Initiative: Imagine if we

Found a new, common direction for a thriving youth?

Imagine this; young people are doing better than ever before. Even with the historic challenges facing this generation, they have never had greater influence or more opportunities to shape their own future. Collectively, we have taken responsibility for providing a framework for young people to thrive.

To set the direction towards this radically different future, we need to rethink our current approach to mental health and well-being among young people. That is why the Danish Design Center and The ROCKWOOL Foundation’s Intervention Unit are launching “Imagine if we”– a new initiative to design concrete scenarios for a future where young people are thriving. In a series of exploratory and experimenting workshops, we are bringing together a wide range of actors to help us both imagine and create these scenarios.

The Challenge: Time to Build Build Better Systems

The number of unhappy young people is at an all-time high. Among 16-24-year-olds in Denmark, every third woman and every fifth man report that they are experiencing dissatisfaction, stress, anxiety, and loneliness. Unhappiness in adolescence can cause ripple effects that affect education, friendships, careers, health, and parenting well into adulthood. We know that the current approach to solving this challenge is falling short – yet, we seem to be stuck in the same paradigm.

Research shows that our well-being is influenced by the context in which we live and by everything surrounding us. So why do we think that the conditions for thriving can be in closed circuits – in a clinic or a class room? We need to work together, involving both young people themselves and all the people who surround them in their everyday lives. 

“We are interested in finding out what happens if mental well-being becomes a shared responsibility rather than an individual duty. What becomes possible if we shift the focus from treating symptoms of dissatisfaction to creating better frameworks for well-being in children and young people’s everyday lives?”

Lea Miriam Fick Køhn, Head of Program at Children’s Learning and Well-being, The ROCKWOOL Foundation’s Intervention Unit

The How: Together for a Better Future

How do we move forward when improving our existing systems is no longer enough? It is easy to say that ‘systems need to change’ and much harder to do in practice: many social innovations fail to have significant impact because they don’t shift the systems around them. Because systemic challenges cross public, private and civic boundaries, they need a different kind of collaborative innovation.

Using futures and scenario design, we aim to activate the current knowledge about mental health to develop concrete alternatives to the current system. The concrete nature of the scenarios allows us to understand which changes we need to push for and which ones we should build together.

The scenarios will be designed in a series of workshops hosted by Danish Design Center and The ROCKWOOL Foundation’s Intervention Unit throughout the summer of 2022. When the scenarios are completed, they will be tested in the context of school, education, and employment. This resource of knowledge will be used to shape the first concrete solutions for an alternative future.

The Four Shifts for New and Complementary Systems

What happens if we shift the focus from treating people’s to focusing on structures that create better well-being? From mental health as something that is limited to be handled by professionals away from the everyday environment to well-being being a shared responsibility being promoted in the every contexts?

Together with a wide range of actors, we want to investigate whether a changed approach to the phenomenon of “mental helath” can strengthen young people’s well-being and thus give young people better opportunities to participate actively in the world around them. We have developed a framework that outlines four shifts from what characterizes the current system to what new, complementary approaches to creating mental well-being could look like. These are the four shifts that we will use as a starting point for developing new future scenarios and ideas for new solutions in the initiative “Imagine if we”.


Contact information

Project Lead, Johanne Louise Elholm Bergmann:


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