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Project Santiago

Venture Academy one line different font_

Be a catalyst for change.

What is Venture Academy?

Venture Academy supports students to think creatively to develop solutions to problems in their community. Students are taught to apply design thinking to problems they see in their school and inspired to develop initiatives that can really make an impact.

How is it different from other programs?


  • We have spent hours researching design thinking to consider how to best apply it in a school setting (Michael will complete his Master of Design Strategy and Innovation in 2022).

  • We have a deep knowledge of how complex community problems are - between us we have over 20 years experience working for NFPs (and many many more volunteering).

  • We have spoken with lots of teachers and students to understand how to best support student changemakers.

  • Lastly we wanted to create something that we would have loved to participate in when we were in high school.

Unlike other programs, Venture Academy really scaffolds the design thinking process. First teachers are provided with professional development to better understand how to best support students undertaking this type of work. Then students learn by doing. They are introduced to a complex problem currently being faced by a NFP. They then are supported over 5 weeks to analyse the problem, define the problem, develop ideas and solutions, prototype those solutions and then finally pitch the idea back to the NFP to see if the idea has any merit. 


After this experience, the students enter the second phase of the program where they repeat this process however now they focus on a project of their own choosing. We believe students are incredibly creative and we think that by harnessing the design thinking framework they will become positive change makers within their local community!

Why Venture Academy?


Venture: An activity or plan of action that involves risk or uncertainty.

Academy: A place of study or training in a special field.


It is risky to try to make change in the world. When we step up and seek to make a difference, we take a risk that we may fail or we might not succeed to make the change we are seeking. However we believe that we are not alone. Many of us wish to make a positive difference in our world so we think that we should work together and learn together to make these dreams come true. 


While working in the NFP sector we realised that it takes more than individuals to make the changes we need. It takes networks of individuals communicating and collaborating to make change happen. We believe that leaders need to start early to learn these skills and that is why we focus our program on senior high school leaders.


We also think it is helpful to have a framework that we can use as a common language. This is why we have chosen design thinking and in particular the double diamond approach to problem solving (as articulated by the British Design Council). You may notice that the logo of Venture Academy has been inspired by the double diamond.

What is involved in Venture Academy?


Venture Academy has been developed over 2 years. In our pilot year in 2021 we realised that it wasn’t enough to teach students the skills and then send them along their way to make the changes they seek. We realised that if we want the students to collaborate with the other schools in the program they need to meet each other early (rather than at the end of the program as we originally had planned).

Below is an image that demonstrates a rough itinerary for the program.

Venture Academy Journey map.png

How can my school participate in Venture Academy?


Venture Academy is nested within the Full Journey package of Project Santiago. Project Santiago is our comprehensive leadership development program supporting senior high school students and their teachers to become positive catalysts for change. Contact us to find out more or visit our page about Project Santiago!

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