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YouthActionNet Blog

Designing 21st Century Higher Education

Miriam Reyes Oliva | July 7, 2014

With my first social impact venture, Aprendices Visuales, it took me one year to finally decide to take action on my idea, three years to make it sustainable, and two more years to discover that my real passion was not just in providing books for autistic children, but in solving the world’s many problems with creativity and innovation. Now, in everything I do, I try to achieve a positive impact on the world—but I'm worried. There are so many things to change and I don't have enough time for all of them! I began thinking—the world needs a bigger tribe of changemakers.

I thought, what if I could share my experiences with others and help them on their path to finding meaning in a career? Could I help my peers discover their passion and build social impact ventures? How far might the impact be multiplied?

Along with a group of bold, likeminded peers, I started investigating the Knowmads education model which launched in the Netherlands in 2010. The model flips traditional university education completely—education decisions are made by students, and experiential learning and experimentation is encouraged. The model has been implemented successfully in the Netherlands and Vietnam, and my team believes that there are many people in our home country of Spain who are searching for this type of transformational education experience.

Earlier this year, we co-founded Knowmads Business School Sevilla and are working to have the first Tribe in Spain begin their journey in September. According to John Moravec, author of The Knowmads Society, a Knowmad is “a nomadic knowledge worker, a creative, imaginative and innovative person who can work with almost anyone, anytime and anyplace.” With a one-year entrepreneurial education, we seek to teach young, creative, entrepreneurial spirits to find their passion and use it to build a social impact venture.

I would have loved to study in a place like Knowmads!

Here in southern Spain, there are few opportunities for young social entrepreneurs to find their way, to develop their passion, and to meet other young people with similar concerns. Knowmads is a platform where people can connect to other local changemakers and those from all around the world to learn from one another.

We are in the 21st century, but education has not been updated to meet the needs of our changing world. We need to give young people the tools to develop their full potential. We need to prepare them to function in a changing and unpredictable world—a world that is in dire need of enthusiastic, knowledgeable people to develop solutions for modern challenges.

We think Knowmads is the perfect complementary education for those who want to make a positive impact in the world and take leadership over their own education. At Knowmads, there is no fixed program and we don't offer a diploma. Instead, everything is about learning. Real learning. Students design their own program based on self-identified learning needs, they  work hands-on in real projects with our business partners, and even decide how they use the money they pay to study.

Some people call it alternative education. Maybe it is 21st century education. Know yourself; find your own rhythm; design your life and future; learn how to be an autodidact; be authentic. Discover how your lifelong learning will make a positive impact in your community.

Through my experiences with the Laureate Global Fellowship and Premios UEM, YouthActionNet’s program in Spain, I have seen firsthand that every person can achieve the impossible if we have the tools we need for action.  The world needs more changemakers, so won’t you consider applying to Knowmads Sevilla? Learn more here.


Miriam Reyes is the founder of Aprendices Visuales where she develops print and online educational materials for children with autism. She was a recipient of the 2013 Laureate Global Fellowship and in 2011 was awarded the Young Social Entrepreneurs Prize from Universidad Europea, a member of the YouthActionNet® Global Network.