Active Global Citizen

Sébastien Turbot

SDG #4 Quality education, and SDG #11 Sustainable cities and communities
Founder of eko6, an organization specializing in building living and learning ecosystems; and board member at Montreal International, an investment and promotion agency for the city of Montreal
Sébastien works closely with organisations and individuals who are truly disrupting teaching and learning; he advises and advocates about innovative and creative bottom-up approaches to solve top-down challenges facing education
Educators around the world, including myself, are willing and eager to try unconventional pedagogies in the classroom but our efforts would be futile without the support of parents, policymakers and the public. We will of course face failures but every mistake will only bring us closer to bridging the gaping gap between the education we have and the education we need.

Sébastien Turbot is the founder of eko6, an organization specializing in building living and learning ecosystems, and a board member at Montreal International, an investment and promotion agency for the city of Montreal. His career has taken him to the crossroads of international development, education and globalizing cities.

Formerly, Sébastien was the Executive Director at New Cities Foundation, looking at how cities can become more efficient learning spaces. As the curator and director of global programs at Qatar Foundation’s World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) he focused on the future of learning and education, looking at best practices for implementing a global citizenship curriculum. Prior to joining WISE, he spent nearly a decade in Afghanistan where he founded Sayara Strategies, a social communication agency running corporate communications and civic education campaigns, linked to the question of citizenship and what it means in a country like Afghanistan, in the post-war context.

“In everything I’ve done throughout my career, there’s always been a key question of building initiatives, content, and knowledge that work across borders and across cultures. There is always a need to find common ground and build inclusive platforms. I have seen firsthand how 21st century skills – communication, empathy, collaboration – are the skills needed by entire teams and ecosystems to define and build on the common ground,” says Sébastien.


What are the main challenges you have encountered throughout your very diverse career, related to advancing global citizenship?

People often say that education projects or city projects are great, but that their settings are too unique for these to work. I tend to disagree – we have much more in common than we think. Yes there are differences, but there are many more commonalities. My main challenge is onboarding people, showing them that we hear and understand their uniqueness, but demonstrating that they can still learn from others if they take the time to do so. It is a challenge that can easily be overcome.


What motivates and drives you to keep working leveraging global citizenship?

The challenges societies face are across borders and cultures. I am fortunate to be at this juncture where I can play a significant role in building common ground and global citizenship. There is still a lot of work to be done, on building a common understanding of global challenges and ways to tackle them. It is motivating to see that change can happen at the juncture of cultures. Even if it seems daunting, and many people still stay in silos – national or otherwise – change is possible and we need to keep up the fight. 


How should education systems keep evolving around the world?

We have an opportunity to shift from imparting knowledge of facts and make education more about “learning to do.” Experts agree that this is the right course of action. But some national systems are reluctant to move this way. Unfortunately, UNESCO has been talking about his for more than 20 years, but there is still space to integrate “learning to learn” and make education systems more holistic. 

Teachers should be our focus. They need training and trust to be able to implement and bring this new form of learning to life. Many teachers around the world are aware of this. But they lack the trust of bureaucracy and parents to move from “industrial revolution” type of education to the 21stcentury education. 


Why would you recommend attending the AFS Global Conference?

Montreal itself is a very interesting city, and a very good platform for the AFS Global Conference and its topic. The AFS Global Conference is important for finding common ground on global citizenship and how we will go about solving common challenges. Global citizenship is often seen as a “western” concept. More work has to be done on finding common ground on a truly global definition and curriculum for citizenship. The AFS Global Conference is a great opportunity to continue to push towards this. 

Connect and network with Sébastien 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