Case Study: Start the Change with Highland One World’s Change Makers

18th March 2020

Case Study: Start the Change with Highland One World's Change Makers

A Start the Change Group at Bridge of Don

In this case study, Highland One World discuss their Start the Change project, training and facilitating local ‘Changemakers’ to use creative means to raise awareness in the Scottish Highlands of climate refugeeism, and share their tips on working with youth and youth organisations.

Since 1992 Highland One World Global Learning Centre have supported schools in the Highlands and Islands to promote Global Citizenship and Learning for Sustainability through active and participatory learning. The services HOW provide aim to lighten the workload and increase the knowledge, skills and understanding of those we support by advising on embedding global citizenship and Learning for Sustainability across the Curriculum for Excellence. HOW offers Career Long Professional Learning (CLPL) training for individual teachers, whole schools and clusters, make available an extensive, free resource library, arrange networking events and deliver tailor-made support and ideas for schools.

In 2018, HOW established the Change Makers as part of the Europe-wide Start the Change project. Running for three years and with 15 partners, it was developed to help embed the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and issues of migration in both the formal and informal education sectors through schools and youth groups. The model was to inspire and inform educators through professional development opportunities across various subject areas so they could then support enthusiastic young people to create Change Maker groups able to take action locally but with a global impact.

Case Study: Start the Change with Highland One World's Change Makers 1

Changemakers at Lampedusa

Inspiring a creative response to a global issue

Lindsay Dunbar joined HOW in 2019 to establish nine change maker groups across the North of Scotland, with a mix from both schools and informal youth groups. As the Global Youth Officer this role oversaw the groups, supporting the change maker facilitators and maintaining engagement with the young people. The Facilitators came from a variety of backgrounds including theatre-makers, musicians, storytellers and activists. The balance of skills across the team meant they have been able to offer each other support and advice, share resources and ideas. Each Changemaker group had their own facilitator to support and develop their ideas, to link the learning about the SDGs to migration and the local issues which help to contextualise the project.

The starting point for many of the groups was to think about the SDGs and migration in a local context; considering what each of the SDGs mean to them and which matter most to their peers. In some localities, key areas for development included addressing issues of Quality Education (Goal 4), Reduced Inequalities (Goal 10), Responsible Consumption & Production (Goal 12) and Climate Action (Goal 13). They were then encouraged to create local engagement events to raise awareness and inspire action. Through these events the Change Makers connected with third sector organisations, especially those supporting New Scots in the region, and have expanded their own awareness of the links between migration and the SDGs. All nine Change Maker groups are coming together in May 2020 as part of the Europe-wide Start the Change Festival to share their call for action through music, film, discussions and workshops which they have developed over the year and a half of the project.

Examples of Change Makers’ work

Inverness High School

Case Study: Start the Change with Highland One World's Change Makers 5

Potatoes from Inverness High School

The Inverness High School Change Makers wanted to look at the positive impact of producing food locally. The school has its own farm producing apples, potatoes and fresh mint so they focused on how to use them and documented their journey through film. They began by approaching the school breakfast club asking them to use the apples and ensure pupils knew they had been grown in the school’s own farm. They then took to the streets of Inverness and gave away potatoes to anyone who made a climate action pledge. The Potato Pledge activity not only gave them the opportunity to talk to people about the steps they are taking to reduce food miles and waste, but helped them increase their confidence both as individuals and as a group. They also treated their teachers to Moroccan mint tea, all produced locally. The final stages involved bringing all these ideas together and sharing them. Working with local charity Highlands and Islands Migrants and Refugees Association (HIMRA), they developed a multi-cultural Burns Night and prepared food and drinks using their locally grown produce as well as sharing the cultural experience of a quintessential Scottish evening with New Scots.  Their film, documenting the learning journey, will be available online.

Culloden Academy

Case Study: Start the Change with Highland One World's Change Makers 4

Changemakers at Culloden Academy

Inspired by Global Book Day, the group at Culloden Academy developed a Global Reading Workshop for their local primary schools. They carefully selected books which challenged perceptions around migrants and refugees, such as My Name is Not Refugee and The Day War Came. They developed a workshop for P3 and P5 pupils, creating empathy through games like ‘What’s in your bag?’, where pupils decided which 5 items to take with them – pasta or a game controller? Sellotape or a teddy bear? Not only did the pupils have to make difficult decisions about what to take, they thought of many useful ideas for some of the objects. The group have repeated this workshop and developed resources for schools to use in the future, sharing the power of storytelling for empathy and action.

Fèis Rois

Case Study: Start the Change with Highland One World's Change Makers 3

The commemoration march at Lampedusa

A group of young traditional musicians came together through this local charity to explore the links between migration in the past and present, comparing the experience for Scots heading to Canada and Syrians heading to Europe. They worked with acclaimed musician John Somerville’s music from the Voyage of the Hector and performed at Eden Court Under Canvas last summer.

Their piper, Mitch Leslie, along with two other Change Makers, visited Lampedusa, a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean, the first point for many migrants coming to Europe. The visit marked the tragedy of 2013 when 368 migrants died, just 1 km from land. A tragedy that many in Scotland might compare to the Iolaire disaster, the loss was devasting for families from many countries, particularly Eritrea. On the day of the march that commemorated the incident, Mitch joined in and piped as they walked. The Italians were delighted, commenting on how the iconic Highland pipes represented our solidarity with Europe. He played ‘Flowers of the Forest’ as we reached Porta de Europe marking the end of the march. Mitch has composed a beautiful piece of music, ‘The Shores of Lampedusa’ about his experience. The group are currently rehearsing and will record later this year to share on Soundcloud, along with a short film about their experience on the island.

My Moving Story

Another element of the project has been to gather stories of migration from within local communities, giving others the opportunity to better understand the kinds of journeys people have been on and how they are living their lives now. The groups have gathered the stories of Syrians, Brazilians and South Africans so far and are speaking to more people to understand the diverse demographics in the North of Scotland. A huge learning process for them has been coming to understand how privileged they are, with one participant commenting that they complain about being at school all the time yet hearing from someone who was unable to attend school because of where she lived made them understand why the SDGs matter universally.

Case Study: Start the Change with Highland One World's Change Makers 2

A Lego Sustainable Development Goals making session

Learning from Youth-led Creative Activism

There is always a desire to create opportunities for young people’s voices to be heard and arts and culture are a powerful and accessible way of doing this. The ability to generate empathy around complex issues such as migration and the SDGs can result in a deep engagement with the public, which leads to change.

However, working with youth groups, especially those within schools, can be challenging and there are many pressures on our young people, from school itself to family, friends and life.

Some key observations, from the team include:

  • Work with a diverse group of young people. Seeing how they each approach a task in their own unique way and then have the ability to listen to each other and forge a way ahead as a team has been a fascinating and most fulfilling process.
  • It’s important to gently learn what they really know about a topic and where they get their information.  Then build from there, encouraging them to test the reliability of sources.
  • The opportunities that Start The Change has brought about have helped make these global issues feel relevant to them and their lives and has been key in the development of their ideas.
  • The SDGs mean different things to different people and using playful and creative methods, such as Lego or games, to explore what everyone in the group feels is a priority for change helps them work together in a more meaningful way.

This has all been about context – what is happening locally and how does this relate to the global scale? Being aware of the rising sea water levels by 2050 in the Highlands and the number of people who will be displaced is one thing, seeing what will happen in South India by 2050 is another. This work has created a real understanding of our roles within a global society and how to create empathy with what is happening on the other side of the world.

In the North of Scotland we are in many ways far removed from the front lines of migration, yet we welcome New Scots every year and a new generation of young people want to find out more about them, play music with them, dance and share food. Their work has shown the power of understanding cultures through culture.

Images: Highland One World


#GreenArts Day: Wednesday 14th March 1Highland One World are a member of our Green Arts Initiative: a networked community of practice for Scottish cultural organisations committed to reducing their environmental impact. It is free to become part of the community, and there are lots of resources and case studies (like this one!) to support #GreenArts organisations. Take a look at our Green Arts Initiative page for more information.

Get info on news, opportunities & events by email

About Creative Carbon Scotland

We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

0131 529 7909

Supported by

Creative Scotland logo City of Edinburgh Council logo

A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network

Edinburgh Festival City logo Federation of Scottish Theatre logo Scottish Contemporary Art Network logo


Scottish Living Wage Accreditation Good Business Charter Accredited