What are Knowmads and how did we start?
“The world is facing huge challenges, and they are growing daily in severity, scale, and complexity. It is no exaggeration to say that they are not going to go away. Indeed, they will get worse, unless we start to find solutions, and we find them soon. If we are going to survive, we desperately need the next generation to be smarter, more adaptable, and better prepared than any that has gone before. Our only chance is to improve the way we teach our young, to equip our young people with the skills and the attitudes that might steer this world of ours to a far safer place than at present looks likely. The question is: Is that what our current education system does?”
—from the film ‘’We Are the People We’ve Been Waiting For’’
What if we are the people we’ve been waiting for?
We think that would mean changing the game of education, helping young people to follow their passion and make things happen. Things that will bring smiles to their own faces and to the faces of the people they work with, while adding in beautiful and meaningful ways to the environment in which we live. We agree with creativity and education expert Sir Ken Robinson when he says that most schools kill creativity. And they kill independent thinking and the entrepreneurial spirit too. Demanding the “right” answers to tests does not encourage people to be adventurous in finding new ways to do things, or to question existing systems.
… and what is a Knowmad?
A Knowmad is a nomadic knowledge worker—a creative, imaginative, and innovative person who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere. And our program is a platform and school for such people. The concept of Knowmads was born in June 2009 out of the experiences of some colleagues who had worked in the field of education and were hoping to do something different—something more along the lines of the quote above. With combined experience in traditional education (University of Utrecht, Copenhagen Business School, and the University of Applied Science, Amsterdam) and in less-traditional programs (the KaosPilots “alternative” business school), we had some ideas about what that might be.
The word Knowmads was coined by John Moravec. He’s what you would call an education futurist and teaches at the University of Minnesota. He loved the idea of a school that was not based on a place or a building but was instead located wherever the student could and would like to contribute to a process or to a project.
Knowmads are international pioneers who want to challenge themselves and the (smaller or bigger) outside world. People who want to change the game. And our students do.
The Knowmads Business School started on the February 15, 2010, when 12 young people came to our first admission workshop in Amsterdam. They came from the US, Brazil, South Korea, Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands. They found us through our website, Facebook, Twitter, and informational meetings. They had to tell their friends and parents they were going to a school in Amsterdam for which they had to pay a tuition fee; that this school currently did not yet have a building or a clear program; that they wouldn’t receive a diploma, since the Knowmads Business School operates outside the Dutch education system.
They signed up for an idea, a dream, an adventure. They were exactly the kind of students we wanted.