Case Study: Career Building for Changemakers: How the Challenge Cards and Mindset are Helping to Shape Change in the World

JP Michel


“Today’s students want to see pathways to futures where they can contribute towards sustainability, equity and decolonization. In a time when so many students want to build a better world, it just makes sense to be equipping them with more tools for changemaking. The challenge cards help with that, and it’s my hope that one day this type of career education might be embedded into every student’s degree – regardless of what you study.”

Jill Eddy is the Changemaker Careers Lead and a Faculty of Environment Career Liaison with Simon Fraser University Career and Volunteer Services. She is also a member of SFU’s Climate Literacy Education and Skills Working Group.

Tools for Change

Jill’s primary challenge was to build programming that could support students in all areas of study to become changemakers.

In her role, Jill frequently meets students who express deep concerns about the state of the world and the big challenges we face today such as inequity, mental health and the climate crisis. However, she noticed that while students want to make a difference, they don’t always know how they could use their degree, what role they could play, or how to move forward. Jill wondered, “What if students had more tools to create change, however big or small, in their homes, schools, and communities? And how might we support them?”

She believed that a key to empowering potential changemakers was a focus on both mindset and skills. Mindset is about realizing their potential to shape the world around them, and skills for changemaking include systems thinking, design thinking and collaboration. This is where SparkPath’s Challenge mindset and Challenge Cards became an obvious choice for Jill, as the tools were beautifully aligned to both mindset and skills. 

Innovative Program

Jill completed training in social innovation, where she learned tools for developing creative solutions to the complex issues we face today. This training inspired the development of SFU’s Career Ready Changemaker Program, which is one of the first of its kind in Canada. 

The program aims to help students tap into their radical imaginations and enhance their capacities to create the futures they want to build. Students receive a Certificate of Program Completion and also earn recognition on their Co-Curricular Record, an official university document that helps them demonstrate the value of their experiences outside the classroom. These tangible credentials can enhance the students applications for graduate school or job search.

As part of the Career Ready Changemaker program, students explore the problems they want to work on, and the ways they can leverage their strengths, education and experiences to contribute to solutions. Over seventy students from across all faculties signed up for the initial cohort. The potential for this type of career programming became evident, with students from all degree areas reporting it “increased their capacity to create change on the social and environmental issues they care about”.

The foundation of the program is a workshop called, “Career-Building for Changemakers: 10 Strategies for Shaping Change”. In this workshop, Jill introduces concepts such as “collective power” to demonstrate what happens when you collaborate with others to solve complex issues, and the Challenge mindset as a new lens through which the students could see themselves.  

“Aspiring changemakers often struggle with seeing a career path that encapsulates job titles and their desire to do social good, so leveraging the Challenge Cards and mindset as part of the workshop was incredibly useful”, shares Jill Eddy.

In the workshop, Jill teaches students how to identify their strengths, clarify what matters most, identify real-world challenges, figure out how to participate in those challenges, envision possible futures, center equity and decolonizing practices, build connections, develop skills and connect into supports.

In the Identify Real-World Challenges part of the workshop, Jill uses SparkPath’s Challenge Cards as a facilitation tool. She asks the students to pick their top three Challenge Cards in a five to six-minute card sort exercise, and invites students to trust their instincts without getting stuck on job titles. To support this part of the workshop, students are encouraged to download and check out their Challenge Profile Guide.

From here, students are asked a series of reflective questions, including*:

  • What gets you angry about the state of the world?
  • What breaks your heart?
  • What do you want to dismantle or have less of in the world?
  • What gives you hope about the state of the world?
  • What kind of good are you hoping to position yourself to do in the world?
  • What do you want to build or have more of in the world?

*Activity adapted from Groundswell Alternative Business School​ “Leadership for Social Change” course and Questions inspired by Thomas Leischner, Student Engagement Coordinator, SFU Faculty of Science

Then, students are invited to design possible lives by creating their own Challenge Cards. They draw three Challenge Cards, each representing a possible future life, an activity adapted from Designing Your Life. The prompts encourage students to think about what they most want to do, what they would do if the first option were gone, and what they would do if they could do anything.

Students leverage their Challenge Cards to clarify what matters most to them and write mission statements for their next steps as changemakers. This sets them up for the rest of the program, where they apply career building strategies to move towards their desired futures. 

Inspiring the Next Generation

Jill and JP Michel presented together at Cannexus22 on the topic: Shaping Careers, Changing the World: Elevating Your Impact. “Jill and I share a mutual vision for a world where young people are empowered to change the world.” 

At Simon Fraser University, Jill is undergoing a social innovation project aiming to support 30,000 potential changemakers. The Challenge Cards and mindset are unique tools that make this happen. By creating more changemakers and inspiring the next generation to do good, advisors like Jill ensure we are building towards a brighter future.

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