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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 through online academic and cross-sectoral educational activities. 

PFCF’s network of educational and cultural professionals internationally also uniquely positions us to provide underserved youth access to specialized knowledge that may not be currently accessible. OpenIDEO asks, “What if professional sports teams created and hosted virtual PE sessions for students, educators and families?” We tweak that question, asking “What if professional artists created and hosted virtual arts education sessions for students, educators and their families?” Not only have we asked that question internally at PFCF, but we have begun answering it, creating online music lessons, and working to equip classrooms at our international programs with digital technologies to host live virtual learning sessions.  

Our proposal through OpenIDEO 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. Simultaneously, we are also creating virtual lessons with professional musicians around the world, accessible to all with internet connection, and with newly equipped classrooms, we can enhance these to be led in real-time with our classrooms around the world. Here is a percussion lesson created by the director of our Bizung School for Music and Dance, going over how to play the traditional “Luan” drum: 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. See more about PFCF at

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

Inequitable digital access for youth in marginalized communities. Pre-COVID, youth in the communities where PFCF operates were already falling behind due to economic marginalization and thus a lack of access to digital resources. During COVID-19, this has only exacerbated as middle and upper-income communities turn online for continued education. Addressing this is not simply a developed / developing country issue. In Morocco for example, the youth at our program location in M’hamid el Ghizlane, a rural community in the most impoverished region in Morocco, are far less likely than their urban counterparts in Rabat or Casablanca to not just have access to digital resources but also benefit from continued online education during this pandemic. Similar examples can be made in nearly every community where PFCF operates. Increasing digital equity in communities like these goes beyond youth, and creates opportunities for educators and community leaders in driving positive change locally.

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

I am the Programs Manager at Playing For Change Foundation (PFCF). PFCF supports 15 music and arts education programs across 11 countries, and my role is to manage international grants, special initiatives, and support programming and implementation across program locations. In 2019, I was awarded the Project Development grant by the International Society for Music Education for developing an educational curriculum around traditional music transmission in rural Morocco.

I have seen firsthand how digital illiteracy and no access to technology has left underserved youth behind, and COVID-19 threatens them even further as distance learning only works for those that can afford it. PFCF is in a unique position to target the most at-risk communities, with established, local leadership, and our Re-Imagine Learning project Interconnected Education could have the potential to connect educational partners around the world, and in doing so breaking digital barriers for underserved youth.

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

PFCF is headquartered in the United States but operates internationally. Countries where PFCF operates include: Morocco, Mali, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, Nepal, Thailand, Bangladesh, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina. Each of the communities where we serve are economically underserved compared to the economic standards of their respective country. We promote local leadership within each community for the most effective local impact.

Attachments (1)

PFCF Annual Report 2019.pdf

2019 Annual Impact Report for Playing For Change Foundation

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PFCF Digital Portal has been made live since submission of this idea. Find the portal for our program in Mali: