One-line solution summary
Tilli is a play based, AI powered social-emotional learning tool that teaches 5–10-year-olds how to stay safe, healthy, and happy.
Pitch your solution
Tilli is committed to solving the problem of social emotional learning at scale to transform the measurement of learning outcomes while delivering low and high tech learning experiences for a wide range of digital skills and teacher capacity regardless of the learner’s ability to pay.
Tilli provides low and high tech product versions, using mobile, web, and analog applications. Tilli delivers culturally relevant conversations of substance between teachers, learners, and parents.
Tilli facilitates differentiated instruction using computer adaptive learning in the form of inclusive game-mechanics, narrative storytelling, and curated conversations. The well established behavioral change framework - ‘LEARN-APPLY-REFLECT’ - is used to teach children how to build resilient mental models.
Tilli uses the power of play to reduce inequities and achievement gaps in children. Both low and high tech versions take the learner through different learning themes in an interactive way as they collect points and progress through the levels of the game. The use of key phrase detection and Natural Language Processing (NLP) models capture and analyze each learner’s unique responses.
Tilli tracks and measures a child’s learning and cognitive development through a range of indicators including the complexity of the child’s emotional vocabulary, application of critical thinking skills, different degrees of empathy and the demonstration of self-reflective practices.
Students with high social skills are four times more likely to complete college. By improving social emotional skills, Tilli will increase achievement levels and produce better learning, health, and employment outcomes in the lives of learners in South Asia.
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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?
Improve literacy, numeracy, and social emotional learning milestones while supporting a diverse range of learning pace and styles
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Palo Alto, CA, USA
Is your solution working in Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and/or Malaysia?
What specific problem are you solving in Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and/or Malaysia?
Malaysia makes a high investment with poor learning outcomes. Achievement levels do not match the investment being made.
World Bank (2013, 2011) found that poor teacher quality and training was a key barrier to improving the quality of learning outcomes, and found students were falling behind because they lacked the opportunity to develop higher order thinking skills. Teachers in Malaysia have cited the need for active measures to help teachers learn.
This impacts all 5.7 million learners in the system. Although Malaysia progressed from the bottom 30% to the middle 30% of PISA participating countries between 2012 and 2018, students performed below average in all subjects, with some countries that spend less on education ranking considerably higher.
Problem factors relating to Tilli:
Students with high social skills are four times more likely to complete college. By improving social emotional skills, Tilli will increase achievement levels and help children to advance beyond the compulsory primary school level in Malaysia.
Tilli uses the power of play to reduce inequities and achievement gaps in children which is currently a major gap in the market.
Tilli transforms the measurement of SEL outcomes to support teachers with the improvement of cognitive growth.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
The target population of 5 - 10 year olds are currently underserved in Malaysia due to lack of opportunity and tools to develop higher order thinking skills. This is directly impacting achievement levels with all students performing below average in subjects and poor ranking in international tests. Some countries with lower education budgets rank higher.
What are we doing to understand their needs: Research, market analysis, and interviews to deepen our understanding of the needs of early learners in Malaysia.
We use ethical co-creation practices (strengthened at the Lego Bootcamp we participated in when we were selected for the Global Top 3 in the Future Play Design Challenge 2021) to engage and learn from children, parents, and teachers for solution implementation.
Tilli targets children in their most crucial years of cognitive development (ages 5-10) and gives teachers and parents open source tools for the proactive development of higher order thinking skills like metacognition, empathy, and critical thinking. Research shows that students with high social skills are four times more likely to complete college. Tilli will help early learners increase achievement levels, test scores, and overall learning outcomes.
How does the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge?
The problem of achievement levels not matching the investment being made in Malaysia points to the need to develop higher order thinking skills which has been proven to increase achievement levels and cited by the World Bank who found students were falling behind because they lacked the opportunity to develop higher order thinking skills.
The absence of evidence based SEL informed by the science of learning is addressed by Tilli which is an evidence based SEL intervention that uses the well established "Learn, Apply, Reflect" Framework and evidence based narrative storytelling to increase cognitive growth in children.
Social emotional learning at scale to transform the measurement of learning outcomes while delivering low and high tech learning experiences for a wide range of digital skills and teacher capacity aligns directly with the Octava Challenge and selected dimension of "Improve social emotional learning milestones while supporting a diverse range of learning pace and styles."
The target population is 5 - 10 year olds which are the most crucial window for cognitive development of higher order thinking skills. [UNESCO cites age 5 as the recommended age to start social emotional learning].
What is your solution’s stage of development?Pilot: A project, initiative, venture, or organization applying its research, product, service, or business model in at least one context or community
Who is the Team Lead for your solution?
Kavindya Thenakoon - Co-Founder & CEO
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?A new application of an existing technology
What makes your solution innovative?
Tilli takes an innovative approach to scaling and delivering equitable, trauma-informed social emotional learning (SEL) through an open source platform.
This approach advances continuous innovation through collaboration by:
Placing measurable SEL outcomes within reach across the region;
Increasing open access to EdTech for the “bottom of the pyramid”;
Reducing infrastructure and financial constraints in solution implementation;
Building capacity for deeper engagement with government actors;
Scaling EdTech across market segments and making it less burdensome for the “bottom of the pyramid.”
Improved Approach to the Problem:
Tilli transforms the measurement of SEL outcomes to drive the reduction of inequities and achievement gaps in children which is currently a major gap in the market. We use key phrase detection and Natural Language Processing to capture and analyze each learner’s unique response and measure, track and improve cognitive growth.
Tilli facilitates differentiated instruction through computer adaptive learning and highly personalized learning experiences that use an evidence based approach to narrative storytelling.
Tilli addresses better solution implementation at scale for the bottom of the pyramid by providing open source content templates that easily customize stories, color palettes, and nomenclature for specific countries, communities, and cultures.
The open source approach will have a broader positive impact and help remove barriers to access for evidence based SEL.
Low and high tech learning experience delivery for a wide range of digital skills and teacher capacity, regardless of the ability to pay, will bring about much needed change in the EdTech market for SEL.
Have you tested your solution’s approach? If so, how?
Our solution is grounded in published research and user testing at the Stanford School of Education including a post-testing process for learning outcomes, quality of interactions, and child preferences on imagery, stories and learning structure. This was followed by a multi-step ethical co-creation process in Sri Lanka with kids, teachers, and parents where we delivered an analog experience (flashcard game) using best practices in toy-design to understand how kids engaged with content, stories and the quality of conversations they had with adults and peers. Tilli has been tested with 300 early learners, 150+ teachers and parents in 8 countries both in 1:1 and classroom settings. 95% of kid testers demonstrated full engagement and completion. 96% of kid testers said they were confident to “say no” and avoid an unsafe situation after Tilli. 85% of parents said they were better positioned to have honest and meaningful conversations with their kids.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
Our open source technology uses machine learning models for high tech and data analytics in the low tech version to establish a scalable platform for rapid experimentation and iteration using learning outcomes, engagement and feedback.
The infrastructure which manages the user experience is orchestrated by unikernels running actor-based microservices to isolate and secure the experience at a granular level. The event-driven message oriented building blocks of the platform are part of a differential dataflow mechanism that facilitates incremental computation of user learning and experience. This core innovation vastly reduces the computational capacity required to continuously train and advance machine learning models and elastically scale.
Inclusive design templates quickly and easily customize modules for different languages, cultures, and communities, with culturally relevant local narratives that deliver equitable SEL and diversity in data sets over time.
The web, iOS and Android apps are compositions of the outputs from design templates while feeding into the infrastructure for rapid evaluations.
Key phrase detection and Natural Language Processing enable the continuous assessment and improvement of learner experiences by capturing and analyzing each learner’s unique responses to a given real life case study during the ‘Apply’ stage of the learning journey. After capturing the learner’s response we then present a personalized follow up prompt to help them internalize new learning and address any existing learning gaps.
Generating quality data that collaborators and educators can use to better understand how students learn while creating differentiated and inclusive learning experiences that put learners first is at the core.
What is your theory of change?
Deliver SEL at scale to transform the measurement of SEL outcomes while delivering low and high tech learning experiences to address the bottom of the pyramid.
Key Assumption: Differentiated instruction through adaptive learning is achievable regardless of the ability to pay.
Target Population: 5 - 10 year olds.
[UNESCO cites age 5 as the recommended age to start conversations on topics like bodies, consent, and power]
Entry Point to Reach Target Population:
Proven Partnerships with Telecommunications and other service providers with well established relationships in the Ministry of Education and/or Online Learning Platforms accessed by in country network of public schools like the one we have with Dialog Axiata.
Champion SEL Educators in Private School Networks
Champions of Access to SEL Education in rural areas
Key assumption: SEL champions in each of these spaces are actively looking for open source tools to increase capacity for SEL and transform the measurement of SEL outcomes.
Steps needed to drive change:
Engage SEL champions
Engage ministry of education and government actors
Align with government priorities
Use open source templates to customize culturally relevant learning modules
Integrate user testing from kids, teachers, parents
Deliver training on digital skills and deployment to teachers
Scale the technology through open source tools
Collaborate and advance open source platform to continuously generate diverse data sets over time
Tilli has been tested with 300 early learners, 150+ teachers and parents in 8 countries both in 1:1 and classroom settings. 95% of kid testers demonstrated full engagement and completion. 96% of kid testers said they were confident to “say no” and avoid an unsafe situation after Tilli. 85% of parents said they were better positioned to have honest and meaningful conversations with their kids.
Wider benefits of the work:
Increase achievement levels and college completion rates by four times.
Long term change:
Achieve better learning, health, employment outcomes
Reduce the global problem of violence against children which impacts 1 in 2 children.
Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Child protection authorities, Educators, Parents, Kids
Which target population(s) does your solution address?
What are the key characteristics of your target population?
Which categories best describe your main EdTech product or service?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?
Identify 1500 SEL Champions and build a coalition in 25 countries within 5 years.
Establish collaborative partnerships with 10 large scale implementation partners that are engaged with the national network of public and private schools across the region.
Scale evidence based SEL for the bottom of the pyramid by delivering Tilli to 1 million low tech and 1 million high tech learners within 5 years.
Reduce achievement gaps and inequities in children by providing digital skill training to transform the measurement of SEL outcomes to 100,000 teachers within 5 years.
Advance innovation through collaboration using open source tools that easily customize inclusive content templates for 25 specific countries, communities, and cultures within 5 years.
What are your impact goals for the next year, the next three years, and the next five years? How will you achieve them?
Identify, Outreach, and Recruit 120 SEL Champions
Establish collaborative partnerships with 2 large scale implementation partners that are engaged with the national network of public and private schools across the region.
Scale evidence based SEL for the bottom of the pyramid by delivering Tilli to 10,000 low tech and 25,000 high tech learners.
Reduce achievement gaps and inequities in children by providing digital skill training to transform the measurement of SEL outcomes to 1,000 teachers.
Advance innovation through collaboration using open source tools that easily customize inclusive content templates for 2 specific countries, communities, and cultures.
Identify, Outreach, and Recruit 1000 SEL Champions
Establish collaborative partnerships with 4 large scale implementation partners that are engaged across the region.
Scale evidence based SEL for the bottom of the pyramid by delivering Tilli to 250,000 low tech and 500,000 high tech learners.
Reduce achievement gaps and inequities in children by providing digital skill training to transform the measurement of SEL outcomes to 50,000 teachers.
Advance innovation through collaboration using open source tools that easily customize inclusive content templates for 10 specific countries, communities, cultures.
Identify, Outreach, and Recruit the final 380 SEL Champions
Establish collaborative partnerships with final 4 large scale implementation partners
Scale evidence based SEL for the bottom of the pyramid by delivering Tilli to final 749,000 low tech and 475,000 high tech learners.
Train final 49,000 teachers on digital skills.
Complete open source templates for final 13 countries, communities, cultures.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your impact goals?
Describe these barriers as they relate to your solution. How do you plan to overcome them?
We used $100,000 in capital contributions from the co-founders to build a working prototype and complete 3 rounds of user testing and design integration.
We have $450,000 in-kind investment from a local implementation partner which is being used for QA Testing, Deployment, Marketing and Product Promotion.
We have $172,000 in-kind investment from a capacity building resource partner that is being used for advanced technology development, hosting, and analytics.
We require additional funding sources to advance the work.
We apply to a minimum of 2 relevant funding opportunities every month including grants, venture and social impact funds. We are developing a charitable giving community of at least 25 individual and organizational donors within 2 years.
We cultivate a SEL network of experts through 10 academic and 5 research institutions within 2 years.
We have a partnership with one of Asia's largest Telcos and have launched in Sri Lanka through the national online e-learning platform which includes 1000+ public schools and a 150 smart school network.
We are cultivating this relationship to help with market entry into additional locations. We are also engaging in targeted outreach and development of 9 additional implementation partners within 5 years with a phased approach described in prior question.
Please provide a brief history of your organization. What was the motivation behind starting your organization and/or the development of your solution?
Kavindya’s interest and work with youth is extensive. From the age of 17, Kavindya has been working closely with youth in Sri Lanka and beyond and her deep learnings have inspired and driven her to build Tilli. Kavindya learned early about the culture of silence that allows perpetrators to use trust to abuse their victims and prevent victims from reporting abuse. As she journeyed through EdTech at the Stanford School of Education, she began to see the major mismatch between available social and emotional learning and the skills needed for children to stay safe for themselves and others. Kavindya was disappointed to learn that even though UNESCO cited age 5 as the recommended age to start conversations on topics like bodies, consent, and power, these conversations often started during a child’s early adolescence or later. This meant that learning interventions were reactive not proactive. She was very dismayed by this. She realized that this delayed response ignored a prime opportunity to shape life-altering mental models in children. Kavindya knew she had to build Tilli to address this startling gap.
Vidya is a survivor of violence and became an advocate to turn her pain into power and raise awareness about violence against women and girls. Vidya co-founded Tilli as part of a solution to the global problem of violence impacting 1 in 2 children, according to Unicef. Vidya feels deeply that her own life would have been different if she had Tilli for herself as a young girl.
What type of organization is your solution team?
Hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit
How many people work on your solution team?
Kavindya Thennakoon, CEO
Vidya Sri, Chief Strategy Officer
Ravi Madhusudhan, CTO
Mathan Kumar, Tech Lead
Sathya Seelan, Tech Infrastructure
Kalani Bandara, Design and Scaling, South Asia
Theja Jayasinghe, Child Psychology Expert, South Asia
Caitlin O’Quinn, Licensed Educator
Sakthiselvam & Praveenkumar, Tech Developers
How long have you been working on your solution?
How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
We have a deep skill set with 80 years of relevant experience in Education, Ed-Tech, Strategy, Scaling, Advanced Technology and Cognitive Sciences. 9 of our 10 members are born/raised in South Asia. We have direct experience in the region with solution design and implementation. We have successfully co-founded several organizations with social impact in the region.
Tilli’s learning design model was incubated and published by Kavindya at the Stanford School of Education where her research focused on using gamified approaches to social-emotional learning. Tilli’s co-creation journey started with children, educators, and parents in South Asia and includes development and testing in 8 countries.
Kavindya, Theja, and Kalani have successfully co-created Without Borders in South Asia; a social enterprise that has connected over 3000+ learners with affordable and immersive learning.
Vidya Sri , led the Initiative on Violence Against Women, at the Harvard Kennedy School where she combined successful business & human rights practice and partnering techniques to launch a 1700 member coalition from 128 countries to help address legal and cultural reform on the issue.
Vidya, Caitlin, and Ravi, have successfully collaborated and co-founded three social impact organizations. Vidya presents groundbreaking data in Voices From the Frontline which has informed best practices to better understand and support survivors of violence. The ecosystem model from the second organization enabled game changing published research and a curated e-library to help lay the groundwork for a global treaty. The third organization has helped women entrepreneurs access resources otherwise unavailable to them.
Provide an example of your Team Lead’s ability to conceptualize and implement a new idea.
Our Team Lead, Kavindya, is a Learning Experience Designer who studied and trained at the Stanford School of Education. She has direct experience with Edtech design and development success at Coursera, MIT Media Lab, Albright Institute and the United Nations.
Kavindya started a program in Sri Lanka, at the age of 17, to renovate school libraries in her village, with her own earnings from a local job at a television station. This same project turned into Without Borders; a social enterprise that has connected over 3000+ learners with affordable and immersive learning. Kavindya won the inaugural Queen’s Young Leaders Award and the Harvard Global Trailblazer’s Award for her work to successfully create Without Borders.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
The Dialog Foundation, part of Dialog Axiata, one of Asia’s largest telecommunications service providers is an implementation partner for Tilli. We recently launched Tilli in Sri Lanka on Children’s Day through the Nenasa Online E-learning Platform established by Dialog with the Ministry of Education. Dialog has made Tilli available to students in primary schools through this platform which is accessed by 4.2 million learners across 1000+ local schools. This also gives Tilli access to 150 smart schools within the Dialog network.
Tilli has partnered with IMI Games, one of Asia’s largest mobile gaming portals, and deployed a hyper-casual version of Tilli featuring minimalistic user interfaces to use technology at scale to support the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ and increase access to reliable technologies that support learning.
Teqbahn is a capacity building resource partner for Tilli. Teqbahn builds and scales the technology behind Tilli to deliver a highly personalized and differentiated learning experience which deepens learner engagement using play-based games. Teqbahn provides advanced technology development, hosting, and analytics capacity for Tilli.
The Director of Learning, Design & Technology at the Stanford School of Education serves as an advisor to Tilli and provides learning design guidance and coaching.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
We would benefit from introductions or exposure to potential implementation partners like Telcos and other service partners who are embedded within the Ministry of Education in Malaysia and other countries in the region. Our model used in Sri Lanka has been very successful and we would love help to replicate this model in other countries while adapting it based on your feedback and market feedback. We would also like help to fine tune our revenue model and how we think about funding our work. Our current combination of in-kind and financial investment has served us well and we do need deeper insights to adjust and adapt this model to other countries in the region. We believe Tilli is a strong fit for all countries in the region and we would love to work with you to implement and deploy Till in the most effective way possible with you advice and coaching.