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FLITE - Families Learning Together

Turning Homes Into Learning Spaces For The Whole Family - a low-tech solution for life-long learning among marginalised communities

Photo of Abhijit Sinha
14 25

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“I don’t know anything, I am an uneducated person. How can I possibly help my child?” 

It is gutting sentences like these that we increasingly hear over the last few weeks and months. Working with marginalised communities across India who already faced a lack of access to meaningful education before the Coronavirus pandemic, things have considerably worsened for them with schools and learning spaces closed indefinitely. Having no recourse to online classes, tutorials and other digital learning tools, they are left on their own. 


Breaking The Myth of Education

There is a widespread myth that learning can only happen in designated institutions of education such as schools, and only when designated experts (teachers) are in charge. Unfortunately, this myth has become a deep-seated belief in India and worldwide. 

At Project DEFY, we actively try to break this myth through setting-up alternative learning spaces called ‘Nooks’ where everyone can design their own education, without teachers and textbooks. But what do we do when even those alternative spaces cannot be opened anymore?

The answer we came up with is this: if the Learners can’t come to the learning space, let’s turn the homes of our Learners into learning spaces! 

What sounds simple is really not easy. On one side, there are so many challenges we face given the world’s largest and strictest lockdown in India. On the other side, as mentioned above, we can’t just switch to a ‘digital learning solution’ as the Learners we work with don’t have access to the required technology. 


Our Idea

Therefore, our solution is state-of-the-art low-tech: it includes a telephone and open, in-depth conversations between members of Project DEFY and several members of a Learner’s family. 

We call this program FLITE - families learning together. We want to enable the families we work with to (re-)discover the abundance of skills, knowledge and talents that everyone has and transform these into concrete learning projects. This is a free-of-cost initiative for everyone to join. All we ask for in turn is that the families we initially work with become facilitators themselves after the programme and carry out similar activities with other families in their neighborhood, therefore creating a community-based learning ecosystem that endures much beyond the Covid-19 crisis.     

To unearth the families’ curiosity for learning and then transform it into real-life learning ideas, we need to create the right learning environment. Rather than artificially creating such an environment with the ‘online classroom’ that forces students to spend several hours every day glued to the computer screen, we believe that the current situation where families are ‘stuck together’ actually is a blessing in disguise. 

In other words, we aim to transform the boring state of ‘families stuck together’ into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of ‘families learning together’ that can create better and more trustful family relations and long-term co-learning possibilities.


Implementation So Far

In the first phase (Exploration) of the programme - going on right now - members of the DEFY team are interacting with ten families on a weekly basis. They do this as friends and companions, not as experts. They listen and learn, as opposed to advising and teaching. Our role here is to create the opportunity, space and time for a family home to turn into an inclusive learning space where everyone feels valued and heard. As such, our team aims to hold this space, helps families think about what they need and what they want, and asks questions that enable this thought process to kick-off and thrive. 

In our weekly phone calls with the family members, we first spend some time reflecting on the experiences of the past week and then move on to discuss a topic, interest or issue of their choice. Finally, we leave the meeting with something to try over the week as a co-learning activity. 

The initial feedback since the start of the project two weeks ago has been encouraging. Families were not only excited to learn new things, but expressed their joy of having others listen to their stories and experiences.

The initial, exploratory phase will continue for a few weeks, until we start with the second phase (Depth), where families increasingly lead conversations and pursue their own, potentially more advanced learning projects addressing concrete needs and interests, acquiring new skills and knowledge as well as the crucial know-how of ‘learning how to learn.’ 

In phase 3 (Self-dependence), families eventually take up the role of facilitating FLITE with other families in their own communities. Slowly we will reach a complete community connection.  

In terms of a long-term vision, we aim to create ‘Learning Societies’ with FLITE that help reduce the distance between family members and between families, while developing a wonderful co-learning process.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Schools separate. They separate peers from other age groups; connected topics into divided ‘school subjects’; and the acquisition of information from its real-life application. They separate learning from life (as something that only happens in designated institutions) and children from their families. These multiple forms of separation need to be abandoned. It takes away people’s capacity to learn with and from each other, and to decide for themselves what they want to learn and how they want to learn. Every individual has their own, specific challenges, needs and issues, as well as their own interests, aspirations and dreams. But schools assume that everyone needs and wants the same. No wonder it does so, because there is no room for dialogue and conversation, no time for experimentation and exploration, and no tolerance for doing things differently. FLITE overcomes these separations and demonstrates the power of learning together.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

We are Project DEFY (.org). Since 2016, we are working with marginalised communities across India and some parts of Africa. DEFY creates self-learning spaces called Nooks, enabling individuals to design their own education based on their specific needs, interests and aspirations.

In the last two months, we have seen mainstream education first collapse and then be revived in a way that completely ignored the chance to try something new. It pained us to see that all that the world did was transmit the classroom into the children's homes via the internet. We started thinking what true re-imagination in this context would look like by focussing on learning instead of education. We believe that people can truly contribute to the learning of their communities and all that stops them is the understanding that it is solely the school's job to make this happen. FLITE is an experiment to test if family members and families can co-create learning journeys together.

What region are you located in?

  • Southern Asia

Where are you located?

The Project DEFY Office is located in Bengaluru, India, and the team is spread across India, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. More here -


Join the conversation:

Photo of Huidrom Boicha

*******Quick Update from the Team about the FLITE Program********

Till now, we finished the 1st Module of the Program. In the 1st Module, The DEFY Team members and the families get to know each other better through introductory calls, sharing the experience of the lockdown, and our own personal's interests and dreams. All the family members and learners shared their interests and activities that they wanted to do. For example, many of them wanted to learn animation, online marketing, designing and tailoring clothes, building electronics projects, and cooking. The families are also doing group activities together as a part of the learning experience like designing logos and rangoli digitally, baking cake, making decorative items like wall-hanging, etc. Each family also did a group activity that they haven't tried before and based on their mutual interest.

In the 2nd Module, we are doing exploration and deliberation calls with them to finalize their learning goal for the next three months. At the same time, we are discussing various local issues and challenges faced by the communities also. We will be starting the Goal Setting process of the learners and family members based on the concept of ikigai and SMAART Goal very soon.

Please let us know your suggestion and comment on the project.

Photo of Lavanya Mani

Hi Project FLITE! This sounds amazing! I was also wondering, given how overwhelming news can be in the current times and is the key source of info for them without the ability for them to probably process it with others on social media, a segment dedicated to helping them understand the news that they have read or heard and the DEFY team helps them process it could be helpful?

Photo of Catalina De la Rocha

Hey Lavanya! That would be a great! By learning how to formulate questions and where to look for answers, families will start to create their own path to knowledge .

Photo of Abhijit Sinha

Hi Lavanya,
That is indeed a wonderful suggestion.
Simultaneously, we are creating channels for proper information transfer in the lockdown, and then especially in the post lockdown period, since we may have to live with the virus for a while until vaccines come through.
In the calls, we take the first 20 minutes to reflect upon the past week and talk about struggles, challenges and wins. Here we also intend to discuss new developments as they occur in terms of the pandemic and process together national announcements, corona statistics, local incidents and so on.

Photo of Lavanya Mani

Sounds good Abhijit! I feel once you address the elephant in the room it may make the environment more conducive to learning as well. Plus may just increase enrollment and reach.

Photo of Lavanya Mani

Absolutely Catalina! Plus I feel understanding their news consumption patterns and their takeaways could also give imp data points for other impact areas.

Photo of Hada Luz

Genial . Gracias por hacerlo

Photo of Abhijit Sinha

PLEASE NOTICE the two attachments for more details -
1. FLITE- Guidelines and Structure : This explains how we are trying to run the program and individual calls
2. FLITE's Introduction Call Summary : This includes a sample first call with one of the families, with their personal identifications removed. Also, a summary transcript of the discussion.

Photo of Pukhraj Ranjan

Hi Project FLITE! I really like and appreciate your idea! You said in your current pilot, members of the DEFY team are interacting with families on a weekly basis. Can you share some examples of what kind of topics you have been covering? Or any other examples which give us insight into the families that you work with?

Photo of Abhijit Sinha

Thank you Pukhraj Ranjan for the comment. We have just started our process and done the first few calls. Given the many challenges communities are facing in doing even that, we are going a bit slow. Also, we are keeping in mind to not assume too much or design too far, and are rather taking an approach to "respond to learnings with design". That being said, there is a flexible plan that we have for now which will surely undergo many changes. Much of this is in the attached documents (which I now see are quite easy to miss).

I am copying them here -
Some potential co-learning activities that families can start with -
- Playing a game together
- Tell each other stories one evening and describe the experience
- Create a small piece of art together with materials available at home
- An evening where each family member makes the rest of the family listen to his/her
favorite music (15-20 mins per member)

Some more advanced activities to try out -
- Co create a poem together
- Write and record a song together
- Write down a story/comic where your family is a super-hero family set out to save the
- An evening where you discuss your dreams and the support you need from each other
- Design a board game with your family

Phase I Structure (15 calls - optimistic / 25 calls - pessimistic) : 15 weeks to 25 weeks
1. Introductions and sharing of how life is
2. Understanding individual interests and asking them to try them out this week individually
3. Understanding one collective interest and try out a group activity
4. Attempting to learn something new from the internet or book or another source
5. Topic discussion : Skill
6. Topic discussion : Local Problems
7. Topic discussion : Global Problems
8. Topic discussion : Philosophical
9. What do you wish to achieve collectively in the next 1 month - Goal setting
10. Discuss goal and develop the learning & documentation plan
11. 4 calls to check in progress and milestones for the goal / discussions on other topics
12. FLITE conference / online exhibition? : All families present their goal and work done
ÔùÅ Survey after every 4 calls for impact documentation and feedback

Photo of Peter Worth

Thank you Abhijit Sinha and the FLITE team for sharing your idea! I appreciate the attention to personalized learning, family learning, and community relations. Also, your fabric storyboard is inspiring. You must be learning so much through your initial work on this. As the project progresses, I wonder what you will learn about simultaneously serving and learning from communities. It will be fascinating to see how communities as well as individual families adapt and own the model during Phase 3. Thank you!

Photo of Abhijit Sinha

Thank you for that comment Peter Worth . This indeed already is an inspiring experience, and we are keeping our eyes and ears open as keen learners through the whole process. This is very much a written part of the cultural approach we are taking in this process, to not be the one who knows, but to be the one who you can learn together with and discover new possibilities.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Project FLITE! Thank you for sharing your idea! I really like that it empowers everyone in the family and involves intergenerational learning, teaching and collaboration!!! It will be interesting to see what develops with the project within family groups and when it moves into the greater community. I imagine there is much wisdom to unlock.

I wonder what the experience might be like if a community, or group of families, came together and brainstormed on problems, projects, that they might want to tackle together?

Photo of Catalina De la Rocha

Hey Bettina! Thank you for your feedback. To your last point, that is our goal for a phase two, when we ignite curiosity and families become aware of the creative potential they have, they can start to co-learn and co-create solutions. The sky will be the limit.