In the lifetime of a startup its generally the year of inception, the year it gets a major investment or the year it goes bust.
But for ThinkZone it’s none of the above, the year that changed everything was 2019. Now, what so special about that year?. That year ThinkZone went on course correction and ventured into uncharted territories. At the end of 2018, we found out that something was not right, the number of students at our learning centers was decreasing and in some places, parents were not willing to pay the fees. We realized this was a trend and something had to be done about it. Either spending more money and energy on the community outreach program or reducing the tuition fees. We did both, but the results were underwhelming. So, on a cold January morning, we decided that something needs to be done as the numbers were suggesting to do something desperate.
Against all expert advice, we decided not to expand our learning centers further. So the question is how to reach maximum kids if we are not opening any more centers. The answer was simple(not that simple): working with the Public system brings the change from within. Though it sounds idealistic now it did sound idealistic back then also. But many organizations were doing it slowly but surely. It was a collective decision to work with the Public system but also not to abandon or close down existing centers. But we will not be involved in collecting fees it was the teacher’s prerogative now.
Now that we knew what we want to do and what we don’t want to do. The question is how to do it.
As we decided to work with the Public system so we had to do a total overhaul of our pedagogy. Though it was never different as we know how the Public system is particular about trivial things. So, Maths English and Odia went through a complete overhaul and the content was mapped according to the Public syllabus. All the activities were redesigned which were in sync with the learning outcomes we wanted to achieve. The teaching aids that we provide School-In-The-Box, it too went through a makeover. The box was made more compact, sturdy, and made of the canvas. So it becomes durable and easy to carry much to the relief of our managers. The materials inside the School-In-The-Box were also changed we provided mathematics kit in sync with the pedagogy, in house designed flashcards and play mats for learning the language(Odia and English).
Now that we have our activities and school in the box ready, now the big question arises of how to implement the program. The program was still not clear by then but we knew where we want to go and it was just the matter of how.
We decided to have a fellowship program.
A program specifically for Anganwadis
Program for primary schools.
But implementing these programs requires experienced manpower. So, we had the option of recruiting graduates from fancy management colleges. But then it hit us after a bottle or two of beer. why recruit someone from a different cultural and geographical background; we had burnt our fingers by hiring kids from so-called fancy colleges they just couldn’t assimilate with the rural Odisha ironically they were Rural management students but were living and studying far away from ground reality. So we decided, why not empower our existing local mangers and give them additional responsibility. So, we went local. I am proud to say that the gamble paid off. Our local managers from remote villages in Odisha are doing an excellent job. But they still need to learn more.
This empowering of mangers didn’t happen overnight, we had to enable them to use google DOC, mobile money transfer, using Trello board to plan their activities and enhance their skills.
Apart from that, there was a complete overhaul of our training process after taking feedback from our existing teachers. The training process is now more classroom specific like what the teachers need to do in a classroom from activities based learning to storytelling all these were included in the training sessions. The teachers are encouraged to find their solution.
The Thinkzone’s App also went through a major overhaul, the design was done keeping in mind about the first time mobile users.
Our core team increased, we shifted to a nice new office. We are just starting to work with the Public system as a partnership and a few other projects. But we are on a roll when we look back at early 2019 we laugh and think how a year can change everything.