The Shortest History
The Doors of Knowmads opened in February 2010. 12 students signed up for a school with no accreditation, no curriculum, no building, no program. At that moment there was only a vision. A vision to bring in bright individuals looking to create their own job, business or living, and help co-design their own school as part of the process.
Now Knowmads has on average 25 students present per year and has over 100 alumni spread around the world, of whom to our current knowledge not one is, or at the least feels, unemployed. 

The Whole Damn History

There are those who see in the world, those who care about what they see and those who act upon it. This school is about those who act. Such people started the school and such people attend. Everyone mentioned in the story has seen that the dominating educational system in one or more ways fails. It fails to help our students to prepare for a future we don’t know yet, fails to see them as people, rather than future workers and fails to help them become builders of the better society we all know needs to happen. Like we see most educations train people to be compliant workers in stable organizations, whereas the world is changing very fast. Entrepreneurship has become essential in times of change. New visions for education, economy and society are desperately needed, together with young professional people who can navigate and develop their own paths through the chaos. Or as sir Ken Robinson said: “We need schools that prepare people for a future we don’t know yet.” Such schools and it’s (former) students may be essential for our collective future and our ability to adapt and influence the world around us in constructive ways. Such people made this story happen.

Perhaps it all started with one Thomas Heide in the late eighties, seeking to start a school that should become “a home for lost geniuses”, that later became KaosPilots. Perhaps it started when Uffe Elbæk grew KaosPilots to international fame during the nineties. Perhaps it started in 2004 when Floris Koot and Peter Linde organized a conference (Changing Paradigms) around chaos and complexity, with the secret mission to establish a school based on the best outcomes. This later became KaosPilots Netherlands set up by Peter Linde, Martin Cadee, Floris Koot and several others. Later Pieter Spinder joined as team coach. Then the story seemed to end when Peter Linde and Martin Cadee pulled the plug after two years when KaosPilots moved away from the exciting original open source collaboration towards top-down franchise concept aimed at controlling the brand and making money. Running a school outside the dominating system is a very trying thing to do. It was then, it is so now. Conviction may be all that you have. So perhaps Knowmads started when Pieter Spinder, was, a little berated, watching the Tour de France in 2009 and his son Jelte asked him: “Perhaps you should start your own school?” Perhaps it started on a boat in Rotterdam, one night later that summer when a group of entrepreneurs and educators sat together, trying to make sense of the situation after the break with KaosPilots. They wanted to combine their years of experience and experiment in creating the best possible education and dreamed of possibilities. Perhaps it started when Pieter Spinder, with his big hearted enthusiasm, formed a team of several former KaosPilots Netherlands students. Jord Hilstra brought his listening. Guus Wink his straightforwardness, Carianne Vermaak her intelligence, Alex Falk his doers mentality, Selma Steenhuysen her values. Added to this team were Tsila Piran who brought her wisdom, Floris Koot with his creativity, Pieter Kuipers who brought his marketing skills and Anna Pauzenga brought her apple pies.

It definitely had started when in February 2010 it opened its doors and the first students enrolled.

Everyone can tell you different tales when and how it started. Reality is complex and can’t offer straight up stories. Any attempt is actually bad education distorting how young people expect reality to be. In the end though we can see, Pieter lit the fire and a bunch of gifted people brought wood to make the fire bigger. Our first students came from all corners of the world: South Korea, USA, Brazil, Swiss, Germany and Netherlands.

After two months the first assignment came in: KLM had a challenge that they wanted the students to work on. Soon the second assignment followed for Royal Haskoning. Business assignments were mixed with incredible teachers and visitors, like TED speakers Itay Talgam and Seth Godin.

That doesn’t mean it was all well. KLM was not fully satisfied with the results, yet the asked the students back, because of their facilitation enthusiasm, something the wanted more of. The keeping the kitchen clean without staff paid to do so, is a constant struggle, and learning for the students.

Over 5 years later Knowmads is constantly changing. ‘We Educate Changemakers’. Everyone is involved, students and council, have an influence on the organizational set up, the program, the building and the direction we are heading to. Constantly balancing between a healthy balance of chaos and order.

 For among the ideas, the school is build upon, is the question: what would you need to learn to start your own business/job/projects? All the aspects needed, ranging from self development, self reflection, playfulness, guts, knowledge, networking, marketing, global insight, organizing skills, cooperation skills, etc, are all part of the program. Nothing is tested, or just educated. It’s all made part of the experience, with real life consequences and real life business partners that make clear what and what doesn’t work. And unlike tests at school, real world clients, projects & results, like with KLM, can be ambiguous too.

The recent 2015 crowd funding campaign was actually being run by our students. Not for points. For learning yes! And most of all, unlike too many other schools in the world, they care about this school being here. We hope you do too.

We love to see you here, not for nothing one of our slogans is “Welcome Home” especially all those most diverse of talents and gifted people, who couldn’t find their ‘home’ in education elsewhere. Welcome to the reality of the 21st century and the school that actually prepares you for it.

Are you curious how the story continued? Read more about us on our blog.