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Mother's Society: Using the power of music & the arts to educate and protect youth and their communities.

PFCF aims to use the power of creative expression to educate and empower women, youth and communities facing violence and instability.

Photo of Thea Karki
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What problem does your innovation solve?

The youth in Mexico have been severely impacted by the growth of drugs, gangs and violence infiltrating their neighborhoods and communities. Families exist in crisis and survival mode as their children are joining gangs or cartels and girls are being lured into sex trafficking. The instability and risks that youth, particularly girls, face in this type of environment are barriers to their education and their ability to feel safe and protected.

Explain your innovation.

Our innovation builds upon our Mother’s Society program in Nepal by developing a replicable model teaching mothers, young women, teachers, and community leaders how to use the power of music and arts to introduce issues of human trafficking, gender equality, and the rights of women and children with a focus on social justice. Through the creative use of song, dance and dramatic reenactments, as well as training and engaging young people to be agents of change in their communities, we can build confidence in these children and make sure that they have a safe space to learn and express themselves. These art forms allow for each participant to have an individual experience to process their own traumas and to build and share as an ensemble. When performances are shared and engage the audience, it unites the community in celebrating hope for their future, even in the darkest times. We also aim to establish secure spaces for community building, creating tools and best practices the “Mother’s Society” groups can use to help safeguard against acts of aggression, and provide a network of support should something occur that needs to be reported.

Who benefits?

Initially women and children in Tijuana, Mexico. Once implemented and tested in Tijuana, we will expand the program to serve women and youth in communities throughout Baja California and Sinaloa, Mexico. In addition, we will extend satellite expansion opportunities to rural areas of Nepal, where PFCF operates the original Mother’s Society initiative. The satellite project(s) will connect the women and girls from these areas to those in Mexico to provide a global connection of support. The age of children will range from as young as 6 or 7 to young adults and women who are mothers, caregivers and/or community leaders. The participants will gain emotional skills, learn how to lead and work as a team, and, most importantly, have their stories be seen, heard and valued.

How is your innovation unique?

The Mother’s Society is different because it delves beyond traditional education subjects/curriculum and empowers youth, especially girls, to learn about their rights and how to protect themselves. Here, music and arts are not skills or subjects to learn, but a useful tool to deliver the message of social justice and unite the women and children in these communities by making them feel safe.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

What will be the necessary amount of days for training and delivery? What will be the maximum number of members for each group based on the size of their neighborhood or local community? How many women and youth will we train as leaders to guide others? What will be the immediate response of a project like this by those in the area? What ways will we work with local leaders to reassure and if necessary convince those that may be hesitant or fearful?

Tell us more about you.

The Playing For Change Foundation is a global nonprofit organization offering creative opportunities for marginalized and at-risk youth, most specifically in the developing world. Using the introduction and integration of music and arts education into their lives, PFCF aims to resolve conflict, raise self-esteem, freedom of expression and potential of advancement in the development of the child and community. Currently, over 2,000 children are being served in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Other (please specify in next question)

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

Violence, instability and girls at risk. Mexico is the fifth largest source of human trafficking. According to a report published by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Girls, human trafficking activities are concentrated in the border and Pacific states, corresponding with high instances of drug trafficking. Due to cultural mores, corruption and limited resources there are few opportunities for women to have a voice and be leaders to protect and empower their children.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Initially in Tijuana, Mexico, but eventually expanding to other cities in Baja, California, Sinaloa and a satellite project in Nepal.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

PFCF has an existing partnership with the Baja Musical Arts Initiative (BMAI), who have musical programs in at-risk communities throughout Tijuana, Mexicali, and Ensenada. BMAI will be our primary on the ground partner. PFCF has an existing partnership with the Trans-Border Institute, part of the University of San Diego. First Aid Arts, whose focus is art therapy especially related to violence and trafficking PFCF will work with advisors and teaching artists in our network to support staff

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

PFCF has been working alongside our partners in Mexico since 2016 and with communities and teaching artists in the developing world since 2008. PFCF began our work with the women and families in Nepal, who created and inspired the original Mother’s Society, since 2010. PFCF has led music programs in challenged regions for nearly 10 years. We collaborate with experts and organizations across different sectors, and, most importantly, the beneficiaries, to design solutions using the power of music

Innovation Maturity

  • Early Stage Innovation: I am exploring my innovation, refining, researching, and gathering inspiration.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

Los Angeles, CA United States


How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

We are going to work closely with women and young people in the community of Tijuana to identify specific barriers and solutions to girls education, including violence and instability. We’ll help them create a socially and culturally relevant guide and creative curriculum based on those barriers and solutions. The guide will better support the local “Mother’s Society” community leaders as they recruit members and advocate for the rights of women and children, especially access to education.

Who will implement this Idea?

PFCF will work directly with our partners, BMAI in Tijuana. Together we will identify 1-3 local leaders in 10 of the 40 areas of the city. We'll work with those local leaders to more fully develop the guide, curriculum, overall program design and implementation process. Initially two PFCF staff will travel to Tijuana to help facilitate and provide guidance. With support from PFCF and the BMAI team local leaders will implement and lead the idea in their communities, monitoring progress, barriers, opportunities, and providing feedback to PFCF. We will use feedback to inform improvements needed.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

The biggest challenges our end-users face are multi-layered and include poverty, access to basic services, a male-dominate culture that limits the role of females in society. The biggest systems-level challenges are unreliable and corrupt police and government officials, insufficient school systems, violence and gang-related activity, unequal access to livelihoods, professional, and educational opportunities, which are perpetuated by corruption and policies that failed to address these issues. The people of Mexico, Tijuana as a border city especially, face an increase of challenges due to immigration issues, decrease in support and greater limitations.

How is your organization considering sustainable growth in order to continue making an impact over time?

We focus on building capacity and facilitating the leadership of the Mother’s Society members to ensure ownership, cultural relevance and long-term sustainability of programming beyond PFCF. All instruments and materials will be in-kind donations from donors and partners in Mexico and beyond, we will offer training on how to make their own instruments with local materials to ensure there is a sustainable source available. We aim to diversify and strengthen our partnerships and connect the Mother’s Society groups with global organizations and education stakeholders.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact that you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question/hurdle you need to address to get there?

By 2022, we aim to scale in all 40+ community areas of Tijuana, 2 major areas of Sinola and three additional locations globally, training 60 local leaders, reaching 45,000 youth and families directly and over 100,000 through a replicable model. How do we facilitate local leadership and members to ensure sustainability, quality and replicability, and provide a level of stability if areas are threatened to achieve our vision for impact in girls education, and protection, each year?

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) outcomes for this project?

Planned outputs and outcomes to be documented: # of local leaders and youth trained, completed facilitation guide and creative curriculum, # of groups established, # of performances, # of communities reached monthly, # of safe spaces established, # of trusted local authorities secured and added to the network. We will work with our partners BMAI and local leaders to identify what information they think will be most useful in measuring the program's impact in key area including girls' education.

What is the timeline for your project Idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Year 1: Implement program in 10 areas in Tijuana, connection between Nepal and Mexico. Year 2: Scale idea to 5 locations in Tijuana. Year 3: Scale to 5 more sites in Tijuana and 1 location in Sinola. Key steps for implementation: Identifying local leaders, developing the training; co-designing curricula; collecting feedback to inform frequency; documenting learnings; measuring impact, access to education, perceptions about the rights of girls and women; sharing adaptable model.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $500,000 and $1,000,000 USD

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed Idea live?

  • No paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country that you intend to implement your Idea in?

  • We are a registered entity, but not in the country in which we plan to implement our Idea.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this Idea together?

  • Less than 6 months

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Business Development / Partnerships Support
  • Business Model Support
  • Program/Service Design
  • Communications / Marketing / Graphic Design


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mary

Great idea. How does it relate to the rest of the education system? From the picture the instruments seem to be very expensive. To what extent is this sustainable in a low economic context? Are there ways of integrating local instruments and materials used in local music and art for affordability and sustainability. Integrating the innovation with the education system also could increase potential sustainability of the project.

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Thanks, thank Mary for the clarifying questions!

Hi Thea, excited to have you in the next Phase of the Challenge! Would love to hear a little bit more about how your organization thinks about program and financial sustainability and how you measure the success of your projects. Looking forward to learning more!

Photo of Thea Karki

Hi Mary,

Thank you for your great and insightful questions! In regards to the educational system, the long term goal is to integrate all or part of this project with the educational system, which (as you mentioned) has important benefits for greater awareness, higher level buy-in and sustainability. That said, however in the beginning we are focusing more at the grassroots level within communities to evaluate and refine the program, and to work more directly with those most impacted by the social issues they're facing. Once we have tested, measured and made necessary adjustments we will be in a better position to go to the next level. That is how started with the original concept in Nepal with much success.

As far as the instruments, in the photos (of our program partners, BMAI in Tijuana) most if not all of the instruments were donated. A focus will be on instrument donations and using local materials to create their own instruments. Because of the nature of this particular project it won't be necessary, in the beginning to use a larger number of instruments and that will keep the initial investment of resources manageable.

Let me know if this helps, and I'd be happy to answer any other questions you have. Thanks so much for reaching out to us and your interest in our work!