This profile was prepared when Douglas McMeekin was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Douglas founded the Yachana Foundation in 1991 to develop community-based solutions to poverty and environmental conservation in the Amazon. In 2005, one of Douglas’s many development projects led him to found the Yachana Technical High School, which is located in a remote part of the Amazon. The school integrates academic and hands-on learning, and is designed to incorporate students’ and community input into the model. Because students come to the Yachana School from remote locations, Douglas designed a rotational 21-day boarding school structure so that students alternate between spending three weeks at home and three weeks at school. The curriculum focuses on environmental conservation and student management of various microenterprises. Ultimately, the Yachana school prepares young people to become entrepreneurial leaders in their communities. Douglas breaks down the barrier between textbook learning and real-life experience. For example, students participate in all aspects of the operation of an eco-lodge, and are encouraged to teach their communities about conservation, improved agricultural methods, and antipoverty techniques they learn in school. Students are also encouraged to manage franchises of student-run businesses so that they can make a difference in their communities while gaining valuable management experience. Douglas’s work subverts traditional classroom learning which is often disconnected from student’s experience.