Overcoming barriers with innovation

The need to innovate is not only a necessity for business it is also essential for nonprofit organizations.  When considering how to innovate international development agencies should look at the communities they wish to serve. The local communities are providing innovative solutions that focus on a variety of issues but are made possible on small budgets and big picture visions. The local people have developed methods using local resources, catering to the specific needs of the locals and involving the local people in the process. These are essential characteristics to any successful projects. Our last blog discussed the barriers to education for girls and women in the developing world. Today we will look at the innovative strategies being used by organizations to break down these barriers and educate women and girls everywhere.

The Yoza cellphone project in South Africa is a very intriguing concept. In much of the developing world access to cell phones is much greater than access to a variety of books. Many school libraries are woefully underfunded and lack resources needed to meet the demands and the interest of the students. The founder of Yoza decided that making novels available through the cell phone was a way to overcome the low access to books problem. But it was his concept to create interactive novels that allowed readers to comment on actions and pitch sequels that piqued the interest of youth and got them excited about reading.  Whether you live in the developed or developing world, getting youth to read can be difficult.  But engaging them in the reading and allowing them to take part in the writing process and progress of the characters is a smart solution. The success of Yoza, launched in 2010, has created 31 m-novels, 18 poems and five Shakespeare plays. The content has been produced in a multi-lingual platform: English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa, and garnered more than 50,000 comments from our readers. In 2016 the Yoza project merged with FunDza in order to reach a greater audience and “share m-novels and run reader competitions, but also to have these stories published in print, develop new young writers and constantly push the boundaries to instill a love of reading in our youth.”[1] By engaging in the available technology and focusing on the interest of the youth, Yoza has been able to broaden the scope of literacy and writing within S. Africa.

Rumie, is another non-profit that focused on a local problem and provided solutions.  In July of 2014, at the height of Ebola crisis, all schools in Liberia were shut down. This meant over 1 million school children were denied education. “In July, Rumie, a tech startup with a charitable mission, sent its innovative and affordable $50 educational tablets to an organization in Liberia called Camp for Peace. The tablets were meant for a rehabilitation program for recovering child soldiers.”[2]  Unfortunately, all Camp for Peace activities were suspended indefinitely due to the Ebola crisis. Abel Learwellie, Camp for Peace organizer, noticed that local “kids were listless and “stuck inside going nowhere,” Abel decided to use the Rumie Tablets to teach kids math, science, English and geography.”[3] It started small, with neighborhood children. They were engaged and learning, but Abel did not have any more tablets to expand the program to more children. He contacted Rumie who launched the #EduOverEbola campaign to raise $10,000 to send 200 more tablets to Liberia. The campaign was wildly successfully. Over $25, 000 was raised. Enough to fund over 500 more tablets preloaded with high-quality educational content. The curriculum on each tablet was tailored to the needs of the children. This intervention shows the promise of overcoming access to education problems, engaging the local community and providing material developed specifically for the needs of the community. Rumie and Camp for Peace worked together to make education accessible in a time of great need.

These are just a few examples of how people are working to overcome the barriers to education. Access is one of the greatest barriers, but technology can aid in closing this gap. Agencies must be inclusive in their visions and engage the local communities in order to provide the right type of intervention to meet success. Inclusion, Innovation and Information can go a long way in providing quality education to all.


Blog post by Linnie Pawlek, founder of Teach By Tech, Inc. a 501 (c)3 organization located in Colorado, USA. To learn more about how Teach By Tech is working to make education accessible to women of the urban slums in the developing world visit our webpage: www.teachbytech.org



[1] Yoza Project. https://m4lit.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/yoza-stories-and-comments-move-to-fundza/

[2] Rumie. https://www.rumie.org/edu-over-ebola/

[3] Rumie. https://www.rumie.org/edu-over-ebola/