In 2011, the Swiss organization “Ideenbüro.ch” received the Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Prize for its “Children Helping Children Solve Problems ” project, which encourages children to take responsibility, learn to work together and view problems as a challenge.
The organization’s founder, Christiane Daepp, spoke with the Jacobs Foundation about how the project has changed since winning the prize and explained how schools can participate.
How did you come up with the idea for this project?
As a teacher, I was experiencing a major crisis in 2002. I was tired of students belittling each other, and of the constant fighting and bullying at my school. I had tried everything I could think of – class discussions, meetings with parents, bringing in outside counselors and experts. My energy was exhausted. Then, at the last moment, I had an idea: Why not get the older children involved? One fifth-grade class enthusiastically agreed to help. The students were proud to do their part – they came to school an hour early, devised a plan, and then put that plan into action. The results were immediate: less bullying, a willingness to compromise and a new sense of determination. The school once again became a cheerful place. The older students were so proud of their success that they wanted to expand their efforts to include all of the school’s younger children. The first Ideenbüro was born! The idea is to encourage children to take responsibility, learn to work together and view problems as a challenge.
How have things changed since you won the Jacobs Prize in 2011?
The prize has made more people aware of our project and provided encouragement for the ideenbüro.ch organization. The money has allowed us to launch additional projects, as well as to expand our core activities and take a more professional approach. We were able to develop a system of multipliers, with four in four cantons (Aargau, Zurich, Bern and Solothurn). Since 2013, we have held approximately eight regional “Ideencafés” – idea cafes – per year, where Ideenbüro leaders, school social workers and other interested parties can meet to share their experiences and views.
Did the Best Practice Prize help to attract more schools to the Ideenbüro concept?
It raised awareness of our work beyond the borders of our home canton, and we started to receive more inquiries from the Zurich region and eastern Switzerland. As a result, we have had a multiplier in that region for the past three years. The number of Ideenbüros has also increased, from 40 in 2011 to more than 100 today. And our membership has doubled, from an initial level of 55 in 2011. Today there is even an international Ideenbüro – in Guadalajara, Mexico!
How have parents and children responded to the project?
Their response has been very positive! It is teachers who tend to have more reservations, since they worry that their workload may increase. Our experience has shown that this is not the case, however, and that the most important thing is have confidence in children’s capabilities. The children are proud of their contribution and very motivated, and they are eager to accept responsibility. Learning-impaired children, in particular, truly blossom when they realize that the Ideenbüro can learn from the difficulties they experience in school. No one is better able to empathize with others than a child who has experienced the same problems. So the project ultimately tends to reduce the burden on teachers rather than adding to it. We have also created a set of cards called “Thirty-Five Questions for Starting a Conversation With a Child,” which are geared particularly to parents and relevant agencies, but are also useful for teachers. They are distributed by the organization Elternbildung Schweiz (Education for Parents in Switzerland) – and I should note that we have the Jacobs Prize to thank for our connection with that organization. Because the cards have been so successful in helping us reach a wide variety of population groups, we are planning to create additional materials of this kind.
How can schools participate in the project?
Any school can be part of the Ideenbüro project. A presentation introducing the project takes between four and eight hours, and can be arranged through our multipliers at ideenbüro.ch. For more information go to our website and click on “Kontakt,” or send an email to us at email@example.com. You can also attend an Ideencafé in your region, where you will have the opportunity to ask questions. The dates and locations of these events can be found on our website.