One-line solution summary:
Cascade of Learning crowdsources peer mentoring to bridge the digital and resource divide for children in underserved communities worldwide.
Which Challenge does your solution most closely address?Equitable Classrooms: How can all young learners have access to quality, safe, and equitable learning environments?
Pitch your solution.
Most children in marginalized communities we work in have inadequate access to the learning opportunities they need to prepare for successful lives. The childhood disadvantages set them up for disappointments and under-achievements through their lives. Poor education and early childhood infrastructure cannot be remedied by governments alone, especially in poor countries. We change this trajectory with our Cascade of Learning peer mentoring model, individualized support is crowdsourced to help children prepare for, stay and succeed in school.
Cascade of Learning is operationalized using SoCCs (Social Capital Credits), our community currency for social good. All our projects start with SoCCratic dialogues where children and parents create their own SoCC Earning and Redeeming menus through fun games. Participants earn SoCCs for tutoring 2-3 children who are three years or more younger, twice or thrice a week. So an adult can tutor/mentor a 15 year old who can mentor a 12 year old, who can then tutor a 9 year old and so on, up to preschool kids. Mentoring a family member does not count. SoCCs can be redeemed for school fees, school supplies, and courses in our Knowledge Centers including digital literacy, coding, animation, digital music, spoken English, and life skills.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?New York, NY, USA
Is this a new solution, an existing solution, or an adaptation of an existing solution?Existing solution
How does your solution incorporate research?
The World Bank Paper No. 3 entitled “Social Capital, the Missing Link” concluded in 1998 that Social capital is the glue that holds communities together and without which there can be no economic growth or human well- being.”
We operationalize the Social Capital of communities to improve the ecosystem that children grow up in. Our education advisor has helped us learn the methods of the MIT Teaching Systems Labs, and their work related to “Becoming a More Equitable Educator”. The core of this work is the awareness that student success is a shared responsibility, and seeing children as assets, while tapping into their unique strength and traits improves educational outcomes, as explained in the diagram attached.
The concept of “shared responsibility” is manifested by incentivising communities, through SoCCs, to support children’s education. Parents can also undertake other acts of social good per the SoCCs Earning and Redeeming menus, and can trade these SoCCs for children’s school fees, education related expenses, or courses the children can take in our Knowledge Centers.
Action research and accountability is built into the DNA of SoCCs, as every SoCC earned or redeemed is recorded. We are able to capture strategic data to evaluate the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for our educational program, and the reports generated by our platform are shared with the community. The number of SoCCs for activities and the learning outcomes can be realigned based on parameters for educational attainments and benchmarks identified. This sets up a feedback loop that ensures success for the students.
Going forward, we plan to evaluate the effects of those receiving interventions vs. those not, in educationally meaningful magnitudes. We also plan to compare students who had some form of virtual learning vs. those that did not due to infrastructural constraints.
Who is the Team Lead for your solution?
Geeta Mehta. Team includes Surabhi Prabhu, Sandeep Srivastava, Nidhi, Annesha, Shweta and Victoria
What makes your solution innovative?
As a teacher for over 25 years, I know that the best way to learn is to teach something. I saw no program that was doing this, so my team and I developed the Cascade of Learning for peer teaching/mentoring for children of all ages, using the best technological resources available.
Our research indicates that the education gap among children in under-served communities is a result of interlocking circumstances that include poverty, low education among parents, low expectations, lack of positive role models, and unsuitable pedagogical systems in underfunded schools. So we incentivize childrens’ families and communities to support their education and learning. Parents can also earn SoCCs by helping their communities, per SoCCs menus, and use them for children’s education and learning support.
We use persuasive technology for behaviour change, like carbon credits. SoCCs is unique in that children and their families engage in creating their own SoCCs Earning and Redeeming menus, so they have the power of choice. We believe that people, including children, who are closer to the problems are also closer to the solutions. Children’s creativity and agency develop as they exercise these through SoCCs.
Our learning sessions include teaching through songs, stories and games for emotional as well as educational development of children, which is not possible in underfunded schools in many poor countries. While our mentees have shown significant improvement in their cognitive skills, school attendance and learning, the mentors are also gaining self-confidence, leadership skills, and respect from their communities and families.
What is your theory of change?
Our theory of change is that “It takes a village to educate a child”. People, young and old, coming together to help their community, build well being, happiness and social capital. Social capital then helps improve outcomes in education, livelihoods, health and more. For too long the world has focused too much on financial capital, losing much social and environmental capital in the process. SoCCs (Social Capital Credits) seeks to forefront social capital, and make it measurable and fungible.
Crowdsources peer mentoring, leveraged through SoCCs, enhances the effectiveness of educational programs by supporting the emotional as well educational, growth of a child, and links marginalized children to critical upskilling using the 21st Century digital resources.
We also believe that having the freedom of choices is important and fun, as It helps develop decision making skills. So children and their families put into the SoCCs Earning and Redeeming menus the choices they want. Teachers can also earn SoCCs to get additional digital and other skills or things they need. Gamification makes SoCCs fun. For example, if people earn an pre-decided number of SoCCs, they get some SoCCs as bonus points. There are also bonus SoCCs for special holidays and celebrations.
SoCCs earned by individuals are called iSoCCs. Every 5 iSoCCs earned also result in 1 CommSoCC which goes into the community kitty. When there are enough CommSoCCs collected, the community comes together to decide how to spend them. For example, children in schools may use their CommSoCCs to hold a graduation party, visit a museum or a theme park.
SoCCs multiply the goodness in the community, and make poor communities get resources for educating their children that they need, breaking the intergenerational poverty trap and opening up new horizons for children.
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries do you plan to be operating within the next year?
What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?
In 2020 we served 6,000 children and their families, and expect this figure to grow exponentially as we improve our technology and take on more project requests that come to us regularly from various NGOs and communities. We are also implementing SoCCs to improve organic agriculture, reforestation, micro-credit availability for small enterprises, rain water harvesting and other community projects, and we are planning to implement the Cascade of Learning in all these projects.
We are currently working to connect the Cascade of Learning with government school systems in underserved communities. For example, in Kumasi, Ghana, where we served as consultants to the Earth Institute at Columbia University and WomenStrong International, we implemented SoCCs in one school, and the government picked up the model and scaled it up in over 100 schools, changing the name of SoCCs to a local name “Aboso”. Our conversations with the Delhi school system, which has 2,400 schools, are stalled due to Covid but expected to resume soon. By next year we expect to help over 50,000 children and their families, and In 5 years, we expect to reach 1 million children.
We are actively looking into blockchain and other technologies that can help scale up. We are also considering low-cost virtual reality devices for our knowledge centers, to make visual subjects like geography and science more fun for children.
We are also working with education experts to improve our modules and training for child mentors to use while tutoring and mentoring younger children.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
Covid-19 has definitely slowed down the conversations we were having with many school boards to bring SoCCs and our Cascade of Learning mentoring model to them.
There are very serious societal mores that impede the education of girls. For example, if child marriage is the issue that keeps many girls from education, we incentivise famileis to take oaths against child marriage in a public gathering, standing next to their daughter. The parents get a laminated certificate, and their name also goes on a large village wall for all to see, so there is social pressure for keep the oath.
Parents in crowded urban slums are also worried about the safety of their girls, and do not let them go any where alone, especially after dark. So they can only go to our Knowlsge Centers during daylight hours, which are short in Winter. After daughters are a certain age, parents also only want them to be tutored by older girls and women. So we have developed a child safety policy.
Funding is an issue. We are in conversation with local businesses where our projects are located in order to get their corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds to our education projects. Our selling point is that that each development dollar deployed through SoCCs has a multiplier effect. Till we can do this, scaling up of our work will be limited by the funds Asia Initiatives can raise through fundraising, some consulting, and grant revenues.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
While lockdowns of schools due to Covid have been a challenge, we have taken this opportunity to launch our new Zoom SoCC Buddy program, where young people from around the world are tutoring younger students in our programs once a week, using the fun modules developed by our educational advisor.
Having the trust of a community, in an underserved area, where people are living hand to mouth and do not have time for meetings is an issue. We gain this credibility by working with our local partners who are embedded in the community, and have the trust of the people.
Quality control is also an important issue. Especially as young children, with no prior tutorning experience tutor younger children. We have developed training modules, so that the mentoring is gentle, respectful, and encouraging, instead of judgemental. We also ask parents to supervise young mentors when they have time, to ensure this.
Social mores do not leave girls much time for their own studies and recreation. So we build in ample flexibility in the program to suit their needs. As an example 1500 girls In our Cascade of Learning project in Lucknow are learning educational and life skills when they get time from their household or sibling-care chores.
We are also looking to improve our data collection not just in quantitative but also qualitative terms. We plan make surveys more child friendly and suitable for illiterate parents, using emojis, smiley faces etc.