ACT! as a Doughnut Project in Frankfurt

An innovate, non-formal education programme with Doughnut economics at the heart. These are it's outcomes in Germany!

2 years, 5 community projects and over 30 students later, we are closing our ‘ACT! as a Doughnut’ project, and what a ride it has been! We have come together to learn, connect, and grow, as students, teachers, social workers, and friends. The Growunited team, composing a small grassroots NGO based in Frankfurt, has been part of the Masterpeace family for 7 years, and engaged with Doughnut Economics for 2. We are grateful for the opportunities to work with other purpose driven organizations across many countries and grow, united! ACT! as a Doughnut spanned over a 5 country consortium (Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and Romania), brought together by the Masterpeace network, and co-funded by the European Union. It is through projects like ACT! as a Doughnut that we create the impact we strive towards. 

Students community project outcomes

Now a little bit more about the project. Initially, our team was engaged with developing the non-formal education programme materials to be used by teachers and trainers throughout the project, which immediately connected us with the frameworks of Doughnut Economics and Art for Social Change (ACT = Artists Create Together) that stand at the heart of this project. This sparked our motivation, as we recognized the potential in using these approaches to address global social and environmental challenges, and the potential to apply these to our local context. Through our previous projects, events, and network we operate in 4 cities across the Rhein Main Region: Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Bad Homburg and Eltville. The activities of ACT! as a Doughnut spanned over these cities, ranging from workshops, trainings, student led community projects, to networking events and manifesto presentations. 

Dona Momm and Bledion Vladi (Growunited) with Stefan Wolkenfeld (accadis)

A major learning of this project is the understanding of the German school system, which is characteristically rigid and bureaucratic. While we found high demand and enthusiasm for integrating non-formal education programs and tools, such as Doughnut Economics, the capacity and structures to do so were simply not present. This left us struggling to find a partner. Finally, utilizing our existing network we found an incredible school and teacher to collaborate with. The wait was worth it! Ethics and music teacher, Duke of Edinburgh award coordinator and now Head of accadis Secondary School Bad Homburg, Stefan Wolkenfeld, joined us in our quest to innovate the standardized curriculum. Conveying important, challenging and confronting socio-environmental issues through modern, flexible and engaging learning materials is what made this project such a success. Vital to this process was the engagement, motivation and approaches which Mr. Wolkenfeld, as well as Dona Momm, a passionate youth worker giving a number of the trainings, brought to the table. 

Lessons at accadis International School

Stefan Wolkenfeld applied the provided materials in his classroom with passion and dedication, guiding and encouraging the students along their Journey to comprehend the materials, critically engage with them, and ultimately create their own community projects. Furthermore, Mr. Wolkenfeld did this within the context of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, a highly acclaimed and internationally recognized non formal education program. Connecting the methodologies and approach from ACT! As a Doughnut with the Duke of Edinburgh Award offers immense potential for scaling reach and with that impact. 

The lesson materials were received very positively by the students, which was due to the youth-centric nature of the content. The methodologies employed in the project, such as Doughnut Economics, Art for Social Change, City Portrait, and community projects, offer fantastic potential in working with youth. They are tailored to youth, making complex socio-environmental issues easily understandable, digestible, and applicable at a personal level. A great example of such a tool is “Step into the Doughnut” as developed by DEAL, and now tested by us in multiple instances and settings, and always proving to be an engaging method to convey the theory behind the Doughnut. An enhanced understanding of the social foundation and the environmental boundaries as proposed by the Doughnut Economics were evident in the work and finally the community projects produced by the students. This approach serves as the foundation for raising awareness and fostering deeper levels of understanding among young people later on. 

'Step into the Doughnut' tool in action

The main output of the students were four community projects, addressing a number social and environmental issues. Here short descriptions of these achievements:

  • Park Greens is a student-led initiative at accadis International School in Bad Homburg, creating green roofs to support nature, promote biodiversity, and reduce the school's carbon footprint, addressing especially the environmental dimension of the Doughnut. This project, sparked by students identifying local environmental issues, involves collaboration with the school administration and environmental experts. Engaging with local networks, stakeholders, and experts in the field provided essential guidance and support. Professionals handled the actual planting, ensuring the green roofs were properly established. "Park Greens" is a model of how student-led initiatives can effectively address environmental challenges. Through collaboration, education, and active participation, the project not only enhances the school's environment but also serves as a catalyst for broader community engagement in sustainability efforts.
  • During implementation at accadis International School, Growunited identified the potential of offering this programme outside of the formal educational context, increasing accessibility for diverse social groups. Taking initiative, Growunited hosted a compacted ‘changemakers weekend’ version of the materials to an ad hoc group of motivated and diverse youngsters from in and around Frankfurt. In a series of workshops, the Growunited team took the youngsters through the 5 stages of the handbook, and ultimately guided them to developing a community project of their own: Paths4Change. This group aims to address the pressing issues of homelessness and drug abuse in the city center of Frankfurt, as identified in their comprehensive city portrait analysis. Paths4Change's primary contribution begins with organizing movie nights to raise funds for local aid organizations. These events serve a dual purpose, fundraising and awareness work. The funds raised from these screenings are donated to organizations actively working on homelessness and drug abuse. Secondly, the movie nights create awareness about these critical issues and stimulate understanding and discussion among local youth.
  • Fast and Serious is a proactive student group committed to bridging generational divides and empowering elderly individuals through technology. This initiative seeks to foster meaningful connections between younger and older generations while providing essential support for navigating the digital world. The group facilitates interactive workshops and connection sessions designed to address the specific digital challenges faced by the elderly. Students provide hands-on guidance and support. Interactive discussions are held to understand the needs and concerns of the elderly. This project is a model of how youth initiatives can address societal issues through targeted, compassionate action, to foster a more inclusive and connected community.
  • The Kinder und Jugendbeirat Eltville (KJB) participated in training on doughnut economics and art for social change, identifying local challenges such as the need for intergenerational connection and understanding diverse social realities. To address these issues, KJB designed a workshop with 20 participants from various backgrounds and ages, featuring facilitated discussions and role-playing exercises to foster empathy and mutual understanding. The workshop effectively promoted intergenerational understanding, serving as a model for enhancing social cohesion in communities.

A highlight of the project was the trip to the Netherlands with three students from both youth groups for the LTTA2. This provided an opportunity for students to share their efforts and experiences, which sparked further inspiration and motivation to continue their active participation in shaping civil society.

Students from 5 partner countries at LTTA2 in The Hague, Netherlands

Furthermore the ACT! as a Doughnut project stands out due to its innovative integration of formal and non-formal education. Through research and implementation experiences, we have identified several barriers to effectively integrating these approaches, including bureaucratic hurdles and capacity limitations. However, there is a clear demand and necessity for such programs, presenting an opportunity to learn from these challenges and develop more adaptive non-formal education initiatives. While the project excels in relevance and accessibility for its target audience of youth within partner schools, there is potential to expand its reach beyond the current partners involved. This presents an opportunity for further collaboration and dissemination efforts to maximize the project's impact and sustainability.


Finally, the dissemination of the project was primarily done through social media campaigns, and networking events in which the students presented their findings to local stakeholders. Presenting the findings of the project to local decision makers, stakeholders and politicians maximized the reach, and addressed the goal of fostering active citizenship of youth. In summary, ACT! as a Doughnut was a huge success. The impact on the hearts and minds of the students, teachers and social workers involved goes beyond quantifiable numbers, but is arguably the most potent outcome of this project. We see ACT! as a Doughnut as a beginning in many incremental pushes to change the educational systems, towards integrating frameworks which have social and environmental awareness and responsibility at heart.

Manifesto presentation

Now that the ACT! As a Doughnut project is coming to close, and so are our activities, the student-led projects, and the formal collaboration with our partner school accadis in Bad Homburg. That being said, every end is a new beginning, making space for new incoming projects such as our No Label project focused on conscious consumerism and sustainable fashion, and the partners with which we are building the No Label Alliance. 

Stay tuned for more updates coming soon!
Your Growunited team

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    Natalia van der Wee

    Utrecht, The Netherlands

    I'm here to find, test, use and share great ideas and tools to help transformation to innovative and sustainable education.


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