Participatory Action Research for Positive Change

7Senses Action Research Academy


The Challenge Coordinator Program

Career as an action researcher

 Your career as a Action Research Challenge Coordinator

The 7Senses Challenge Coordinator Program is a 9-month programme which guides you along your career as an Action Researcher and coordinator of an international, multi-disciplinary team. Together with a local community overseas you will research a community issue and facilitate the co-creation of a Community Action Plan to tackle the issue. Are you ready for an adventurous career as an Action Research Challenge Coordinator? 



Top-down development aid as how it has been practiced over the last decades -and unfortunately sometimes still is practiced- is outdated and often inefficient. Forced by tightly predefined organisation goals or top-down demands from funding organisations, practitioners often stick to the goals of these funding organisations rather than those of the local community. This often results in resistance of the local community to the project or unintended side effects. On top of that, volunteerism has increased enormously, leading to new projects (for example orphanages) that serve the demands of the volunteer rather than that of the local community.

The 7Senses Challenge

In response to this, the 7Senses Challenge concept was developed in 2014. A 7Senses Challenge always arises from an issue defined by the local people experiencing the issue, and is fully focused on addressing their needs. Through Participatory Action Research, in 12 weeks, locals and other stakeholders together co-create and implement the best solution to their issue. This leads to often unexpected, yet high impact solutions!

Our aim

Our funding providers understand that the outcome of a Challenge is unclear at the start. They trust in this concept, knowing that it will lead to something that perfectly fits the local context, whether that be within, outside or beyond the scope of their goals. By growing our community of PAR practitioners and funding agencies that dare to go different, we aim to boost the global shift from obsolete top-down development aid towards community-induced, sustainable innovation.

Your opportunity

Do you want to become part of this and start your career as an Action Researcher, in this new way of improving the world? In the 7Senses Action Research Academy we train you to become Coordinator of your own Challenge, based on an issue you picked up from a local community, wherever that may be!

NOTE: there are max 6 places available for the 7Senses Academy 2019/2020. Interested? Great! Email your proposal to: Scroll down for proposal instructions. 

A little bit of history

The 7Senses Challenge program has been a huge success since it started in 2014. Founder of 7Senses and initiator of the 7Senses Challenge Madelon Eelderink, saw this success as an opportunity to educate people to coordinate 7Senses Challenge programs overseas. And so, in 2015, the very first edition of the 7Senses Academy started, resulting in three Challenges in Kenya (2016), two in South Africa (2017 and 2018), one in Brazil (2017) and one in Zambia (2018), coordinated by Academy participants! The Challenge shapes the ground for valuable impact in the communities concerned, while giving its participants and local researchers the chance to grow both personally and professionally. Not to forget your growth as a Challenge Coordinator!

You and the Challenge

A Challenge is an action research programme of 12 weeks, conducted by a team of 4 Challenge participants and 2 local researchers. Together as a team they focus on a local issue related to public health, nature conservation, poverty alleviation, (human or animal) rights or other issues.

Before departure, you are trained extensively in the 7Senses Action Research Academy and Challenge participants are trained in three full days in intercultural communication, Participatory Action Research and sustainable innovation by 7Senses founder Madelon Eelderink.

Once at location, during the Challenge you will coach the team, organise practical matters, give workshops, personal coaching and supervision meetings, to make sure the Challenge runs smoothly and its participants meet their learning goals.

To get an impression of what a Challenge is like, here’s a summary of three Challenge editions of 2015:

The anatomy of the 7Senses Action Research Academy 2018

Here’s what you can expect in the following months:



In order to optimize the quality of our trainings and to make your learning process as personal and tailor made as possible, we only allow a maximum of six people in our Academy. Therefore, we have quite a tough selection procedure. One of the most important requirements for acceptance is that the issue is addressed by the local community facing the issue and that you have either worked or stayed long enough to understand their culture and have a reasonable network there. Hand in your proposal before February 2019. Read more about how to write your proposal and how we move on from February 2019 below.

Academy Summer Course

Over the past three editions, we have learned that it is beneficial to start a pre-Academy course during summer, to give you more time for some things that need to be done preferably before the start of the Academy. Overall, it is beneficial to start applying for funding and/or crowdfunding in an early stage, to make sure you meet all the financial requirements you need for your Challenge. The Academy Summer Course contains all you need to know for your Challenge, from how to communicate your own passion, to setting up a crowdfunding campaign and applying for funding. The Summer Course will take 4 full days in June 2019.

7Senses Action Research Academy

In September 2019, we will kick off our 4th edition of the 7Senses Action Research Academy. In 10 weekly trainings we will coach you in your journey towards becoming Challenge Coordinator. Main subjects of these trainings are obviously PAR, but also leadership skills, organisation- and communication skills and community psychology & sustainability of projects. During the rest of those weeks, you will be recruiting Challenge participants, organising practical matters and doing Academy assignments. Below you will read more about the Academy program.

7Senses Challenge

After the Academy trainings you are still in the Academy program, yet you are coordinating your Challenge overseas! Most Challenges take place early 2020, but if needed you can extend your Challenge period to later that year. For 12 subsequent weeks (though, there’s one week holiday in between) you will be coaching your multi-disciplinary, international team in Participatory Action Research. The goal is to facilitate the community in implementing a well suited Community Action Plan to tackle their issue!


Once you are back from your fieldwork, you will hand in your final Challenge report, which will be uploaded on our website, distributed to funding organisation(s), and local stakeholders, and if applicable, to your university. We will grade you using the Academy competence form. You will have one or two coaching sessions with each Challenge participant to help them make the best use of their new skills and insights for their career ahead. If you have met all these requirements, it is time for your graduation and not to forget, to celebrate your successes!

About the Academy training program

In 11 weeks (10 weeks of training, one week of holiday in between), you will learn all about Participatory Action Research and coordinating a 7Senses Challenge. From early September onwards, each Monday the Academy trainings take place. You will get acquainted with the principles of Participatory Action Research and learn the required skills to practice PAR in the field. Get fascinated by the wide range of methodological possibilities and how you can facilitate impactful positive change in communities through PAR!

During Challenge trainings you will train your leadership skills as you will be leading a multi-disciplinary, international and multicultural team in the field. You will learn about practical matters, how to give personal coaching and workshops to your Challenge participants and more! Trainings are set up in such a way that it is directly applicable to your own Challenge context.

Each Tuesday and Thursday we come together for the Challenge Lab Days, to work on the Academy assignments, to design your Challenge and arrange practical matters. Working together with Academy peers is fun and gives you the opportunity to help and be helped in your Challenge development. Madelon and/or other 7Senses colleagues are also present to coach you during those days.

From the start of the Academy, you will promote your own Challenge in a way that suits your personality. There are many different ways of gaining people’s interest for the Challenge. Some like to give presentations at universities, some like writing blogs or making vlogs and others prefer the personal word of mouth. You choose your way and we will help you make the most of it. You will be expanding your network, arranging practical matters with local organisations, get to know your Challenge participants et cetera. You can do these activities anytime, by yourself or with the group during the Academy Lab Days. You will further prepare for the Challenge until you leave, somewhere early 2020 – depending on your agenda. The training phase in the Netherlands will end by November 2019. Enjoy December holidays with your family and friends at home before you go off to your Great Adventure!

Intermezzo: of you go!

Before your Challenge participants arrive at location, you already go to the location to prepare your Challenge and relax a bit before it all starts. You go at least 2 weeks in advance.

Take this time to enjoy the country, find your place meanwhile further practically preparing the Challenge, such as confirming accommodation for the Challenge participants, exploring the research field, recruiting the local researchers, determining important stakeholders et cetera.

Coordinating the Challenge at location

In the last stage of the Academy you coach your Challenge team at location, co-creating positive impact with and for the local community, while providing yourself and your Challenge participants with personal and professional growth and an awesome experience!

Career as an action researcherThis is where it all starts: you will be coordinating the 7Senses Challenge! When your Challenge participants arrive at location you will take them to their accommodation and introduce them to the community and -if applicable- the local organisation. Starting from the first week, you will facilitate at least 4 workshops and 3 peer supervision meetings for the Challenge research team, and provide personal coaching to each team member (30-60 minutes per week per Challenge participant). You will also organise practical matters, fun events and with this all, you will make your Challenge a great success! Madelon Eelderink and Jelka de Jong will coach you via Skype and via our brand new 7Senses Online Platform. You will be communicating with your Academy peers -from wherever in the world they are- on this platform that is especially designed for this purpose. The 7Senses Challenge takes 12 weeks.

Round up

After successfully coordinating the 7Senses Challenge, around June 2020, you will graduate from the Academy, leaving you with great memories and lots of new opportunities, in or outside the 7Senses building!

Invest and earn

7Senses works with a unique system in which you will invest in yourself during the Academy, after which you will earn the exact same amount upon completion of your Challenge. In other words, if you complete your Challenge in accordance with the Academy competence form, you will basically have the entire training for free!

Your investment for the full Action Research Academy is  € 3750,- excl. VAT. To confirm your place in the Academy, your first payment will be €300,- excl. VAT before June 1st 2019. If preferred, from there, each month you make monthly payments for six months until the total fee is fulfilled. Upon completion of your Challenge with 4 Challenge participants you will earn €3750,- excl. VAT. From here, you can start creating a fruitful career at 7Senses!

Your future at 7Senses

You can become part of 7Senses’ future! After successfully finishing the 7Senses Academy, you have the opportunity to guide more Challenges, guide Challenge Coordinators and finally even running your own 7Senses Academy!

How it works

Stage 1: Become an Aspirant Coordinator
Joining the Action Research Academy enables you to become Aspirant Coordinator during the Challenge, for which you earn €3750,- excl. VAT.

Stage 2: Become a Coordinator
Continue after the Academy by becoming Coordinator, guiding new Challenges. Options, without further investment:
1 Challenge: earn €3750,- excl. VAT
2 Challenges: earn €6350,- incl. VAT

Stage 3: Become a Master
After coordinating at least 3 Challenges, you can become Master, supervising Coordinators. Depending on the number of active Coordinators, you will be supervising 1 to 3 Coordinators at an increased income.

Stage 4: Become a Senior Master
As a senior Master you can run your own 7Senses Academy editions. You will train new Aspirant Coordinators in supervising their  brand new Challenges and support them during fieldwork. Again, at an increased income.

Your cost will be covered

All Challenge costs will be covered via the 7Senses Foundation. This means that you will have no costs on your ticket, accommodation, transport, airtime, research budget and such. During the Summer Course and the Academy you will be running your crowdfund campaign and work together with the 7Senses Foundation to collect the required funding for your project.


The Academy will take place at Seats2Meet, Moreelsepark 65, Utrecht.




Our trainers and advisors

7Senses is proud to have such inspirational trainers to give you great insights and skills to make your Challenge a great success!

Loubna Zarrou is partner of the Appreciative Inquiry Academy. She is a highly ambitious professional in all she does. AI is a methodology that has many overlapping principles with action research. It is very much focused on ‘what is going well’ as the vehicle of change. At the 7Senses Academy she will give us the required skills to facilitate positive change through Appreciative Inquiry.


Evert Jan van Hasselt is founding partner of Business21, a fast growing company focused on helping businesses fit in the new business reality of this century. He is an insightful innovation leader  and knows how to get the best out of teams to make a project a great success. For 7Senses he will share his strategic insights in how to make the Challenge a great success.


Jelka de Jong is a training actress and has an extraordinary talent for putting herself in the shoes of an interviewee. This makes her an excellent actress to work with, in our interview trainings. She gives you the opportunity to experience how to interview people, how to react to their behaviour and non-verbal communication.


Madelon Eelderink is founder of 7Senses and initiator of the 7Senses Challenge. After supervising over 100 people in action research all over the world, she has coordinated five Challenge editions in Uganda. Since the start of the Academy, she has guided 7 Challenge Coordinators in 9 Challenges in South Africa (2), Brazil (1), Zambia (1), Kenya (4) and Sweden (1). She uses that experience to train new Academy participants in all aspects of coordinating their own 7Senses Challenge, among which Participatory Action Research, personal coaching, peer supervision meetings, practical matters and such.

Subscribe for the 7Senses Academy

Interested? Great! Hand in your proposal before February 2019. Proposals will be reviewed by the 7Senses Foundation board. The week after, you will hear whether you are invited for an interview. After the interview, you will hear whether you are invited for the Nice To Meet You Day (date to be determined), where we get to know each other better in a group context. After this, from both sides, we can decide whether you will be part of the Summer Course and the Academy.

How to write a proposal for your Challenge

A proposal for our 7Senses Foundation ideally exists of three documents: Your personal motivation, your Challenge proposal and your cv.

In your motivation letter, describe in max 500 words:

  1. Introduction of yourself
  2. What value can the Academy add to your career?
  3. What inspires you to guide a Challenge?
  4. What are your goals and ambitions (what is your ‘why’) and how can 7Senses help you realize those?

In your Challenge proposal, please describe in max 2000 words:

  1. Introduction: give us a short summary of your Challenge idea in about 400 words
  2. Background: how did you get to this idea? Make clear how this idea arose from a concrete demand from the local community: what is the current situation and what would they like to achieve?
  3. Design: write down the problem statement, a preliminary objective and main research question of your action research. Keep in mind that this design may change over time, even during the Challenge itself.
  4. Methodology: write down what kind of research methodology you think is best suitable for this research. You can think of common research methods like interviews, focus groups and the like, but you can also think of combining methods with local activities. Be creative! Keep in mind that many such community activities can serve as a research method.
  5. Results: what kind of results do you expect, based on your experience in the field? Keep in mind that this is very versatile as in action research it is in the end the community that shapes the results.

Send your proposal before February 2019 to and add your cv and motivation as separate documents.

Tip: this blog “the principles of Participatory Action Research” may help you write your proposal.


What we expect from you

Subscribe if you recognize yourself in the following:

  • You are highly motivated to set up your own Challenge and guide a multi-disciplinary team;
  • You have background in (action and/or scientific) research;
  • You are eager to learn and highly ambitious;
  • You have relevant (work) experience in the country where you will be guiding a Challenge;
  • You have affinity with dealing with people, individually and in teams;
  • You expect to be able to successfully guide an action research project at location;
  • You are able to handle difficult or stressful circumstances;
  • You are trustworthy, towards 7Senses, your Challenge participants and local stakeholders;
  • You are willing and capable of helping other Academy participants in guiding their Challenge, e.g. by giving online feedback and advice.

What can you expect from us

  • 100% trustworthiness and transparency;
  • 24/7 communication;
  • The right trainings that give you the skills you need in all aspects of guiding the Challenge;
  • A flexible curriculum, which means that with the group you can decide what else you need to further develop your skills;
  • Intensive guidance from day 1 of the Academy, in the team as well as in person;
  • Full access to our networks;
  • Active promotion of your Challenge via our Social Media platforms;
  • If necessary, guidance in finding funds for your investment for the Academy;
  • A fun, inspiring environment where you can develop yourself and your career!

Any questions? Send them to and of course there’s also always the phone, so don’t hesitate to call me on 06 39895095.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Madelon Eelderink