Merche Garcia Villatoro

Ashoka Fellow
Barcelona, Spain
Fellow Since 2010


This profile was prepared when Merche Garcia Villatoro was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
Merche is creating alliances with education-related entities—such as local governments, schools and high schools, parent organizations, and citizen organizations (COs)—to create comprehensive education models that include leisure time as a key component to children and youth education. Through a consensus building process that includes assessing needs and available programs, training volunteers and leaders, and creating a center for leisure time activities, she brings these components together to provide youth with a comprehensive education. Merche helps organizations put key competences, such as empathy, leadership, and citizen participation at the core of each activity. Additionally, Merche involves children and youth in planning and carrying out activities, thereby powerfully increasing the transmission of these competences.

In Spain (excluding the region of Catalonia) since there are very few entities using youth’s leisure time as a values-building platform, Merche also uses these alliances to build locally managed youth centers—Esplais—which provide space and activities to train young people about the values needed to be successful in today’s world. She has found, during her 24 years of experience working with youth, that leisure time is an ideal environment to develop children’s and youth’s sense of responsibility, citizenship, identity, integration, and other key concepts that cannot be fully transmitted in a formal school setting. Additionally, to allow access to as many children as possible, Merche applies a scaled pricing scheme to cover the costs for children from underprivileged backgrounds.

One of the differentiating factors in Merche’s model is that all activities are aimed toward solving a social problem of the municipality where the center is located. Thus, each activity the participants propose or plan must include a way to improve the world around them. In doing this, young people acquire a deep sense of citizenship and empathy.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

More For You