In 2022, as we reinvigorate our travel offerings and begin visiting new destinations, we understand that our social impact and sustainability efforts need to be strategic, deliberate, and coordinated. Challenges that once felt hyperlocal are being discussed on national and global levels, and we want to be part of moving the dial in the right direction. As IB Director-General, Olli-Pekka Heinonen, told us in a recent interview, “When you think about the students who will be doing their IB DPs in the next ten years and the challenges they will be looking at, all those major challenges will be global in nature. They are also challenges connected to the way we all as humans behave.”
Mr. Heinonen went on to explain that “you cannot solve these challenges just through leaders, scientists, or innovators. You have to include everybody in making that change.” This is the heart of social impact and also gets at how our sustainability policies need to be mobilized in a way that both supports communities directly while striving for larger global objectives. Indeed, issues like access to clean water, education for all, and environmental conservation are just a few of the problems that social impact initiatives, under the guidance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, are attempting to tackle. Thankfully, the increasingly vital discussion around social impact means that the people working to solve these challenges have more resources than ever before.
Conscious, systemic, sustainable
At CAS Trips, we are committed to advancing the agenda of a better world for all. In developing each of our trips, we ask how we can consciously, systemically, and sustainably serve a community or attempt to solve a local or global community need. While “sustainability” often refers to environmental sustainability, we understand that social and economic sustainability are also important. This commitment to sustainability means that we do our best to corporate with partners that are conscious of their impact on the environment, pay workers a living wage, and do not support harmful social policies.
Here we would like to look at some of the benefits this approach offers and the way we mobilize it in the places we visit.
How social impact benefits communities
Making a difference (even a very small one) in the world is always important.
A vital lesson of Service Learning is that no effort is too small, and sometimes the impact of our actions can generate benefits we may not have initially realized. The driving force of social impact is the intention and mindset behind it, and on our trips, we hope to show students how they can adapt and direct their efforts to make an impact in different situations.
Integrating UN SDGs such as Zero Hunger (2), Sustainable Cities and Communities (11), and Responsible Consumption and Production (12), among others—our charity Service Learning program in Prague includes planning, preparing, and cooking a meal for over 70 homeless people in cooperation with local charities. Having established the infrastructure to offer meals, our cooking challenge efforts have recently been redirected to help Ukrainian refugees arriving in the city. As part of an eye-opening and enriching school trip, the simple act of service allows students to see how they already possess many skills that can be used to make a difference.
When one component of society thrives, many other aspects are able to flourish.
We believe in helping students determine what is important to them, as we understand that this can lead to bigger and better changes. Our current project with Comuna 13 in Columbia, for example, is directed by the participants themselves and is intended to educate children in the area in themes and subjects that they feel are important.
At the moment, the focus is on IT and English. The participants work online with SDG 4, Quality Education, to bring valuable learning rescoures to the area for free. They also run educational tours in Comuna 13, a place that used to be among the most dangerous in Medellin but has been transfers through community projects into one its most vibrant communes. We include a reflection session at the end of the tour whereby the students can formulate an impactful reflection relating to the area. This can be a sense of community, hope for the future, or anything that resonates with them and can inspire their efforts going forward.
Social impact creates opportunities that are otherwise unavailable to certain members of a community.
The foundation of our social impact efforts is always to empower the communities we visit to establish lasting resources that will continue to offer benefits over time. Two of our recent projects that have helped improve community-wide resiliency are flood preparation awareness in the Red Hook district of New York and our work in Lisbon with Avó Veio Trabalhar, a project designed to nurture and develop individual talents, aspirations, and passions of older adults. In both cases, students support initiatives that empower the community members to generate their own inventive and impactful responses.
Social impact your way
As we continue to travel to an increasingly broad range of destinations and cultivate meaningful partnerships with local organizations, we believe that the best way for students to create social impact is to work on an issue they identify with.
By choosing the SDG that is most relevant to them, students can get excited about planning their efforts and commitment to achieving a tangible goal. As such, we keep our itineraries flexible and can tailor each of our trips to incorporate activities that resonate with the students in your classroom and help achieve current learning objectives.
Everything we do is customizable. We are constantly evolving, developing new partnerships, and adjusting our trips based on feedback from participants and the communities we visit—we understand that conscious efforts towards social impact take time and we are committed to providing value over the long term.