Enabling learning through play: Innovation Award

Colombian children’s playful journey to create the most beautiful community in the world

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`Children picking up plastic waste from the side of the road to generate income.
Making their environment beautiful - children reduce environmental contamination by collecting plastic lids. The lids are exchanged for school supplies, and transformed into keyrings that are sold at fairs.

Biblioteca de la Creatividad (Library of Creativity) in Colombia takes children on a playful journey that inspires them with a spirit of entrepreneurship and gives them the skills needed to create and implement sustainable solutions to challenges faced in their community.

The library serves Ciudad Bolivar, a rural area in the south of Colombia's capital city, Bogota, where generations of children have grown up in poverty. The library designed the ‘Doers Programme: Leaders and Entrepreneurs of Change’, to arouse children’s interest in tackling social problems through service. 

The ‘Doers’, who are children and teenagers aged from 7 to 18, learn through play. Their journey starts with reading a book, ‘The most beautiful country in the world’, which is a travel story filled with fantasy and adventure, written by David Sancheds Juliao. 

After reading, the 'Doers' role-play ways of creating beautiful environments. They then identify real problems in their area, and in the library’s makerspace develop creative projects that they implement to make their own environment the most beautiful in the world. Each project appoints a leader who develops strategies to resource, implement and sustain the projects. 

The library encourages participants to follow their own talents, passions and interests. As different phases of the programme are completed, they receive rewards, like educational outings, joining the library’s magic or robotics groups, or sports training. 

Breaking the cycle of poverty

On their journey, the young ‘Doers’ develop social and technical skills. They learn how to work in teams, experiment, create and innovate. They discover their own tastes and interests, to help build their careers. Between 2020 and 2022, 120 children and teenagers from Ciudad Bolivar joined the programme. So far, 60 have graduated from the programme.

“Almost all of the graduates completed their school studies, and 40 are now studying at university. They have the possibility to become the first professionals in their families, potentially breaking the cycle of poverty that slows progress in the community,” said Iván Eduardo Triana Bohórquez, head of the library. 

Three of the 10 projects created by the children have become businesses and are now being led by ‘Doers Programme’ graduates. 

Sentido Guabal, is a venture that makes a product representing the most beautiful locality in the world - strawberry jam using locally grown strawberries. The profits from the sale of the jam are used to finance the university studies of young graduates of the ‘Doers Programme’. 

Ultreia aims to make the entrepreneurial side of the community visible online. It is a small business offering digital strategies to help social initiatives and local businesses to market their services and products online.

SUA is a venture that helps reduce environmental contamination and generate income. Children collect plastic lids and exchange them for school supplies that are donated by companies. The plastic is transformed into keyrings that are sold at fairs and to tourists.

The 60 currently active children are extremely busy. They are leading reforestation campaigns, feeding abandoned dogs, helping with construction of a new building for the Library of Creativity, promoting tourism, painting murals and recovering and improving public spaces.

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