Starting out in Amsterdam in 2010, Knowmads offers a programme centred on gaining an international, creative business education through ‘action learning in a team setting’. In 2013, the school opened its doors in Hanoi, in partnership with local NGO, the Centre for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS).
The programme is a nine-week course that challenges young people to create their own education and projects to produce positive and sustainable change in the world. Over nine weekends, the team of around a dozen students are presented with five questions making up the heart of the programme.
It’s What You Know
The original course, based in Amsterdam, lasted a full year and focussed heavily on business and marketing. This version however, has taken a different approach, with the emphasis being drawn more towards personal leadership.
The initial questions that students are posed with are a reflection of this: first, students overcome the simple yet often difficult question, Who am I? But the programme seeks to explore what kind of world students want to live in and what talents they possess to bring this to life, rather than to contemplate the nature of existence for nine weeks, leading into the second question: What do I want to contribute/change?
The Knowmads alumni, now six teams’ worth, have been busy bringing their desired contributions to life. Linh, an alumnus who now works with Knowmads, explains how many people who take the course leave with completely different perspectives to those they arrived with, citing one example of a student who wanted to go into business selling frozen bananas at the beginning of the course, and yet is now in charge of the idea-sharing initiative, TedX Ba Dinh.
Andre, another alumnus, hailing from Brazil, now also a Knowmads organiser, expands on this point, noting how many people who take the course look to start their own business after graduating, and most don’t feel they can return to the nine-to-five life.
“It opens doors that perhaps people didn’t realise were there,” he says. “I did Knowmads in Amsterdam, and if I hadn’t done it I’d probably still be in Brazil working a nine-to-five job in economics, rather than living in Vietnam.”
Alumnui Hailey, who entered the programme with a clear direction of what she wanted to achieve, set up Vegan Kitty Cat, a blog providing information on how to live a plant-based lifestyle.
“I already knew what I wanted to do, but Knowmads definitely gave me the courage to actually put my own name on it.”
The latter stage of the programme is focused on entrepreneurship, new business design, marketing and creativity. The sweet spot is getting students to think about how they’re going to bring their ideas into the real world.
Knowmads offers genuine skills enhancement that can be practically applied in everyday life, on top of an active alumni who keep in regular contact and support one another.
In addition to a nine-week course, Knowmads frequently hosts educational workshops on topics ranging from storytelling to personal values to film-making, all free to the public, and they’re currently experimenting with a light version of the main programme that lasts for three days.
Click on knowmads.vn for programme details, course fees and info
WORD VIETNAM // Photos by Sasha Arefieva