How Do You Start a Superhero School? Pt.1 – Pieter Spinder, Founder of Knowmads in Amsterdam

So Pieter, how did all this begin?

In june 2009 we started with the idea of founding a school for social entrepreneurs. And, as I use to say: ideas have consequences. We then sat together for three days and designed a one-year program based on four questions we had ourselves:

  1. In what world do we (want to) live? (Sustainability & Social Innovation)
  2. What do I want to contribute/change? (Personal Leadership)
  3. How do I create the organisation to get it done? (Entrepreneurship & New Business Design)
  4. How do I bring it in the world? (Marketing & Creativity)

Why did you start this school?

The current educational system is educating young people to do standardized, almost “factory”-like work. But the times have changed and I saw that the way we teach our young people is completely disconnected from real life. I feel that we need to facilitate, empower and enable young people to do and learn how they want. Questions like “What is true?”,  “What connection do I have with myself?”, “What and how do I want to connect to the other(s)?”, are important to us. And to practice the principle of interconnectedness, and by doing so becoming effective in change-making. To see this happening in our one-year program, is a great gift.

Is your work easy?

No… And yes.

No because we are doing something new, which is hard to explain to the “outside” world. We work in an outlier field with new words, new meanings and different starting points than those most people have about education.

Yes, because when people walk in through our door, visit our website or talk with Knowmads students, they feel that something is there. And this something triggers people to think differently about themselves and the world around them, which leads them to see that things are possible… And yes, because we do it, and we’ve done it for four and a half years now – every day.

What’s the most important thing in the school and its coworking space? What’s it ‘all about’ in one sentence?

It is all about Head, Heart and Hands. The combination of thinking, feeling and doing. Awareness of who you are, what your story is, and how you want to put it in the world.

What would you give young people if you could choose one thing?

The awareness of who they are and how valuable they are.

So how do you set up a superhero space like Knowmads? What’s the starting point? And what are the (or your) next steps?

The starting point is a belief that everything is possible, that one can have a positive influence in their own world, and that by doing what you want, you can do something good for the world. And to see the interconnectedness and the big possibilities in yourself and the world around you.

Are there any typical don’ts in your eyes? What should be avoided ?

When something; a project, product or service doesn’t add something valuable to yourself and the world, don’t do it. Trust your intuition. It never lies.


This interview with Pieter Spinder – founder of Amsterdam’s superhero business school Knowmads  – was done by Titia Bruning, Superhero Spaces collaborator and host (and heart of office) at Knowmads Greenhouse – a coworking space inside this school. You’re always welcome to check Knowmads out on Ferdinand Huyckstraat 64 in Amsterdam!

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