Sygnature Skills at Hilton College

In the Sygnature Action component, participants identify their passion and learn how to plan and take effective action around a challenge or problem they have identified in their communities.
The hardest part is knowing what to do with the future that lies ahead of us

Hilton College Learner – Sygnature Skills Cohort 2020

The Sygnature Skills course at Hilton College ended on a high note with a graduation ceremony on Friday 6th November. The event was a hybrid one, hosted in the school’s theatre for parents, pupils, staff and other invited guests, and live-streamed for a range of programme contributors and a panel of expert judges from various parts of the world. It was a great celebration of the participants’ deep engagement and evident problem-solving progress throughout the six-month course. Five group presentations unveiled creative and thoughtful action projects that each group would be taking forward in 2021 with the support of Routes to Resilience and the Hilton College faculty.

First up was a solution to enhance business opportunities for creating access – to knowledge, markets, expertise and capital – for budding entrepreneurs across Southern Africa. This innovative mobile phone application seeks to reduce the inequality gap in terms of access – a gap that is often the result of circumstances rather than aptitude: the Sutton Trust found that fewer than four engagements with the workplace during school years led to a greater chance of a person being NEET – not in education, employment or training. The Hilton group focused on innovation in opportunity, their conviction a belief that age and access must not be the dictator of ability to manifest opportunity or the disabler of potential to contribute to innovation.

The second group formulated a detailed plan to introduce hydroponics to under-resources spaces in low-income communities, ensuring food security and enabling creative, sustainable livelihoods for many. This project will be working with an informal settlement close to Hilton College. It will focus on helping emerging small-scale growers to develop cost-efficient, sustainable food production practices.

Next up was the Sustainability Committee structure proposed by students for Hilton College. Intended to tackle the challenge of sustainability across as many areas possible at the school, this group of students highlighted energy, waste and Hilton College’s carbon footprint as its key areas of focus. They have a number of projects they want to drive forward in 2021 and will be engaging all stakeholders to achieve them. This group’s foundational belief is encapsulated by the maxim.

As we believe, so we act; as we act, so we become; as we become, so we transform

The fourth group explored the possibility of addressing the inequality in education for many South Africans by launching a service which would see students from Hilton College tutoring children and teenagers from less privileged backgrounds. This service has been born of a recognition that education is the one thing you can give that no one can take away, and of the students’ desire to share the opportunities they had been given. Their focus is on improving the lives of fellow South African youth and is underscored by their group philosophy:

Don’t focus on the problem of the past – spend your time positively building the future

This project will create opportunities for students to complete Community Service hours whilst giving to others from the wellspring of talents that Hilton students have to share.

The fifth and final group of students proposed a business plan to launch a carbon neutral consultancy. The consultancy’s first client is intended to be Hilton College, and they will then seek to branch out as a young team able to audit firms and advise them on how best to become carbon neutral.

These inspiring presentations and action plans have generated significant interest in both the Hilton College community and in the broader Routes to Resilience partners and networks attending the event. Offers to support each group through the execution phase of their projects have streamed in from a range of individuals and organisations, and we look forward to sharing their successes through blog updates in 2021.

An important part of any programme is reflecting on feedback given by the participants. We asked both the students and their parents – key partners in their sons’ learning – to provide their thoughts on the programme and what they took from it. You can listen to some of the students give their opinions here, and their parents here.

Looking back on this course, I have learnt a huge amount about something I am passionate about and, most importantly, I have learnt about what it takes to take action on my passion and to take action in a meaningful way

A final piece of feedback summarised the students’ experience of the programme:

“Amazing people + Fantastic programme = Bright future”

2021 will be a year of further growth and new opportunities for Sygnature Skills participants at Hilton College. With the programme projected to grow to three Hilton College cohorts and exciting opportunities to collaborate with other local schools, we are expecting fantastic new ideas and approaches to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

For further details on Sygnature Skills programme opportunities in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as our educator offerings, please contact Alexei du Bois at:

About the Sygnature Award

The Hilton students completed the Syngature Skills component of our Sygnature Award programme. This programme awakens consciousness, nurtures confidence and encourages intentional citizenship action. Created in collaboration with the Impact Trust and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership in South Africa (CISL-SA), it informs, inspires and ignites young people to develop the literacies, skills, mindsets and competencies they need to act as catalysts for resilient futures and drive sustainable change.

Based in a head (think), heart (feel) and hand (do) model, the programme consists of three components: Knowledge & Skill, Experience, and Effective Action. These components are designed to build upon one another, but the Skills component can be taken as a standalone.

Sygnature Skills imparts a deep understanding and knowledge of the concepts and principles of sustainability, systems thinking and complexity theory. Participants develop core skills including critical thinking, complex problem-solving, creativity, communication and collaboration.

The Sygnature Experience is a learning journey which helps participants develop a deep experiential understanding of important concepts underpinning sustainability and systems-thinking through real-world knowledge and place-based learning. These encounters use nature, culture and history to explore interconnectedness, feedback loops, circularity and biomimicry, and create empathy by renewing connections with nature.

In the Sygnature Action component, participants identify their passion and learn how to plan and take effective action around a challenge or problem they have identified in their communities. Mentors support them as they master competencies, planning and strategic knowledge so they can put the skills and principles they have learned – and their ideas – into practice. The goal is for the participants’ initiatives to evolve into youth-led community enterprises with a sustainable income model, igniting a lifetime of sustainable leadership