, and Marketing.

Q: What do you hope to achieve through this initiative in Pakistan?

In our societies and schools, we often see a very top-down, hierarchical and authoritarian approach. Children are told things, but aren’t empowered to think for themselves. DFC Pakistan hopes to give our children this opportunity. By providing our young generation a way to voice their thinking about our greatest problems, DFC presents opportunities for our children to take meaningful, collective action that they can build on as they grow to become active Pakistani citizens.

Q: They don’t necessarily need to be winning entries but are there any particular entries that have personally touched you the most?

  1. Motivated to do something meaningful for children affected by the floods, students at a participating school carried out a week-long campaign, encouraging their peers to donate recyclable items. These were sold to generate funds which went towards purchasing school supplies for children in relief camps. Students visited a local government school housing these children to interact with them and personally deliver the supplies, thereby achieving two important goals with one initiative
  2. Participating students being concerned about child beggars, wanting to ensure that these children left the world of beggary and instead enrolled into schools. The students received objections from parents of the child beggars because these children going to school meant that no income would be generated from them. The students figured out a way for the children to work during off-study hours and obtained consent from their parents, enabling the children to get educated and lead meaningful lives.

Q: How can others participate?

We are actively looking for volunteers and would like to request all your readers to participate if they can. (They can reach us via email, or find us on the web, Facebook or Twitter) Specifically, we’d love for people to help us with:

  • Advocacy of DFC Pakistan and the 2011 contest (May – Nov 2011)
  • Assembly of toolkits (May – Jul 2011)
  • Documentation of stories from participating students (Sep – Oct 2011)
  • Compilation of certificates and packages to acknowledge school participation (Nov 2011)
  • Organization of the traveling exhibition (Jan 2012)

The DFC Story by the Numbers: 


2011 (Expected)

# of Schools Targeted through Outreach



# of Participating Schools



# of Students Participating



# of Prizes

35 (5 prizes in 7 categories each)

About the TC-P Contributor: Hussain H. Bandukwala is a management and technology consultant who currently resides in Toronto, Canada. He has an avid interest in mobile technologies and their role in today’s world. You can follow Hussain on Twitter @parwaaz03)