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Playing For Change Foundation Interconnected Education

Breaking down digital barriers across marginalized communities to create an inclusive world where students can learn together.

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Educational and technological disparities amplified by COVID-19 are leaving students in underserved communities around the world behind. Education technology interventions during this crisis only work for those students who have access to technology. UNESCO estimates that more than 800 million students left at home during quarantines don’t have computer access. This issue will outlast COVID-19 as we move further into the 21st century. Turning towards the long term, the Playing For Change Foundation (PFCF) proposes to connect the unconnected with inclusive technologies across marginalized communities at 15 PFCF program locations across the African, Asian, and South America continents. We propose to do so by strengthening collaborative partnerships between the non-profit sector and educational institutions across these communities through technological access. This serves to: 1) promote continuous learning among youth with a strong basis in technology; 2) provide professional development to local leaders and teachers; and 3) connect underprivileged students around the world in an environment of social mindedness. 

Our proposal includes equipping PFCF programs with interactive and collaborative technology, basic ICT trainings to lead dynamic learning, and connecting students across programs to promote cultural understanding and exchange. We envision breaking down digital barriers to create an inclusive world, where students can learn together, share music together, and create positive change together.

Proposed activities include equipping these programs, and consequently their communities, with enhanced internet capability and collaborative technologies. We want to connect classrooms across remote and underserved communities internationally so we can facilitate dynamic instruction, co-creation among students, and engaging mulit-cultural (and multi-platform) activities that are currently not accessible in the communities where PFCF operates. 

Additionally, access to these resources will allow local teachers to lead more interactive and immersive activities for their students, separate from collaborative video conferences. This project will be the first of its kind to provide this kind of technology locally. Access to online resources such as management portals for curricula and videos to supplement learning will transform the way our students will learn and expand interest in technology skills. We can also implement collaborative interfaces with professionals identified by PFCF to benefit both local teachers through professional development and local students through cross-cultural learning. 

Activities proposed will be designed around and coordinated through a new digital portal created by PFCF for our NPO leaders and teachers. This PFCF Digital Portal is currently in the development stage, and the version for our program in Mali can be found here: password: musicisthekey-kirina. We expect this portal to be operational by August 2020. 

Enhancing digital capacities serves to provide technology and technology trainings that are not accessible to these groups due to social, economic, geographic, or gender restrictions in these countries. Through these technological interventions, we can change local realities about the types of resources and skill sets that are possible.

Our international programs:



L’Ecole de Musique de Kirina in the rural community of Kirina in southern Mali was founded to use cultural heritage to change the lives of local youth. Many youth engage in the dangerous and even fatal practice of gold mining, and the high school graduation rates as well are very poor. Traditional music, dance, language lessons, and even gardening are offered at the program. It is the only cultural and youth organization in Kirina. Gender development is a particular focus of the program. This project will support up to 200 local, regular youth and 12 staff members, as well as material capacity support detailed above.  


The Bizung School of Music and Dance in northern Ghana takes the ancestral tradition of the Bizung “talking drum” to engage youth with cultural and music activities, which are otherwise not accessible in the urban community of Tamale. Programming includes traditional music, dance, as well as modern blues music and even an in-house studio for youth to record and learn new technological skills. This project will support up to 90 local, regular youth and 12 staff members, as well as material capacity support.


The Joudour Sahara Music Program in the small town of M’hamid el Ghizlane in southeastern Morocco serves as the only access point locally for youth to express themselves creatively. Joudour Sahara focuses on traditional music and dance from several diverse ethnic tribal groups who settled in the oasis of M’hamid from different corners of the Sahara desert centuries ago. The program also engages youth through blues music, dance, and community events. Cultural preservation and gender development are particular focuses of this program. This project will support up to 70 local, regular youth and eight staff members, as well as material capacity support.


The Ubuntu Music Program in the capital of Kigali and the community of Masaka targets at-risk youth risk inside two elementary and high schools. Traditional drumming, dance and modern blues music, as well as sports are offered to students. Cultural activities for youth from the communities where the Ubuntu Music Program operates are not otherwise accessible. “Ubuntu” itself means “humanity towards others,” and the Ubuntu philosophy can be summed up as “I am because we are”. This project will support up to 150 local, regular youth and six staff members, as well as material capacity support.

South Africa

The Imvula Music Program in the Gugulethu and townships surrounding Cape Town operates inside 10 elementary and high schools in some of the poorest communities in the Cape Town region. African styles of music and western music styles are offered to local students. In the face of extreme inequality, the Imvula program ensures that youth from the most marginalized communities have access to express themselves creatively. Cultural activities would otherwise not be available to them. This project will support up to 300 local, regular youth and 11 staff members, as well as material capacity support.



The Mother’s Society Tintale Village, located in the Udayapur district in eastern Nepal, is one of the poorest and most marginalized communities in all of Nepal. Beginning as a movement among 35 local women to change their lives and daughters’ futures, the Mother’s Society has reached thousands of community members across villages spread throughout the region. They use music and dance to engage community members and have real conversations about the dangers of sex-trafficking, early marriage, domestic abuse, sustainable incomes through livestock and sewing, among many other themes. This project will support up to 100 local, regular youth and 35 staff members, as well as material capacity support..

The Udayapur Music Program is also located in Tintale Village, as well as another location in the small town of Katari. Udayapur reaches almost 150 youth between the two locations, providing music education, as well as other music and dance activities. Facing major obstacles due to class inequality, the local team has worked for over a decade to prove to community members that music can be a powerful tool to tell the stories from the community and promote community development. Both the Mother’s Society and Udayapur programs are now well established in their communities. This project will support up to 125 local, regular youth and six staff members, as well as material capacity support.

The Musica Music Institute in Lalitpur, Nepal, just outside the capital of Kathmandu, began in a drum shop and has expanded into the current program reaching 60 youth each week. The program offers vocals, keyboard, guitar and drums classes. The program has expanded to also include access to computers, and the ability to introduce recording classes and is hosting public performances so the students can showcase what they’ve learned. This project will support up to 60 local, regular youth and seven staff members, as well as material capacity support.

The Mitrata Music Program in the capital city of Kathmandu, Nepal, is located at an orphanage and engages the youth in most need of structured activities. Featuring a staff of professional musicians, this program offers sarangi, flute, madal drums, traditional Nepali dance and art classes to more than 60 youth each week. Without this program, these youth would not have access to music and the arts. This project will support up to 60 local, regular youth and seven staff members, as well as material capacity support.


The Khlong Toey Music Program in the Khlong Toey slum serves some of the poorest and most marginalized youth in Thailand. Resources, opportunities, and expectations for a bright future are scarce in this community. Modern music instruments and ensemble performance are offered at this program. In 2012, this program had up to 4 volunteers, a few instruments, and a few students. Now, there are 10 staff members, over 100 instruments, and 80 youth who attend regularly, which this project will support, as well as material capacity support.


The Mirpur Music Program, located in the Mirpur slums within the larger municipality of Dhaka, offers free music programming to the poorest youth. Some locals live on as little as $50 / month. Poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition are devastating locally. Albeit a small team locally, this program provides regular programming to over 850 youth across several elementary schools locally. Musicalization, rhythm exercises, and traditional songs are offered. This project will support up to 850 local, regular youth and four staff members, as well as material capacity support.



The PFC Patagonia program located in the city of General Roca takes a multifaceted approach to youth and gender development. Music classes, orchestras, organic farming and gardening, carpentry, among other activities reach almost 500 youth and women from the region. PFC Patagonia works with local and national government offices to support their programming. Hip hop, graphic arts, instruments making, as well as languages are also offered. Patagonia employs 14 staff members. This project will provide material capacity support. 

The PFC Diamante program located in the city of Diamante, north of Buenos Aires, offers guitar, percussion, accordion singing lessons, as well as traditional music programming to local youth. Diamante is the only access point for local youth to engage with music and the arts. Renowned musician Lee Oskar has partnered with Diamante to provide harmonicas and harmonica lessons. This project will support up to 50 local, regular youth and eight staff members, as well as material capacity support.


The Baja Musical Arts Initiative, located in Tijuana, turns music education and orchestral performance into tools for social cohesion in a community overwhelmed by gang violence. Choir classes, body movement, harmony, as well as instrument classes are offered to youth. Program leaders use these classes as tools to build a sense of teamwork, and provide community concerts to show family members and the community at large the fruits of their children’s efforts. BMAI reaches 100 youth weekly and employs 10 staff members. This project will provide material capacity support.


The Cajuru Music Program in Cajuru, Brazil drives youth development and social cohesion in the suburb of the larger urban center of Curitiba, just a few miles away. The program’s leaders use music as a tool for education to reach local youth, instilling self-confidence, providing structured and supervised activities, and promoting a larger sense of community. This project will support up to 60 local, regular youth and 11 staff members, as well as material capacity support.

What is the need are you focusing on?

Lack of technological access is leaving low-income students behind. Students across more than 56 communities worldwide don’t even have internet connectivity access (UNESCO). Online learning during this COVID-19 crisis is only accessible to those students whose families can afford the technological resources needed to access this learning. Among these resources are smartphones or tablets, computers, and data needed to connect to the internet. Unfair social and economic disadvantages that have historically left these students behind are only exacerbated by COVID-19, and will assuredly block millions of low-income students worldwide from joining their middle and high-income counterparts in developing 21st century skills. Our project focuses on this need at the micro level, across 15 community locations in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Sharing a pivot idea your organization is considering or could consider

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

Playing For Change Foundation proposes to equip program locations across socially and economically disadvantaged communities with technological resources to transform the way students learn. These resources include “connectivity kits”: a tablet, monitor, and modem (with additional accessories). Program locations will install their connectivity kits and lead interactive learning with students from other programs on the WebinarJam platform. PFCF staff will assist in the pre-production process of coordinating communication among program leaders and teachers, and developing lesson plans for learning sessions. PFCF can also connect programs with cultural and educational professionals for enhanced learning or masterclasses. This approach marks a departure from traditional PFCF programming, as COVID-19 has redefined what educational needs are around the world. Our local presence across these communities makes us ideally situated to address these needs.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

Program Recipients include leaders and student populations at 15 PFCF program locations across 11 countries We expect 75 teachers and over 1800 students to participate in this project. Each program location faces marginalization unique to their community and country, with varied implications and consequences for these populations, but low-income levels within these communities and thus lack of access to internet capability and technological resources is a shared reality across all of these populations. PFCF internal data shows that a vast majority of our students do not have access to smartphones or computers, which means they are almost entirely unengaged while high-income students continue learning online. Our programs are established in a similar fashion to community or cultural centers, and if equipped with technology requested through this proposal, can be organized so that each program can become a central location where our students can access the technology that local famil

What is the name of your business or organization?

Playing For Change Foundation

What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

Playing For Change Foundation’s mission is to create positive change through music and arts education by developing and supporting schools and programs in underserved communities around the world. Playing For Change Foundation (PFCF) has established 15 music education and arts programs in 11 countries since our establishment in 2007. Each of these programs engages at-risk youth in underserved communities. Since 2009 we have positively impacted more than 20,000 lives, including more than 2,500 youth regularly in 2019. Our programs are home to great cultural wealth, which we use to rebalance the social and economic disparities locally

What is your profession?

I am the Programs Manager at PFCF. I lead international grants for 15 PFCF programs globally and support special initiatives.

Where are you located (country)?

PFCF is headquartered in the United States but operates internationally.

Where are you located (region)?

  • North America

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Non-Profit/Philanthropy

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 0-10

How old is your business/company?

  • 10 or more years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Nonprofit/NGO

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- NGOs
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Civil Society Groups
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Grassroots/Community Groups

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • No

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

Despite our extensive experience funding and overseeing programming implementation across our program locations, COVID-19 has created funding emergencies that threaten the continuation of youth and community engagement activities. Addressing the immediate and mid-term funding needs for our program locations allows us to pivot towards long-term needs, both resuming normal fundraising efforts and furthering new fundraising streams developed in response to COVID-19. In implementing the Interconnected Education project, acquiring the material resources required is the biggest challenge at this point. We have the infrastructure in place to implement and sustain online learning activities, but are missing physical resources at program locations.

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

We are currently working on this pivot. We have begun efforts to develop an online portal where these types of activities can be coordinated, and have begun creating digital lesson plans and tutorials for our students. We recently conducted a survey across our programs to see what the technological landscape is among our in-country staffs and students. While some teachers have access to smartphones, a majority of students do not, which creates challenges in disseminating new online resources once completed among our target populations. Equipping our programs with smartphones or tablets to be loaned out to groups of students has been a proposed solution in the short term. In the long term, equipping our programs with the resources so they can act as a technological center for digital learning is the approach we think can reach the most community members.

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?


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Join the conversation:

Photo of Isaac Jumba

Hi Thomas Duncan  , really exciting to learn about PFCF, which proposes to connect the unconnected with inclusive technologies across marginalized communities.

We thought it might exciting to have you be part of the COVID-19 Reimagine Learning Challenge: where you could re-share your concept, learnings and connect with other community members (such as schools, educators, students and innovators) re-imagining learning at this time and beyond.

Photo of Thomas Duncan

Thanks Isaac for your interest in our proposal and suggestion to enter the Re-Imagine Learning challenge. We have taken a look at the challenge outline and agree it could be an interesting way to more fully engage educators and educational resources for a broader approach at our interconnected education initiative.