Challenge 20/20

Challenge 20/20 is a web-based platform that pairs schools from the US with schools in other countries; together, the teams seek solutions to one of twenty global problems. Challenge 20/20 pairs schools from any country of any grade level (K-12) regardless of private, public or charter schools status. Unlike some of the other social action programs, there is no cost to participate in the program and no travel required. Schools can request a partner school if they have one in mind and can also field more than one group, should students wish to address more than one issue.


The inspiration for Challenge 20/20 stems from Jean-François Rischard’s book, High Noon: Twenty Global Problems, Twenty Years to Solve Them (2002). Mr. Rischard, a World Bank economist, documented the pressing issues facing our world such as poverty, lack of clean water, the spread of communicable diseases and global warming; he then pointed out that only by creating a new form of global cooperation will the world be able to properly address these issues. The failure of the current international development framework, he argues, necessitates the creation of “global issues networks” that can respond and adapt to the changing world we live in. His ideas spawned the creation of the  Global Issues Network and then in 2006, the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) launched Challenge 20/20. Currently, there are over 500 participating schools, as this interactive map and list of participating schools illustrates:


Before the schoolyear begins, participating schools submit a list of which of the twenty issues they would like to address (up to five in order of preference). Then, when they have been assigned a topic and paired with a school in another country, students and teachers begin researching and brainstorming about their chosen issue, looking for possible solutions. Schools then find ways to incorporate the issue into their curriculum and maintain regular contact with their partner school. 
There is no set plan for how to incorporate the issue into the school; rather, each teacher and school is asked to seek their own solution, but Challenge 20/20 does urge participating schools to integrate the issue into the actual curriculum (such as World Studies, History, Science, etc.), though some schools choose to focus on after-school activites, social action clubs. Here are a few examples of past projects from their website.
The other important issue is determining how best to communicate and collaborate with the partner school. Again, this is up to each school to work out amongst themselves, as it depends on their technological capabilities, proximity and other factors. Schools can communicate via videoconference, e-mail exchanges, online forums, blogs and in person (if they are located close enough). Schools can exchange photographs, blogs and discussions, as well as reports, journals and PowerPoint presentations. Though teachers have traditionally organized the modes of communciation between the two schools, students are welcome to spearhead these efforts and with more tech-savvy students, this option is indeed more possible in days to come. 
NAIS has partnered with Taking It Global (TIGed described here) which is a web-based platform that allows schools to use technological innovations to address social issues. Their collaborative learning community provides students with access to global educational initiatives. Challenge 20/20 uses their listserve to pass along updates and important information to schools. Access is free of charge.
Schools looking for less committment or looking to try out the program on an introductory level are welcome to participate as a non-partnered school. They carry out the same tasks but are not paired with another school. (Non-partnered schools will not receive a certificate of participation unless it is requested by the school.)
At the conclusion of the school year, the team composes a thought-out and well-presented online report on behalf of the team. This report is submitted through the tigED platform. Schools then receive a certificate acknowledging their participation.
To see what students are saying about Challenge 20/20, click here.


One important fact for schools to consider when considering participation in the Challenge 20/20 program is the fact that the program is relatively unstructured, meaning there is no set policy laid out instructing schools exactly how to go about setting up their efforts. Rather, each school develops their own approach and works with their partner school to figure out the best strategy. The NAIS, which oversees the program, also steers clear of directing schools, allowing the individual schools to determine how much they want to involve themselves in the program. There are some general guidelines laid out which lay out suggestions, deadlines and research tips, but  no real standards or benchmarks to speak of.