Taking the long view: Sustainability for global citizenship transformation

LeeAnne Lavender, Inspire Citizens Storyteller


Many educators and leaders in international schools around the globe recognize the value and urgency of global citizenship education (GCE) and the need to empower PreK-12 students to engage in authentic community engagement and active local and global citizenship.


To this end, many educators use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help students understand the most pressing issues of our time and to pursue individual and collective pathways to sustainability. Educators may also prioritize social and emotional learning (SEL), diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), and service learning or community engagement to offer students opportunities to think, learn and act as informed and reflective citizens. Leaders may seek strategic plans and outcomes that support student learner outcomes (SLOs) that feature global citizenship, and parents may choose schools that offer these types of authentic and meaningful learning experiences.


There is a growing awareness amongst international educators that this approach to educating students is foundational and critical for engagement, learning and the transfer of knowledge and skills to practical and identified needs in our local and global communities.


This leaves many educators asking the question “how”? How can I redesign my curriculum to help students learn about the world in inclusive and multi-layered ways? How can I change my assessment practices to offer more innovative and holistic ways of assessing student learning? How can my school create a more cohesive and purposeful approach to GCE?


Inspire Citizens co-founder Aaron Moniz has channeled these questions into an overarching one: “how to global citizen?” And he and the Inspire Citizens team spent years building models and tools to help educators answer that big question.



In working with dozens of international schools, Aaron has noticed several key ingredients that can propel a school forward in its goals related to active global citizenship. Many of these ingredients involve taking a long view of curricular and cultural transformation, and a long view ensures sustainability so active global citizenship becomes and remains a vital part of each learner’s experience. As schools employ a whole-school blueprint for active global citizenship, long term thinking is the key to sustainability both in developing the program and culture, and in equipping students to think in a long-term way about a positive and sustainable future, as well.


“Creating a whole school blueprint for schools has been creative and energizing,” says Aaron. “As we have worked with many leaders and groups of teachers, we have gathered compelling evidence that shows a cohesive plan with multiple stakeholders in the community is key.”


This approach resonates with ideas in Roman Krznaric’s book The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World. Krznaric says “By making wise—and long—choices as we emerge from this crisis, we could well become the good ancestors that future generations deserve.”


Aaron has some top tips for school leaders and classroom educators who want to offer more opportunities for students to experience PreK-12 active global citizenship, and this list of his top 9 ideas is a great way to start ideating about how your school can embrace a holistic vision for active global citizenship: :


#1: Articulate a clear plan



Articulating a multi-year approach for pursuing and implementing global citizenship education (GCE) is essential. A 3- or 5-year plan can create clear goals and outcomes for everyone, and this clarity can help everyone become committed to GCE as a way to connect curriculum to tangible local and global issues and as a way to empower students to be informed and positive changemakers. A good plan should include supportive and long-term implementation strategies such as:

  • check-ins with leaders and teams
  • defined and clear roles and partnerships (such as which coach or coordinator will meet with specific teams during planning blocks to embed resources, tools and strategies)
  • thoughtful reflection opportunities for students and educators.


#2: Think local



Hiring experienced and passionate local educators and staff members can ensure sustainability and authentic community connections. Local hires tend to stay longer at international schools and bring a more nuanced and whole perspective to the team.


“At COJOWA, where there is deep and impactful global citizenship taking place, a key person creating that momentum is Jessica, the community liaison officer,” says Aaron. “When Jessica came on board, she was able to connect teachers with valuable community partners and she was able to work with Spanish-speaking educators and staff to bridge language barriers. Now that she has worked with us to learn about global citizenship education, implementation in the curriculum, and community engagement, she is able to facilitate ongoing professional learning with the COJOWA team. Her role and her passion for the work has created deep change at COJOWA in a short period of time.”


Aaron values local voices, and feels it is essential to honour and respect local and indigenous perspectives and ways of thinking and being. Inviting local educators and staff into learning experiences with students is an effective way of encouraging students to be open-minded, curious and aware.


The Inspire Citizens Empathy to Impact enhanced curriculum design approach frames the learning journey for teachers and students around the four stages: care, aware, able and impact. When we bring local voices into the center of learning experiences, students can care about the perspectives and lived experiences of others, and become much more aware of the complexities and diversity of local and global issues.


#3: Create positions for GCE leadership



Creating space and resources (financial and otherwise) for jobs that support GCE is a way to ensure teachers will be supported and students will have access to relevant learning experiences. The types of positions most aligned with GCE include:


  • Sustainability coordinator
  • Service learning or community engagement coordinator
  • Global citizenship coordinator
  • Community liaison


“If you know you want your community partnerships to be more reciprocal, hire someone with a background in development work and building partnerships,” says Aaron. “If you put an educator with no training into that kind of position, it can be challenging. It’s key to hire someone who knows how to do that work, or who is passionate and can be equipped quickly to do the work well.”


#4: Prioritize sustainable partnerships


Some schools engage in multiple community partnerships across grade levels and the curricular/co-curricular realms, and this can sometimes lead to a more shallow or tokenistic approach to GCE. Ideally, your partnerships should be deep, sustainable, inclusive and reciprocal. While this takes work and time, it means that your school will engage in meaningful and authentic learning and service, and that your students will have the opportunity to work alongside community partners for multiple years.


“Break down the number of your partnerships and go for depth over time with more connections between grade levels,” says Aaron. “For example, maybe you have grade 11 students complete a needs analysis with a partner, and build the foundation of a new partnership. Grade 12 students can then prototype action plans and share these with the community partner as well as pitch the strongest prototypes to tenth graders so they can take up the torch when they get to grade 11. Prioritizing long-term thinking and action and building organizational capacity across grade levels is powerful.”


In terms of taking the long view, community engagement is an essential area for deep, sustainable impact.


#5: Collect data and evidence


“You can do all kinds of service and global citizenship work, but if students can’t articulate what they learned and the impact they generated, they just performed those tasks and they didn’t internalize the experience,” says Aaron.


He recommends collecting assessment and reflection data from all service learning and GCE experiences so teachers and students can evaluate changes in mindsets and community impact. This not only creates a picture of growth and transformation but also allows leaders and educators to continuously adjust approaches to teaching and learning to maximize the impact for students and community partners.


Data can be collected in a variety of ways, including assessments (formative and summative), formal and informal reflections (written, visual, oral), surveys and interviews.


#6: Create frequent opportunities to work with parents


Parents in our communities are an incredible resource. They work in jobs and fields that can be incredibly valuable for our service learning and GCE experiences. They have local and global connections that can put us in touch with knowledgeable and inspiring people, and they tend to care deeply about our schools because their children are in our care.


“There are so many people who want to contribute to their kids’ learning and to the experiences of all students in our schools,” says Aaron. “When you find the right parent, this isn’t an extra task we’re asking them to take on; they want to participate.”


Aaron recommends organizing multiple parent events each year and creating a parent group or committee related to service and GCE. You could also survey your parents each year so you know the types of positions and jobs and interests represented in your parent body.


#7: Offer mission “refreshers” on a regular basis


International school teachers move around, and each year we have new educators joining our teams. Aaron recommends introducing new hires to your school mission and to your GCE plan early, even including it as part of your onboarding process and orientation.


“If you build the system, it can sustain itself,” says Aaron. “You need to think about the capacity of new staff in terms of their skill as global citizenship educators, and the onboarding process is key for helping new staff understand your school’s priorities, approaches and tools in this area.”


If you offer mission “refresher” workshops for new and returning staff, you can highlight key language, examples and outcomes related to active global citizenship and community engagement. When your team is reminded of your reciprocal community partnerships and foundational GCE learning experiences, you can maintain and grow momentum over time.


#8: Think across disciplines


Supporting interdisciplinary learning experiences for students of all age groups can provide holistic and inclusive ways of learning. It’s a natural fit for English and social studies teachers to work together in creating interdisciplinary experiences. Bringing other core and elective teachers into the mix can also create innovative and connected experiences for students.


You can use time at regular staff meetings or orientation sessions at the start of each semester or year to create common planning windows or ideation sessions. Some interdisciplinary teams may be given common planning time throughout the year. This will look different at every school, and being purposeful about planning GCE initiatives across the curriculum helps students see the connected nature of their learning as well as the connected nature of local and global issues.


#9: Engage with an accountability partner


To create a plan and ensure its implementation over time, it can be valuable to engage with an accountability partner like Inspire Citizens. Working with an outside organization can inspire your team, provide valuable professional learning and equip your team members with the knowledge and passion necessary to continue learning and acting in alignment with your GCE goals.


These top nine tips from Aaron provide entry points for all school teams to evaluate and consider their global citizenship priorities and learning experiences across the PreK-12 spectrum.


If you’re interested in learning more about how to foster sustainable ways of designing global citizenship education at your school, please schedule a discovery call with an Inspire Citizens facilitator and check out more tools on the Inspire Citizens website.


More links from Inspire Citizens:


Global Citizenship Self-Discovery Tool


Whole School Roadmap for Global Citizenship

(Aaron, this page needs an update on the website; it says this is “coming in October 2022”)


Inspire Citizens Vignettes: Stories from Schools Engaged with Whole-School Global Citizenship


Empathy to Impact Design Sprint


Changemaker Action Plan for students


LeeAnne Lavender is a storyteller for Inspire Citizens, and she is also an educational consultant, coach and facilitator for international educators. She specializes in storytelling, digital storytelling, service learning and global citizenship (and all of the powerful intersections that exist in these realms!).

A recipe for whole school transformation towards active global citizenship

LeeAnne Lavender, Inspire Citizens Storyteller


The word “transformation” has energy and power, doesn’t it? The idea of radical change and positive metamorphosis is compelling and, when paired with creating opportunities for students to engage in authentic changemaking, can inspire and empower all educators.


Inspire Citizens co-founder Aaron Moniz and all Inspire Citizens facilitators spend a lot of time thinking about transformation in the context of schools. Their goal? Redesigning teaching and learning to kickstart and sustain active global citizenship for all learners. By making everyday teaching and learning relevant and meaningful in relation to local and global issues, Aaron and the team help educators and learners experience a deep transformation.


“We are really committed to this work,” says Aaron. “When we founded Inspire Citizens in 2018, we wanted to use our many years of classroom experience and passion for changemaking to impact as many schools and classrooms as possible so students feel equipped to lead the positive change we need in our world.”


Aaron and late co-founder Steve Sostak developed a four-step recipe for schools to build cohesive curriculum that can activate PreK-12 global citizens. In partnership with schools, Aaron and the team help educators experience these four stages in a way that makes sense and allows them to tap into their own deep desires to help students understand the world in all of its complexity, beauty and potential.


Step 1:  Mission and Vision Articulation



Most international schools have a mission statement that involves some component of global citizenship, service and/or global-mindedness. To begin a process of whole school transformation, this is where the Inspire Citizens recipe gets started: identifying the parts of your school mission related to global citizenship or designing a new mission statement if it’s time to update this core guiding statement.


The mission statement for a school invested in global citizenship should point towards:

  • desired learning outcomes related to engaged global citizenship
  • evidence that can be collected about growth towards those outcomes
  • tools, resources and approaches based on an understanding of global citizenship that grows out of the mission


“It’s essential to be clear and consistent about this so every stakeholder in the school knows what this means and how to do it,” says Aaron. “One of the biggest struggles for schools is how to achieve the mission for global citizenship with no guidance. You need to have a road map based on defining global citizenship for your school with clear targets so teachers and students know where they’re going.”


Step 2: An Integrative Approach



International schools are busy places, and achieving transformation related to global citizenship curriculum means approaching change in an integrative – not additive – way.


“Look at what you’re already doing with curriculum, instruction, professional growth and systems for assessment; from there, successful global citizenship programming needs to be holistic, not something separate,” explains Aaron.


When global citizenship becomes the foundation of a school’s strategic plan, educators can see multiple entry points for curriculum design and experiential learning that can serve to develop and foster core areas (like literacy, numeracy, digital and global competencies, social and emotional learning, DEIJ/B, and sustainability).


During this stage of an all-school transformative global citizenship experience, Aaron and the team guide and coach teachers through curriculum design and redesign. They also share approaches, resources and strategies to help busy teachers reframe curriculum in efficient, effective and sustainable ways.


Step 3: Build capacity for sustainable outcomes



Programming and curriculum development at international schools can sometimes feel like there’s a revolving door of new initiatives and goals. Aaron says it’s key to have an implementation plan for transformative global citizenship education so schools can weather shifts and maintain focus.


“You have to look at how you’re building capacity so the work sustains over time,” he reflects. “Every human organization is dynamic and you have to build flexible and responsive systems to sustain the work.”


To do that, Aaron recommends:

  • Ensuring professional development opportunities for teachers so there is widespread clarity what global citizenship education (GCE) looks like.
  • Celebrating successes and creating a culture that deeply values the impact of GCE.
  • Evaluating leadership structures so change can be championed and managed over a number of years.
  • Creating accountability systems so it’s clear who is responsible for specific targets and goals.
  • Coaching the coaches or training the coordinators so that they can carry on the work in the absence of the consultant.
  • Having a scheduled roll out/sharing protocol, starting with the school’s global citizenship champions as a pilot team, and eventually involving students, parents, and community stakeholders. With a purposeful roll-out, you can focus on deep work with specific teams during a specified time period and give others time to observe and understand what the pilot team is experiencing; this helps others get excited about their turn in participating in the next pilot team.
  • Sharing conversations and dialogue about GCE so educators and students can learn, grow and develop ideas, approaches and mindsets as well as share common language about global citizenship.


Step 4: Reflect and Grow



When you have teachers guiding students towards everyday teaching and learning tasks and assessments that are based on the development of GCE skill sets, it’s key to evaluate the evidence of the learning that is taking place. Reflection is vital and rich in this stage.


“When teachers have collaborative planning opportunities, access to new teaching and learning tools, and support from instructional coaches and middle leaders, they can experience immense success equipping students to connect content with local and global assets and needs,” says Aaron. “Once they’ve had a chance to reflect on a unit and the learning that occurred, it’s good to run a unit back through steps 1 – 3 so teachers become more experienced and confident. That’s how teachers – and schools as a whole – go from working with a coach to being self-directed over time.”


The whole school model


In the work that Inspire Citizens does with schools around the world, there are multiple examples of transformative all-school approaches for active global citizenship. From COJOWA in Cartagena, Colombia to the AES (American Embassy School) of New Delhi and Seoul Foreign School in South Korea, the Inspire Citizens team has served as an accountability partner for multi-year transformation plans that have radically shifted teaching and learning. Just this past year, the International School of Kigali brought Aaron in to begin the process at their small school, and innovative learning experiences are already emerging.


“It looks different in each school,” says Aaron. “Many schools will begin by creating pilot teams and equipping those teams to redesign curriculum with a focus on active global citizenship and community engagement. This shows the rest of the school what this can look like, and then others can be invited into the work through celebrating and sharing successes.”


As more and more teams come on board and get excited about student engagement and learning related to GCE, momentum grows and the school culture becomes deeply connected to the school’s mission. Once this happens, transformation has occurred and is sustainable because multiple stakeholders care deeply about maintaining and extending the work of changemaking.


“We love to work as an accountability partner for schools to make sure this process stays on track,” says Aaron. “Working with an organization like ours costs a fraction of what it would cost to hire a full-time staff member to take this on, and we ensure consistency and energy throughout the process. We love what we do, and it’s a privilege to help schools develop or realize their mission with students.”


To learn more about transformative whole-school approaches to active global citizenship, check out some of these Inspire Citizens vignettes that showcase what’s happening on specific campuses around the globe:


COJOWA in Cartagena, Colombia


AES in New Delhi, India


SFS in Seoul, South Korea


NIDO in Santiago, Chile


LeeAnne Lavender is a storyteller for Inspire Citizens, and she is also an educational consultant, coach and facilitator for international educators. She specializes in storytelling, digital storytelling, service learning and global citizenship (and all of the powerful intersections that exist in these realms!).