Active Global Citizen

Jude Heaton

SDG #4 Quality education
Director of the Global Learning Lab at
Teach For All
Empowering classrooms and communities in some of the most challenging contexts and helping students grow as leaders to shape a better world
It is only when people and organizations lower the defensive barriers of their own interests, and are able to step into collective interest, that change really occurs

Jude Heaton is a director of Teach For All’s Global Learning Lab. Teach For All is a global network of organizations who are developing leadership skills and qualities in educators in their countries, aiming to address educational inequity. The Global Learning Lab’s main objective is to learn from classrooms and communities in some of the most challenging contexts that are helping students grow as leaders to shape a better world. Jude considers global citizenship to be crucial:

When I look across the issues that most concern me – educational inequity, economic injustice, the unfolding climate catastrophe – it is absolutely clear to me that these cannot be addressed by one country, or one set of organizations. It requires a global community. In fact, I think this is the first time in human history when global citizenship is a profound existential requirement.

The leadership of students is at the heart of this effort. It isn’t just a question of helping students develop their global competence, so they can create a better world tomorrow, but rather a question of recognizing that students can lead today. We are seeing more and more inspiring examples of students developing a deep sense of global solidarity, and this being at the vanguard of change. For example, we see that in the climate change movement.


How does your work help global citizens?

I’ve been spending a lot of time exploring the importance of “vision” in education, or what we collectively want to be true for students when they leave school. In particular, this means seeing the ways in which it’s vital to explore both the history of how education systems evolved into their current form, and who has had power in making the decisions that shape education policies. Across the globe, we’re seeing that communities who are doing some of the most extraordinary work in opening up the future for students are finding ways to deconstruct existing power relationships, and to open up space for diverse voices where they are heard and can take action.

A lot of my work involves identifying what these patterns are across countries, and finding ways to support the local roots of change, while also finding ways to share global trends within and beyond our network of partners in a way that grow this collective leadership in different places. By collective leadership we mean leadership that is collaborative and inspires leadership in others, rather than individuals acting on their own.


How does your work address the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

Throughout my career I’ve worked in media, policy and not-for-profit organizations. Along the way I’ve tried to deepen my understanding of what really leads to lasting, meaningful change. A couple of points have become pretty clear to me.

First, to quote Otto Scharmer—senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we need to shift our mindset to think in terms of eco-systems and not ego-systems. That is to say, it is only when people and organizations lower the defensive barriers of their own interests, and are able to step into collective interest, that change really occurs. Another way of putting this is that we need a different paradigm of leadership, which is less individual and ego-centric.

Second, without deep local roots change is only superficial. Or, worse, it ends up being a kind of well-intentioned imposition on a community, perpetuating patterns of inequity. That said, there are striking patterns across different communities, and an opportunity to connect people and organizations to fuel their work.

So what does all that mean for addressing the SDGs? I hope that our work at Teach For All is both helping to challenge the paradigm of development thinking, whilst also supporting the ground up change being led by remarkable communities across the globe. This is essential to achieve both SDG4 and, through that, the wider UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


Why would you recommend attending the AFS Global Conference?

There are many deeply troubling trends in our world – climate catastrophe, inequality, political polarization. The AFS Global Conference is a unique space for people from divergent places and sectors to come together to find a path towards the type of global awareness that will be vital if we are to navigate these treacherous waters.

Connect and network with Jude as well as other Active Global Citizens and leading 21st century education stakeholders at the AFS Global Conference: Active Global Citizenship—and How to Educate for It, 9-11 October in Montreal.   

Register for the AFS Global Conference