Students from schools in the ASEAN region came together recently at the Youths for SDGs Online ASEAN 2022 event to investigate the widespread issue of Health and Well-being in the era of COVID-19.
Groups identified several pressing issues under the topic of well-being by using the Sustainability Compass, a powerful systems thinking tool and framework by Compass Education. Here they recognised interconnections between their observations, facts, and burning questions. Each lens of the Sustainability Compass is made up of Nature, Economy, Well-Being, and Society. Observations were made about the economic pressures faced during COVID-19, and important questions were raised about governmental decisions leading to the division and separation of societies. Facts and figures were shared about teen suicide rates, patterns of addictive behaviours and environmental outcomes of lockdowns and world closures.
Happiness, addictions, and self-worth were key issues highlighted as problematic for well-being during COVID-19, requiring innovative solutions that go beyond traditional structures and quick fixes. It was inspiring and empowering to see students dig into the root causes of these issues and show their passion for finding a global solution. They explored a multitude of possibilities that challenged dispositions and stigma surrounding mental health, it was the authenticity and real-life context that brought the students’ work alive. With the whole world being somewhat affected by this issue, it was interesting to see how the Sustainability Compass was able to take students thinking from a right/wrong factual approach to an expansive, what if approach? Endless possibility and curiosity are attributes we long to see in our students as we aim to develop systems thinkers in this complex world.
The true beauty of the Sustainability Compass is being able to identify connections, see things through a different lens and plant seeds for new and innovative ways of thinking. Students were able to listen patiently to each other’s projects, digest this information and then critically apply it to their own ideas, innovations, and proposals. The biggest takeaway for me from this event was the collective unity of each group and how they were able to see interconnections and become invested in supporting each other to achieve a shared goal. Where societies can be deeply divided right now through the sharing of perspectives and beliefs, there is something special that unfolds when these perspectives are welcomed and shared for common humanity and the greater good. A seek to understand approach where taking care of our well-being is a priority as we aspire to take care of others.
Debates unfolded from the Sustainability Compass about the stigma and the sensitivity surrounding mental health, alongside the overwhelming pressures placed on professionals with a lack of resources. Students brought forward the idea of more peer support, safe space, and youth dialogue, I wonder what we as educators can learn from the new generation as they innovate, create and dream of spaces where they can thrive, connect, and help lift others up during these challenging times. What can we learn from others and how can we work together to best serve humanity? Some solutions from students included sustainable and purposeful food packages that support those in need and bring a smile to local communities. Transformative and Innovative dialogues through counselling platforms to support safe spaces and anonymity and finally digital platforms that connect mental health professionals to serve and give back to communities in need.
The Sustainability Compass can be a powerful tool to bring into the classroom, the Youths for SDGs Online ASEAN 2022 was an incredible event showcasing how this tool can expand our thinking, challenge our dispositions, and broaden perspectives. It is exciting to see what students from the Youths for SDGs will contribute to society. They are a powerful force who will serve humanity for the greater good.
Thank you for your hard work and insights.