Education Centre of Excellence

Integrating the Benefit Mindset and co-creative principles into the design, construction and operation of Nepal’s Education Centre of Excellence.

Image by Angelica Rojas, incluDesign

One of the exciting projects I’ve recently had the privilege to be involved with is the Education Centre of Excellence, located in Purano Jhangajoli, Nepal.

The brief; how can we co-create a pulse of hope after the devastating earthquakes of 2015, which destroyed many of Purano Jhangajoli’s buildings, which included the villages local education centre.

Rather than intervening and rebuilding like for like, Friends of Nepal Association (FONA) wanted to reimagine what was possible.

FONA decided to use this development as an opportunity to facilitate courageous conversations about who the community was and who they wanted to become. FONA also use this process to reinvent themselves — exploring how they could best facilitate genuine co-creation.

The project is one of the first in the world to interweave the principles of a Benefit Mindset throughout its design, construction and operation. In this article, we explore 3 examples of how the Education Centre is bringing the Benefit Mindset and co-creative potential to life.

Collaborative design

“A key part of this work is to apply a Collaborative Design Process in a community with deep cultural, spiritual and environmental heritage to co-create the school in collaboration with its stakeholders — the children, teachers, parents and community.” — FONA

The design team’s aim was to ensure that every child, and community member had the opportunity to have their voice heard, illuminate their strengths and share their dreams for their school, village and their future.

One of the collective realisations that came out of this process was the strength of the local cultures environmental and agricultural values. They saw their culture living in partnership with the land. Their dream was for a building that not only expressed and celebrated these values, but also played a valuable role in strengthening and elevating them. This led to a design response that nourishes a range of mutually-beneficial partnerships between people and place.

The collaborative process also revealed several community concerns. One of these concerns was the increasing need for water security. This led to a design response that not only provided water security for the school, but also integrated capacity to service the wider community.

Co-construction

Considerations were also made for how to integrate the principles of co-creation into the construction process. How the construction of the Education Centre could catalyse community development.

More specifically, the devastating earthquakes created a desire for the community to develop their construction practices. A desire to remain true to their place based values and build buildings with improved earthquake resilience.

As a result, this buildings construction practices and material sections were carefully chosen to not only create an earthquake resilient education centre — but to do it in a way that uses local materials and draws on local expertise. This way, the construction process itself gives the community the opportunity to develop their construction practices — which in turn can be used throughout the village in innovative ways.

Community hub

Finally, the education centre is starting to formulate a model of education. Rather than imposing a western conception of education onto the centre, FONA is facilitating its co-creation from within the community.

The villages desire was to create a globally connected community hub. A place that celebrates lifelong learning and leadership for the whole village, not just its young people. A space where the community can celebrate their culture and address their challenges using a global perspective. A space that enables them to find their own way and create a healthy and resilient future.

Project reflections

“In this process, we have inspired the next generation to dream of new possibilities. By connecting the village to the world, we have created hope out of a tragedy and ripple effects beyond what I could have imagined.” — Amit Thapa, FONA

I recently spoke with Amit and Sarah of FONA, and they were saying that going through this process was not only helping the Purano Jhangajoli community discover who they wanted to become — it also helped FONA reinvent itself and find their way.

It’s a feeling that I certainly can resonate with. Working on this project has been deeply meaningful and transformative for everyone involved.

The Education Centre of Excellence is in its final stages of design, and is looking for support. If you would like to get involved, you can find out more here.