Empowering Sri Lanka’s next generation of Changemakers

DreamSpace Academy is a pioneering learning space that enables disadvantaged young people in Sri Lanka to address social and environmental challenges through a multidisciplinary STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) education. In doing so, they design their solutions in the form of financially sustainable impact ventures.
DreamSpace Academy

Sri Lanka, a nation marked by a prolonged civil war and recurrent natural disasters, has encountered substantial impediments in its employment, innovation, and education domains.

Compounded by a traditional education system rooted in colonial ideals, Sri Lanka’s learners face theoretical-heavy, irrelevant curricula that stifle creative and critical thinking as well as the development of problem-solving skills. The absence of quality education offerings, especially in underprivileged communities, exacerbates this problem, thwarting STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education in particular.

This led Aravinth Panch – who left Sri Lanka when he was just 13 years old due to the civil war – to eventually return and, together with co-founder Kishoth Navaretnarajah, start the DreamSpace Academy in Batticaloa, a town located in the formerly war-torn eastern province of the country.

Aravinth and Kishoth had a shared vision of creating a self-sustaining, advanced, and inclusive platform where young innovators from marginalized backgrounds could bring their dreams to life. This led to the creation of the “DreamSpace Lifecycle,” a personalized empowerment programme aimed at nurturing the next generation of changemakers and fostering the development of innovative social and ecological impact ventures across Sri Lanka.

Unlocking Potential: The DreamSpace Lifecycle Program

The DreamSpace Lifecycle Programme is an 18-month journey that reshapes young lives, guiding them from disadvantaged youth to aspiring changemakers and impactful entrepreneurs. The transformative process unfolds across five key stages:

  1. Changemaker Discovery“: The program commences with interdisciplinary workshops, identifying passionate individuals from marginalized, rural backgrounds who aspire to create positive change.
  2. Challenge-based Learning“: Once identified, participants embark on a journey of skill acquisition. They engage in labs spanning various disciplines, from photography to biotechnology.
  3. Grassroots Innovation“: Armed with specialized skills, the changemakers venture into their local communities for immersive research. This stage involves identifying pressing local challenges that they feel compelled to address.
  4. Domain Expertise“: Collaboration with international experts propels participants to refine their solutions further. By combining global insights with local knowhow & context, they develop solutions that bridge the gap between vision and execution.
  5. “Impact-Venture Building“: The program culminates in the development of sustainable impact ventures. Changemakers transition from concepts to reality, building tangible solutions that balance their social mission with financial viability.

Yalini Pushpakanthan’s story is one example of the powerful impact of the Lifecycle Programme. Hailing from the remote village of Kathiravely, Yalini’s journey began with the realization of her passion for Green Technology during the Changemaker Discovery phase. As part of the DreamSpace Lifecycle Programme, Yalini’s vision was nurtured, and her commitment to combating plastic pollution ignited.

In the Challenge-based Learning phase, Yalini’s expertise was cultivated through interdisciplinary exploration specializing in the Bio Lab. In the subsequent Grassroots Innovation phase, she embarked on a journey of research and innovation centering around the palmyra fruit that is frequently found in her village.

In the further stages of the program, DreamSpace Academy equipped her with a comprehensive, multidisciplinary skillset that merged life sciences, technology, entrepreneurship and environmental consciousness. This transformation culminated in “Kathira Greens,” Yalini’s impact venture. It is a manifestation of her dedication to combatting plastic pollution through the creation of sustainable packaging solutions derived from palmyra pulp.

The support of the knodel foundation enables 40 aspirational changemakers such as Yalini to go on their own transformative journey, create sustainable livelihoods while solving important social and ecological challenges, and ultimately contribute to a better Sri Lanka and a more sustainable world.