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Project DEFY: Design Education for Yourself

location_on Bengaluru, India

How can you build a community culture of self learning?

At Project DEFY: Design Education for Yourself, the mission is to change the way people think and ignite individual passions so students can believe in their abilities to educate themselves, others and their communities. With a computer at hand, the community customizes a makerspace that fits their own requirements, called a Nook. At the Nook, all ideas and information are shared and can be further developed by the community, which in turn can find ways to boost their economy. There are no set roles or hierarchy. As such, this creates a pure democracy system, where each learner designs his/her own education, while within a community context and influence.

HundrED 2022
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Overview

HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2022

HundrED 2021

HundrED 2020

HundrED 2019

HundrED 2018

2014

Established

6.43K

Children/users

5

Countries
Organisation
Not-for-profit
Updated
November 22nd, 2022
We do not want education to be merely a transfer of instruction. Education is a much more interesting process of self-discovery and understanding of local and global surroundings.
Abhijit Sinha, Founder & Director of Project DEFY

About the innovation

What is Project DEFY?

 

India and other developing nations struggle with high rates of teacher absence and student dropouts in rural schools. Addressing this means finding ways to educate young people without the aid of government officials and teachers.

We also need to explore different learning systems that allow people to learn for themselves - with the internet at our fingertips, it's time to see what we can master.

This becomes all the more important in communities that experience marginalization. Marginalization, in effect, reduces not only the opportunities we may access, but also the confidence in doing so. Choices and the capacity to make choices are both attacked, and hence we see looping cycles of social problems, from child labour to women being denied access to education and work.

Simply presenting more opportunities seems to have a limited effect, when work is not put in to allowing the individuals to build their capacity to understand what they like and the life they’d like to build. These opportunities currently provided become further cycles of limited options, which tend to deplete after a point.

For a community to escape its marginalisation, it needs space and time. It needs some resources to play with and explore. It needs sources for information and people around to support, in an attempt to build their lives together.

At Project DEFY: Design Education for Yourself, the mission is to change the way people think and ignite individual passions so students can believe in their abilities to educate themselves, others and their communities.

With a computer at hand, the community customizes a makerspace that fits their own requirements, and develops its own learning space, called a Nook. Projects can be anything - artistic, technical, or other - to fit each student's own learning interests and experience.

Learners use the internet as their guide book for learning. At the Nook, all ideas and information are shared and can be further developed by the community, which in turn can find ways to boost their economy.

Everyone can learn and contribute, meaning all community members can adopt both the role of the teacher and the learner. There are no set roles or hierarchy. As such, this creates a pure democracy system, where each learner designs his/her own education, while within a community context and influence.

Nooks are not the final educational destination. They play the role of providing the space and time, and some resources to help people to try and understand what interests them and what their needs are. Students build skills they are most passionate about, and pursue knowledge that most interests them. Students try and fail and try again, without fear of judgement. Finally, students develop the confidence they need to make and pursue their choices. In essence, they learn “How to Learn”, and are supported by others doing the same thing.

  

Project DEFY is hacking the system from outside as well as within by partnering with organisations to build self learning spaces within schools and universities too.

Impact 

We are currently impacting more than 6434 learners.

Scalability

So far there are 10 Nooks, 1 Nook Hub and 6 learning spaces inside universities across two continents. Project DEFY already is building new hubs in 1 more country and Nooks with 2 countries in the current fiscal year along with open requests from more countries. Given the cost effectiveness of the Nooks and its extremely low-cost operations at $1000/month, (cheaper than Indian Government Schools), it has the opportunity to scale. On a theoretical cost comparison, there can be about 8-10 times as many Nooks as there are government schools in India, at the same cost and accessing the same number of people.


 

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

Project DEFY is sparking creativity in underserved communities by creating NOOKS to improve education. A NOOK is a physical space (500-1000 sq ft) with working electricity and water is required. Equipment needed includes: Laptops, Internet and building tools (hammers, arduinos, etc.). With an ideal budget of $500 in the hands of the community of users, this initiative can scale.

HundrED Academy Reviews
This project is completely driven by learners curiosity and imagination. The community-focus also strengthens networks. It provides a safe space to explore new, meaningful concepts and projects to truly transform individual learning.
Wonderful mission to change the way people think and ignite individual passions so students can believe in their abilities to educate themselves, others and their communities.
- Academy member
Academy review results
High Impact
Low Scalability
High Impact
High Scalability
Low Impact
Low Scalability
Low Impact
High Scalability
Read more about our selection process

Steps

Building partnerships: Prework
Nooks are created when people or organisations belonging to a community reach out to us, interested in creating a Nook in their community.

With established partners Project DEFY define the problem statement, which usually deals with marginalisation or social exclusion that has resulted in decreased opportunities for the marginalised sect.

The inviting partner raises funds that will be necessary to create the Nook and to run it for at least one year (usually of the order of 15,000 USD). Project DEFY then sign an MoU, where they accept the role of assisting the host from end to end, in creating a Nook that would be independently run by the community users.

Community Mapping and Preparation: Month 1
The Host connects Project DEFY with one or two people from the community who are interested in establishing the Nook.

Together with them, Project DEFY spend around one month understanding the community in-depth. This in essence is the research phase. For example, one step of this process involves creating a community map which shows various parts of the community and its resources. This period also involves a lot of interviews - gathering and listening to what people of the community have to say.

Another important task at this stage is to identify the physical space (if not done already) and to purchase all the tools and materials needed. There may be other jobs to undertake such as provisioning electricity, water, drinking water and fixing toilets.

Induction Program: Month 2
In this phase, a DEFY core-member spends an entire month in the community, with the Nook.

The task is to get the Nook started and build the self-learning and self-governance routines together with the community.

The Induction program is designed to not be instructional, but rather an experience of using the space and working on the natural questions that arise among the new users.

The learners start building projects, understand the basic way in which the Nook works. This involves rules and regulations for the Nook and necessary roles.

By the end of the program, the learners get some idea of projects they generally like and know how to use the Internet to find information. They also begin to understand how to manage the Nook.

An Admin or Nook Manager is put in place, who ensures the doors are open and acts as a channel for communication with the Nook.

Support: Months 3-8
After the Induction, the Project DEFY staff member returns. For the next 6 months, they continuously interact with the Nook virtually, and help its users deal with all the problems that arise.

Project DEFY also help them to budget the recurring monthly funds and to account them properly. We help them in writing reports and collecting data.

There may also be need for changing or modifying the rules as the community may feel, and so we help them work out the processes to do that and to build governance structures to prevent things that may hinder the creative learning space.

Advisory and Beyond
Project DEFY commit seven months supporting the community to completely manage the Nook and then take a step back.

After this, the need for strong interactions with the DEFY team reduces when they feel comfortable in the values built into the Nook and its first users.

Staff members may be contacted when the community needs intervention, but there is no need for active and constant communication. The reporting and data-framework structures continue to still provide information of what’s happening in the Nook, without interferring. 

NOTE: There are many details involved in creating a Nook, which may not be feasible to write down here. Please contact Project DEFY for more detailed conversations if you’d like to know more or want to create a Nook with them.

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