SelfDesign® practices the art and science of lifelong learning. Our model and philosophy set us apart, drive every initiative and fuel our passion as leaders in education.

“As we collectively experienced during the pandemic, with closures of brick-and-mortar schools and other educational institutions,” SelfDesign President and CEO Amber Papou says, “learning can and does take place beyond the classroom. With SelfDesign, the learning environment encompasses the home, the community and online and everyone a learner encounters there – the entire world, in effect – and learning is a natural and highly individual process that happens every day throughout our lives.”

Since our start in 1983, we have applied this approach to all of our programs and initiatives, seeking to foster personalized and lifelong learning in every member of the SelfDesign community.

Three core beliefs underpin all that we do:

1. We believe that every learner, regardless of age, brings a unique contribution to the world. With SelfDesign, the learning environment becomes the vehicle rather than the obstacle in making those contributions come to life.

Our experience over the last four decades has shown us that learning happens when learners are encouraged and supported to explore their interests at their own pace.

“When learners direct and determine the path of their own learning, they engage with the process and begin to see themselves as lifelong learners,” says River Meyer, SelfDesign’s Director of Organizational Learning & Culture.

“If we can inspire self-authored learning in young people, they become passionate about the idea of learning and they want to be the learners that they naturally are,” she says. “By creating environments that are nurturing and positive, learning becomes something that is exciting, fun and passionate.”

At SelfDesign, our educators do this by connecting with learners to explore their passions and interests. We work with each learner and their family to create a personalized learning plan suited to the child’s own interests, needs, abilities, skills and goals.

2. We believe that people learn everywhere and in every moment and that learning is enriched and amplified through conversations and relationships with others.

Learning is a continuous and accumulating process, not a product or set of outcomes. From imagining and planning, from enacting and experiencing, from reflecting and assessing to re-imagining – this process lasts a lifetime and is based in relationship and conversation.

“We see our role as being here to support each learner, to hold them up as they explore their interests and passions and grow, learn and develop,” says Nikki Kenyon, SelfDesign’s Chief Learning Officer.

Our educators work with learners and families to build the positive, caring, connected relationships that are at the heart of any learning journey. We honour and value families’ involvement in their children’s learning, and we walk alongside every one of our learners and their families on this learning journey.

Those relationships and the trust and acceptance that develop within them prepare and open a space where learning flourishes and growth happens naturally.

3. We believe in the safety, acceptance and inclusion of all learners in regard to ability, learning style, culture, race, personal or spiritual beliefs, and gender identity and expression.

“SelfDesign is committed to creating and providing a curriculum, learning events and offerings that are designed right from the start with every single one of our learners in mind,” says Education Program Team Lead Janice Green.

Our inclusive, learner-centered approach to learning provides room for all learners. Acceptance and support for all facets of diversity is woven into every aspect of our organization and programs.

We embed diversity and inclusiveness in all our learning content and events. In order to support each child’s optimal growth and development, we draw on insights from learning science and use tools that have been developed by SelfDesign and by others. These tools help us to ensure that every resource, activity, camp or offering that we provide gives every learner choice and flexibility in how they access material, engage with it, and show what they know, based on their own specific needs, learning style, abilities, and interests. We provide additional services for learners needing support to maximize their learning opportunities – from learners who are temporarily experiencing difficulty to learners who have been diagnosed with special needs. We integrate Indigenous perspectives and values into all aspects of what we do to further the journey towards reconciliation. We actively seek out ways to implement SOGI 1 2 3 (sexual orientation and gender identity 1 2 3) throughout SelfDesign.


These three core beliefs underlie our model, philosophy and approach to learning and have helped to make us a global leader in programs and initiatives that foster personalized and lifelong learning.

Learn more about our philosophy

Read our 2020 Community Report learn more about how we enact our beliefs