The Scheherazade Model

We have developed a six-pillar intervention model, enabling us to work with communities to identify how a theatre-based approach to social change might be relevant to their particular community. We aim to create local leadership and as much degree of autonomy as possible within our in-country entities, enabling a locally-driven approach within the context of a global organization.

The core pillars of our model to train underserved groups to use the power of participation as a tool for personal and social transformation are as follows.

Inspire individuals

To inspire individuals with a transformed way of thinking about human potential and progress.

The first stage of effecting real, lasting material and emotional change in society is the empowerment of those individuals who will effect change. Scheherazade recognises that this begins with transforming the way individuals think about themselves and the world, which includes helping people to re-engage with their natural identity, understand the choice we make daily between love and fear, destruction of fear-based thinking and letting our light shine. Thus, we are enabling individuals to build and consolidate the confidence to act, challenge, engage, collaborate and lead.

Practical example — Hua Dan

One of our first workshop participants, Zhong Na, has become a workshop leader on our children’s education projects.  As a young migrant woman, she experienced huge pressure from her parents to return to her home village in Shandong province, and fulfill traditional expectations of a woman’s role by marrying and producing a son.  However, Zhong Na wished to pursue a career as a teacher, something which her lack of education would have prevented.  Through her involvement with Hua Dan, we worked on a way in which she could pioneer our children’s education project as chief facilitator, employing her and training her in skills that support both her personal and professional development.  Her confidence has been transformed, along with her expectations of what she can achieve in life and her family now fully supports her decisions.  Additionally, she has become a future leader at Hua Dan in pioneering our innovative work in applying arts-based approaches to the school curriculum for migrant children.

Build communities

To build communities with values of a higher order.  Listening to needs, forming partnerships in those communities, identifying the values that create harmonious community, ‘lighting flames’ in the community.

Scheherazade recognises that in order to ensure effective change and embed sustainability, individuals must work in the community with those around them. Scheherazade’s model works to actively identify and connect individuals with other individuals, with organisations and with institutions in order that they can increase the reach and scope of activity as well as the depth of experience and the quality of sustainable change. This not only means engaging with social and governmental institutions, but also corporations and individual volunteers. Thus individuals and communities can themselves identify the appropriate partners who can collaborate to effect change.

Practical example — Hua Dan

Hua Dan has inspired an exceptional group of young people to lead and facilitate our work and has a strong company culture that has developed an outstanding reputation in China. We have developed a strong set of values that inspire our work and are creating leadership at all levels of the organization that engenders respect amongst partners and co-collaborators. When Birmingham Royal Ballet, for example, came to China to identify appropriate organisations in the community with which to work, Hua Dan was recommended to them by the British Council as the first choice for collaboration.

Identification and design of programmes

Identification and design of programmes to support this within the target community, using arts-based approaches/alternative, out-of-the-box education that seek to challenge the status quo and build system-changing impact that link all sectors — corporate, government and civil society.

In order to effect change in the wider social context, Scheherazade recognises that it must use its experience within the community to develop community-owned and delivered programmes that engage with policy-makers, corporations, government, international bodies to effect change.

Both Scheherazade/Hua Dan and those individuals with which the company has worked engage with social institutions in ways that are practical and support debate to effect shifts in practice and belief.  Thus activity in this area has system-changing impact.

Empowering individuals and helping them to take the responsibility to do this is a core component of a model that effects real, long-term, societal change. This is consistent with Scheherazade’s commitment to consistently innovate in how the arts are applied to achieve social change.

Self-reflection and analysis, personal and project monitoring and evaluation are core elements of design of programmes so that all activity can inform future practice. Both individuals and Scheherazade/Hua Dan learn from experience, relationships and situations and take this learning to future contexts and activity. Continued structured monitoring and effective evaluation are essential and embedded into all parts of activity, since it is designed to inform future practice. The ability to capitalise on strengths and minimise weaknesses is a direct result of the analysis of success and failure. This analysis includes practical activity, relationships and goals. This ensures that work to effect change is relevant and appropriate to individuals and communities.

Practical example

Scheherazade spends the initial period of time of its engagement with the community in running workshops that help to identify key needs and issues of relevance to support strong programme design. We believe in programmes that link together key stakeholders from the corporate, government and civil society. In Sichuan, with Hua Dan, for example, our initial phase of workshops were run in collaboration with schools in the affected area, and also through a collaboration with World Vision. We were able to use the initial period to do a needs assessment in the earthquake area that has informed programme design that has a multiple-stakeholder approach. Furthermore, through identifying and working with our first Sichuan Project Manager, Gao Yan, her direct experience of being an earthquake victim has further enriched the way we deliver programmes in the community. The innovative nature of our work has attracted the attention of local schools and funding bodies with whom we are now partnering to develop a model for psycho-social rehabilitation that can be scaled-up in the coming years.

Employment and capacity building of target groups

Employment and capacity building of target groups so that they are embedded/employed within the local organization itself, providing opportunities for economic empowerment as well as enabling leadership within the target group to drive change themselves.

Scheherazade thus works to empower the next generation of facilitators, leaders, entrepreneurs, policy makers and social shapers. It recognises that it cannot and should not focus on direct contact with large numbers of people, but should concentrate on fully empowering those who will go to reach those large numbers. Investment and resource allocation are based on this premise.

Practical example — Hua Dan

Dong Fen, one of our first participants, is a migrant woman from Yunnan province. She has been attending our workshops since our inception in 2004 and became a facilitator in 2007. At Hua Dan, she has been trained in all aspects of workshop facilitation, theatre skills, project management, English and business skills and is now the in-country General Manager for Hua Dan. Her responsibilities include overseeing our team of facilitators, managing relationships, fundraising, monitoring and evaluation and financial management. She has a salary of 5000RMB per month, equivalent to an educated graduate professional, which has helped her to buy her parents a proper brick structure house, rather than the traditional earth houses typical of impoverished parts of Yunnan, thereby lifting herself and her family out of extreme poverty.

Building for sustainability

Identification of, and development of, social enterprise model/earned-income initiatives to support organisation objectives and reduce dependency on grants.  Also contributes to empowerment by creating viable business model, not just ‘charity’.

Practical example

As part of the Founder and CEO’s commitment to genuine empowerment models, a key part of the model is in identifying earned-income opportunities that reduce dependency on grants in the long-term. Sustainable businesses, as she sees it, are engines for economic growth, contributing to the economy and generating income that also enhances self-esteem and confidence in the groups we empower. Our understanding of the market gaps in training of Chinese workers, coupled with market research conducted by INSEAD in partnership with Hua Dan, have identified a need for training of China’s workforce in the soft skills that Hua Dan aims to develop. We have therefore identified the potential to create significant earned-income through developing a corporate training side to our work that serves to reinforce and underline our mission.


Training/handbook left behind to create legacy. Leaving behind leadership, strong relationships, a commitment to innovation, franchise models and systems and processes that ensure continuity, programme development and inspiration.

Practical example

Scheherazade is in the process of documenting our work in a manual that contains our vision and philosophy, working processes, systems, methodology and model.  This will enable us to reinforce and underpin the other 5 steps of our working model into a coherent whole to enable ease of replication.

The model is not necessarily chronological but all six components intertwine to form the basis of Scheherazade’s work.


Project Websites