Welcome to Samsung’s ‘Not a School’, alternative lessons for the future. We caught up with Charlie Dark, course leader, on this exciting new venture.
Let’s be real. Looking forward can make you dizzy sometimes. In an age of over-information and influencers, who should young people listen to? What skills will they need to thrive tomorrow? How do you change the world, instead of letting the world change you?
That’s why this October, Samsung are taking over Coal Drops Yard in Kings Cross to present ‘Not A School’ – a series of inspirational and unconventional workshops and conferences designed to empower the next generation of innovators to grow and prepare them for what comes next. It’s time to forget what you know about the future.
The 4-week programme will challenge students to unthink everything they thought they knew about technology, culture and society. How to be productive and sustainable; how to make the world more compassionate; how to build a brand while staying true to their values. The mission is in the title. This is not a school. It’s not about a curriculum, it’s about a conversation. Samsung and the ‘Not a School’ course leaders want to challenge their students’ expectations. To inspire and provoke them.
More than that though, it’s an opportunity for them to forget everything they thought they knew about themselves. To reimagine what they are capable of. To set a new bar with the help of a team of experts and guides from a variety of specialist fields and backgrounds.
The first of these mentors – and incidentally the ‘Not a School’ course leader – is Charlie Dark.
“I am Charlie Dark, and I do... Charlie Dark,” our first coach laughs when we ask him to introduce himself. You can’t blame him for keeping it brief. Primarily known as the founder of creative fitness community Run Dem Crew, Charlie is a man of many talents: a brand consultant, DJ, producer, writer and mentor. As job titles go it’s a bit of a mouthful. Yet this variety of skills speaks to his enthusiasm for self-development. For Charlie, life is about keeping moving.
Having started DJing in 1983, Charlie went professional in the music industry of the early-1990s. As a young creative and businessman, he learnt how to navigate the tricky terrain of building a brand while staying true to his passion. “They were important lessons to learn, he adds. “How to go around the obstacle. How to walk forward until you’re stopped.”
Yet as he grew older and the industry changed, Charlie fell out of love with his career in music. The thing that had been his passion, had become a job. “I was disillusioned with life,” he says. “I was in an unhealthy state.”
So he started running, initially because it was cheaper and less intimidating than going to the gym, but soon he had opened the invitation out to his creative friends – many he knew were suffering from poor mental health and loneliness. In time his solo jogs around Stratford became a hub for exercise, togetherness and inspiration for hundreds of people. The Run Dem Crew are now a fully-fledged social enterprise, and in the process, Charlie has become an inspiration to many.
“I didn’t start [Run Dem Crew] because I wanted to grow it into something,” he says. “I started it because I had a passion. This is something I always say to young people: do it because you’ve got a passion for it, not because you want to grow it into something.”
This is one of many lessons he’s bringing to the ‘Not a School’ workshops. Although, as he explains, being a mentor isn’t all about a one-way dialogue. “A lot of people, I think, expect mentors to have all the answers. But they can’t have, if you don’t have the questions and the curiosity.”
Charlie recognises that the best way to improve the future for the next generation is to work alongside them. “There are a lot of older people making decisions on behalf of young people who don’t understand how it is to be young in this age,” he says. “Samsung are saying to young people: ‘the world is changing, we want you to be ready’. That’s really powerful."
With the ‘Not a School’ programme, Charlie hopes to offer young people a different sort of wisdom – lessons they can put to work in the rapidly changing world. From money to mindfulness, he wants to share the things that have changed his outlook as a businessman and person. To look at unconventional approaches and rewrite old ideas.
After all, the journey is never over. There is always somebody else to learn from. Including, he tells us, the soon-to-be ‘Not a School’ students. “I get excited by these kinds of projects,” he says, “because you always end up meeting young people who will change your life in some way.”