My journey as a social entrepreneur has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride! I always dreamt that all children from under-resourced communities should have access to quality education for a better future and that’s how the idea of ThinkZone was born. That idea has turned into a full-fledged social enterprise ThinkZone, and, which sometime back officially completed 5 years! Yes, 5 years of official ‘Entrepreneurial’ experience.
At a learning camp in rural Ganjam, Odisha
To give a background of ThinkZone — We work towards improving the educational outcomes of children from under-resourced communities using a ‘tech plus touch’ model and activity-based methodology. We enable community educators, Anganwadi workers, and primary school teachers to deliver quality early-grade education programs by using ThinkZone’s technology, teaching resources, and learning activities.
ThinkZone Fellow Chinmayee implementing activity-based learning program in rural Kendrapara, Odisha
In this amazing journey of ThinkZone, I have realized that doing something meaningful is not always about impressive innovation. Sometimes it is doing something with great perseverance. That’s the best part about ThinkZone. Limited resources and multiple problems during implementation has not stopped us from directly impacting the learning outcomes of 5000+ children.
If I think of the last 5 years, then ThinkZone has at least done something positive on the ground despite being frugal in our approach. The very fact that nearly 90% of enrolled children in the primary grade programs at ThinkZone have moved 2 levels up from their existing learning levels in arithmetic and language shows that a no-frills, learning outcomes focussed model can work at scale to improve student engagement from an early level.
Being the Founder of ThinkZone, I on a personal level would like to thank everyone for being with me and the team when we needed it the most. ThinkZone has made it this far because of some awesome people! Without them, my personal journey would never have been so epic.
In all this sense of positive achievements, I also wanted to share my experience when ThinkZone first started executing its program in 2015. We started implementing ThinkZone’s Early-Childhood Education program by setting up a learning center in a very remote village of Othaka in rural Cuttack. The below picture is the place where ThinkZone was started!
ThinkZone’s 1st Learning Centre
Despite, the best of our efforts, I failed to make it self sustainable and had to close it down after a couple of years. There are 5 more of these ThinkZone Early Childhood Education Centres which were shut down in the first 2 years.
I failed big time when I started out! I have failed many times again after trying out different things on the ground. Why I am sharing this now? Because sometime back, ThinkZone’s ECD programs have been officially rolled out in multiple Anganwadis of Odisha! We finally found out a scalable and cost-effective approach in delivering quality education programs across children — by partnering with the government.
ThinkZone’s ECD program being implemented at a partner Anganwadi Centre
It makes me wonder — What was I up to in the first few years? Why could I not think about this approach when I started?🤦 I guess I was destined to struggle for ideas initially!
Our Fellow Susama conducting story-telling sessions using the ThinkZone App
I have realized one funny yet true thing in the last 5 years — If you are able to convince your parents/family about your enterprise & they continuously back you up because they believe in that idea & not due to emotional pressure; then rest assured you can convince any investor, customer or partner!
My family is still not convinced entirely of what I am doing with my life but nonetheless have supported me day in, day out in whatever I do at ThinkZone. I think it will take me some more time to convince them totally that ThinkZone is the real deal! And till that time, I will keep on struggling to explain to potential investors how ThinkZone is different from its peers!
And finally — the best thing I have realized in this journey of social entrepreneurship is how to continuously take shit for the greater good and remain quiet! Even if you are at times right, you still get the stick.
Sharing ThinkZone’s story at the World Bank Headquarters, Washington, D.C. So till the time, I don’t self-explode, let’s carry on…