A catalyst for social visionaries

kanthari in Kerala, South India, is an international institute for "Social Impact Leadership." What makes it unique is that all course participants were or are themselves confronted with the problems they want to solve. Here, former child soldiers develop ideas on how they can contribute to peacebuilding in their home countries. Former drug addicts and victims of domestic or sexual violence are working on initiatives to save their fellow human beings from a similar fate. Other participants have experienced the effects of climate change first-hand and are developing measures for a sustainable life in their local communities.

How can I change from being a passive recipient of aid and victim of external circumstances to actively designing my own future? People who are directly affected by poverty, exploitation, marginalisation and other societal issues often have the best understanding, unwavering commitment and skills to free themselves and others from these situations. However, what they lack is a platform for personal growth and skills enhancement in order to implement their ideas on the ground.

This is precisely where kanthari comes in: The institute equips its learners from all over the world with the techniques, tools, methods, and refined ideas they need to establish and sustain effective initiatives for a better world.

The co-founder of kanthari, Sabriye Tenberken, is herself the perfect example of how individuals facing diverse challenges can achieve a great impact through their own experiences and become passionate advocates for their fellow human beings.

Sabriye completely lost her vision at the age of twelve. Her love for Tibet and her desire to learn led her to develop the Tibetan Braille script in 1992. In 1997, Sabriye traveled alone to Tibet to explore the possibility of establishing a school for the blind. There, she met Dutch engineer Paul Kronenberg. Together, in 1998, they started a preparatory primary school for blind children, a medical massage training clinic for blind teenagers and adults, a Braille printing press, and an ecological training farm. The farm provided education not only in agricultural professions but also in areas such as cheese-making, baking, and carpet weaving.

Sabriye Tenberken and Paul Kronenberg

In 2005, Sabriye and Paul established kanthari to empower social visionaries who, like themselves, are driven by the passion to make the world a better place through taking concrete action.

Learning to change the world

Since 2009, a total of 280 Changemakers from 55 countries have been trained at the kanthari Institute. Most important for the participants is to have a clear ambition and vision for social and ecological change – school and college degrees play no crucial role in selecting the right candidates. All that the “kantharis” need in terms of formal qualifications is to have a command of English and basic computer skills. What matters is their openness to new approaches and seeing kanthari as a platform to make their final step for starting their initiatives or as a catalyst for already ongoing projects.

The twelve-month program is funded through scholarships, with seven months of it taking place on the beautiful green kanthari campus in Trivandrum. The participants are trained by international mentors in practical workshops to become leaders for social and ecological change. Through innovative learning modules like “Tansalesea,” a fictional country, the projects of the kantharis are thoroughly examined at every stage. For example. they must defend themselves and their initiatives before a critical audience and answer questions from fictional donors. This prepares them as best as possible for the challenges of the real world.

As a result, over 180 sustainable initiatives have already emerged, positively impacting the lives of more than 50,000 people every day. The kantharis advocate for minority rights or environmental protection, establish social enterprises, provide relevant education for their fellow human beings, invent sustainable products that simplify the lives of people with disabilities, or use art as a means to promote peace. At kanthari, one can learn to change the world.