The World Needs… Adventurers – reflections from Barnaby Sandow

Barnaby Sandow, Head of School, ACS Cobham

ACS International School Cobham recently hosted the first in a series of ACS events exploring ‘what the world needs’, delving into the big societal and technological challenges the world is currently facing and considering exactly what kind of citizen the world needs to contribute to a better, more sustainable tomorrow.

Our event focused on ‘The World Needs... Adventurers’, but what do we mean by adventurers?

For us, adventurers are not just explorers of the world and things in it, they are risk-takers, independent thinkers and entrepreneurs, open-minded to new opportunities. Adventurers not only want to explore the world around them but want to preserve it and all the things in it.

At ACS Cobham, we encourage all students to think independently and innovatively, and we provide many opportunities for students to make a positive impact on the world around them. We are also home to a large green campus, perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of cities and exploring nature. As such, the topic of ‘adventurers’ and their critical role in building a better, more sustainable future aligned perfectly to our school’s ethos and we were keen to learn from individuals who live and breathe these characteristics.

During the event we heard from three adventures all with a different perspective on what the world needs, yet their messages complemented each other and intertwined beautifully. Sissel Tønnesen Engblom, an ACS Cobham alumna who graduated in 1980, shared her experiences working as an urban architect all over the globe. Sissel’s career enables her to focus on the impact that the spaces around us - those in which we live, travel, socialise and work - have on our wellbeing and livelihoods as humans. She spoke about sustainability in a way that often we can forget – but is ever so important. For Sissell, a sustainable future is one where the spaces around us support us to live well and enable us to live in harmony with both our human neighbours and our planet. All incredibly important considerations.

Our next speaker – Sian Sutherland - spoke about sustainability in a more traditional sense; highlighting the urgency of the climate emergency and the profound impact that plastic consumption is having on the oceans. Sian Sutherland is Co-Founder of A Plastic Planet, an organisation which aims to educate people about plastic consumption and inspire them to reduce their impact. She left attendees thinking about their relationship with plastic and how we should use our buying power to buy less and buy better – it’s something I’ve pondered a lot since the talk.

As well as her impressive ventures in environmentalism, Sian is truly an adventurer to the core – she is an entrepreneur and innovator, a risk-taker and problem solver, and most of all, a real advocate of the value of failure for personal growth and development. We were extremely fortunate to hear experiences of what it takes to be an adventurer and she even shared some essential reading recommendations that have revolutionised her way of thinking and led her to the path she is on now.

Last but not least, we heard from Chris Hupp, our very own Forest School trainer and lower school teacher. For Chris, the world needs adventurers who are prepared to get their hands dirty outside, and see themselves as a partner to nature, not a master of it. Chris explored the relationship children and adults of today have with the world around us, and importantly highlighted that science, while it allows us to review the damage we have done to the environment, also presents us with a path forward to rebuild a better planet. He highlighted the need to encourage young people to get outdoors and connect with the natural environment, and, while Sissell and Sian did an excellent job of defining the grown-up adventurers we need to build a better world, Chris framed beautifully what we can do now to foster the children of today to become the changemakers of tomorrow.

In all, the three speakers gave us a lot of pause for thought. I personally feel more mindful of how I interact with the world around me, and I hope our students will feel inspired to take action to be the adventurers of the future.

If you would like to view the event and three talks, please visit