Christiane Daepp founded the “Ideenbüro” program in 2002 in response to difficulties at a school. She recognized that children are outstanding problem solvers, particularly in areas that affect them personally, children can be extremely successful in the role of conflict managers. Within the context of the “Ideenbüro” program, schoolchildren look for solutions to the day-to-day problems of fellow school children.
The “Ideenbüro” is the contact point in a school for problems of all kinds. Anyone feeling unhappy, excluded or misunderstood will find a sympathetic ear at the “Ideenbüro”. The children in charge of the “Ideenbüro” listen to the concerns and work together with the child involved to find solutions. The range of problems includes everything from bullying and vandalism to the troubles that arise in pupils-teacher interaction.
Since then Christiane Daepp has implemented her concept of contact points for problems of all kinds in over 120 Swiss schools. In 2004, just two years after being started, the “Ideenbüro” project was presented with the Orange Award for Intercultural Dialogue (first prize) from UNICEF. Christiane Daepp was honoured as a “social entrepreneur” by Ashoka in
You can see the full transcription of the interview next:
«Everything started with a bullying problem we had at class»
We had a big bullying problem so we didn’t know what to do. It was very difficult because teacher is supposed to know everything and at this moment I was lost.
Suddenly I had an idea, I asked the elder children to help to solve this problem with this class, so I asked them and they said “Yes, we want to help! We will go one hour before school begins and prepare things at home, you don’t have to do anything, we will do it!”.
They were so enthusiastic that I invited them to come to the class and they made such a good work. They asked to all the children “What did you do with this bullying problem?” and then took notes. Then they went outside the class and thought about what they would do with that. After a while they came inside again and said “you have to think about how to solve the problem. We will come in two weeks and you will tell us what you have done to solve the problem”.
After that, the elder kids came to me and said “Oh that was so great, could we do this more?, we want to make consulting”. So we founded this office of ideas and they told me how they would do it, it was not my proposition.
The Office of ideas leaves the school and extends to the Community
So this project started in 2002 in the school and I thought that after three months it would be finished. Perhaps it was good for three months but maybe after a while they wouldn’t like it anymore…”. But that was not like this.
They (the kids in charge of the office) asked the children (from other classes) to write a paper with their problems or ideas, to put in a letterbox and once a week they were working in this Office. There is no teacher, they are looking what is in the letterbox and then invite the children one week later to come and to talk about the problem and give them ideas about what to do. One week later they come again to say if it’s better now.
When there were no more problems in then box they went to all the classes asking “Do you have any problems? We would like to solve problems, we don’t want to stop.” So I told them that it was a good opportunity to think about what could also be done in that Office of ideas.
They wrote a letter to the Community and asked “If you have problems we can solve them. Please send us an email with your problem and we will develop ideas”. After that, seven things came in by email and they were solving problems from the adults from parents and were invited to the Community.
«Trusting the ideas of the children is the way of empowering them»
After two years it became more and more interesting and I thought it was like the children were waiting for this idea. Since that when I always go to the children with this idea they say “Oh yes, we want to do it!”.
We want to be free, we want to be rebels, we don’t like to be dependent on somebody, we trust the children, we trust their ideas, we don’t like that somebody comes on saying you have to do this project like this in this way. We want to empower people to stay free, to be independent and this is the energy in our project.
Exporting the Office of Ideas to the world
Now the Office of ideas is 16 years old. We have 120 swiss schools which have an Office of Ideas. Some people from other countries wrote us and told us that they wanted this idea in their countries. The first country was Mexico. There was a psychologist who is working in Guadalajara and he told me ”I would like to meet you to translate everything in Spanish”. So he came and I gave the project to him and now in Mexico is four years that they have an office of Ideas in their school.