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Digital Empowerment Program: Leveraging Digital Tools to Foster Non-formal Education in Migrant Communities

We empower migrant parents by training them in e-learning tools so their children can access education through short/long-term migrations.

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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Throughout recent decades, Thailand’s economic growth has struggled to include its disadvantaged populations. Migrant children are among Thailand’s most vulnerable groups: approximately 3.5 million migrant workers cross the borders with their families for new opportunities. A study published by BDF in 2016 estimated that 330,000 migrant children live in Thailand. Of these migrant children, tens of thousands live in construction site camps with slum conditions. These children are often left unattended in these severely hazardous living environments while their parents are at work on construction sites. They are at high risk of neglect, abuse and exploitation, and they lack access to education during a critical period of their Fundamental Childhood Development. Our project will empower parents to help their children to access e-learning tools from their smartphone, in a structured, safe manner through repeated migrations. We have conducted assessments among these communities which confirm that the majority of children have access to phones, but are using them to search YouTube or play games without educational content. BDF Social Advisors and E-learning Advisor will train parents in best practices for internet safety, as well as teach them how to access, use, and monitor educational apps for their children. Needs-based E-learning modules will include math skills, language and literacy skills in Thai, as well as other essential skills. Our 17+ years of experience working with disadvantaged migrant communities as well as our in-depth needs assessments over time, have enabled us to discern the need for educational tools that will provide continued support to migrant children and opportunities for community empowerment. Thus, by enabling parents to meet their children’s need for education, migrant children in Thailand will have greater, future opportunities, strengthen family bonds, and higher levels of education.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Our project will empower migrant families living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with potential for expansion throughout the wider migration corridor to include Myanmar and Cambodia. The communities where these families live are slums or construction site camps where migrants have come to seek temporary housing and/or construction work in Thailand. These communities are characterized by slum conditions, and they lack access to critical education, health, and protection services.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Our idea will impact 2 cornerstones of stable, strong communities: (1) Parents will be empowered to provide for their children amidst vulnerable circumstances, and (2) children will be able to access education during a critical period of their Fundamental Childhood Development. Empowering parents will strengthen family bonds to the benefit of entire communities, forming a bridge that will ultimately result in further education, inclusion and child protection for migrants at large.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Our project will fortify parents’ dignity by empowering them with the knowledge and tools necessary to ensure their children can receive an education, even in the severely challenging circumstances of repeated migrations. E-learning will have a transformational impact on the children’s lives by providing them with alternative and supplementary education during the most fundamental period of their lives. By developing skills as essential as numeracy and literacy, as well as the ability to speak the language of the country they’ve migrated to, the children will receive an education that will enable them to access formal education when their migration circumstances allow them to attend school. E-learning tools will also support children in mainstream education, improving their performance and reducing the risk of dropout. These children will therefore have better opportunities in the future, which will also benefit their parents and communities.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

Targeted migrant communities will experience transformational benefits from digital education as well as community empowerment due to greater parental involvement in their children’s education and child protection. Identifying the existing "good" E-learning platforms will help migrant children prepare for integration in public schools, as well as provide supplementary education while attending school (to decrease the likelihood of drop-out). Parents will spend more quality time with their children by structuring and encouraging their e-learning goals. They will also have the ability to monitor or supervise their children’s internet activity to ensure an increased level of child protection. BDF will implement M&E to measure 1) which applications and games are most impactful for migrant children and 2) their parents’ ability to structure their children’s e-learning. Thus, we could scale the project’s best digital platforms throughout BDF’s network in Bangkok, reaching more children.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

BDF intends to focus on identifying the most effective e-learning tools, training users to access and utilize these apps, and ensuring internet safety to meet the educational needs of migrant populations. In alignment with SDG 4, our support will be tailored to promote inclusivity and long-term learning opportunities. After conducting assessments in 2 construction site camps, BDF found that ⅔ of children reported having difficulty in school, specifically in English, Thai and Math. The children inquired how digital learning tools might help them improve in these subjects, as they all have access to smartphones with internet. Parents are keen to support their children’s education. However, they feel restricted by their own lack of education and knowledge of/access to educational and e-learning materials. There is a need to empower parents with the skills to support their child’s education, improving upon their child’s educational inclusion, commitment and performance.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

The internet poses a threat to children in vulnerable, migrant communities, as they are unaware of many dangers and unmonitored. BDF conducted interviews in 2 construction camps which confirmed that children primarily use smartphones to play games without educational content or peruse YouTube, both without parental supervision. This project aims to mitigate threats and promote child protection by training parents in internet safety, as they are aware of the dangers but currently unable to teach their children how to avoid them. Additionally, both children and parents expressed a desire for educational tools and apps as a form of alternative or supplemental learning. Access to identified and selected e-learning platforms accompanied by parent guidance will bolster a child’s education and development through repeated migrations. Empowering parents with these skills will provide greater future opportunities for migrant children and strengthen family bonds to the benefit of the community.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Our project leverages one of the communities’ most powerful assets: Parents. Our assessments show that migrant parents working in construction have a strong desire for their children to receive an education and have greater future opportunities. While they have motivation, they require additional knowledge and training in internet safety and effective tools for achieving successful e-learning. Community assessments show that the majority of children have access to a smartphone. Though these are often low-tech smartphones and Internet connectivity may be limited, many high-performing mobile e-learning apps can be downloaded and used off-line. Digital Superheroes Academy, an educational app which we developed in partnership with MIT Solve, teaches children life skills in the form of 'superpowers'. The app is successfully used in more than 40 migrant communities. This project has proven the communities’ ability to adopt tech tools and the tools’ strong potential for successful impact.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Partners such as MIT Solve and several major Thai property developers will support this project. In 2017, BDF partnered with MIT Solve to develop and implement the Digital Superheroes Academy, an educational app that teaches life skills in the form of ‘superpowers.’ Due to the success of this partnership and the lessons learned, we will continue to partner with MIT Solve to help roll out this e-learning project. Additionally, the support of our partners in the Thai construction sector will aid implementation and support our overall goal of achieving systemic impact. We will explore opportunities to work with new partners including e-learning experts (Apps for Good, CommonLit, etc.) and UNESCO Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia in order to leverage world-class expertise on e-learning tools adapted to these migrant families. We will then utilize new partnerships to scale up access to education for vulnerable children and communities throughout Southeast Asia’s entire migration corridor.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Channel: A new way to deliver existing products or services to customers or end users

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

Kids Home Development Network is the official name of our organization. However, we are referred to as Baan Dek Foundation (BDF).

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Founded in 2002, BDF’s mission is to provide access to education, health and safety services for vulnerable children living in slums and construction site camps in Thailand. BDF supports over 1,500 migrant, undocumented and other vulnerable children every year through programs that provide sustainable support and life-saving access to essential services. BDF operates through a sustainable approach by working in partnership with multi-sector stakeholders such as public schools and health centers. BDF is the leading NGO supporting migrant families in construction site camps in Thailand, and it supports families in over 60 communities per year. BDF achieves systemic impact on the Thai construction sector by working with major property and construction companies to improve living conditions for labor migrants and their families. In 2018, BDF launched a joint research publication with UNICEF Thailand which puts forth recommendations for improving the lives of children in these camps.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State

Chiang Mai and Bangkok
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Attachments (2)

Building Futures in Thailand_En_Web_Spreads.pdf

In March 2018, BDF launched a joint research publication with UNICEF Thailand entitled “Building Futures in Thailand: Support to Children Living in Construction Site Camps.” This research presents key findings and recommendations for improving the lives of tens of thousands of children growing up in construction site camps throughout Thailand.


Baan Dek Foundation 2018 Annual Report

1 comment

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Photo of NDEF Cameroon

Hi, Katelynn Mullins, welcome to the Challenge. We wish you success in your good work!