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Peak-A-Box: Unleash children's peak potential

We aim to provide volunteers working in unstructured environments with content and needed resources to shape positive environments for kids.

Photo of Liliya Borovets

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What problem does your innovation solve?

During our time volunteering in Greece’s refugee camps, we noticed children aged 0-4 had no access to education and those 5-12 had little access. With nearly 9 million displaced children living in similar settings, access to early childhood development (ECD) is scarce. Actors attempting to provide quality ECD find it difficult to maintain programs due to workloads, high volunteer turnover, limited resources and language barriers. We aim to fill the gap by providing ECD in the refugee camps.

Explain your innovation.

Peak-A-Box enables relevant actors to customize, plan and facilitate play-based ECD sessions via a mobile application complemented by a box of needed resources. Studies show play-based learning is essential to develop a child’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive skills. Additionally, studies emphasize the need importance of ECD in emergency situations. Based on this, we developed an adaptable ECD curriculum around these four skills areas, as well as core values such as teamwork. Our curriculum is also based on consultation with members of the refugee community and the results of a pilot test. Through interviewing 10+ NGOs in refugee camps, we designed the functionality of our mobile app. Using the Peak-A-Box app, facilitators can generate tailored sessions based on their class size, age, skills, number and session duration. Our daily tips provide suggestions on dealing with different situations, such as classroom management issues or aggressive child behavior. In the long term, facilitators will be able to contribute to the curriculum via the mobile app. We will use a subsidy business model for our initiative; every box sold to private institutions, such as childhood centers, will partially subsidize a box to a refugee camp. We pilot tested in Madrid with a community center and observed improvement in children’s ability to follow directions and teamwork in only 3 sessions. In addition teachers at the center expressed interest and need to utilize such a product.

Who benefits?

Wed is a 4-year-old girl playing unattended in a refugee camp. She now attends sessions offered by an NGO using Peak-A-Box. Within weeks she listens to directions, recognizes numbers, letters and partakes in games designed to build girls self-confidence. Sam is a volunteer assigned to organize activities for refugee kids. He opens up the Peak-A-Box app, enters class details and receives a curriculum instantly. With complementary resources and training, Sam successfully facilitates sessions. Jikar is a 16-year-old refugee, beyond the age to attend school. He becomes an ECD facilitator using Peak-A-Box and gets certificated for completing the training. He is learning new skills, and his confidence is strengthened. In the first 6 months, we aim to reach 3 camps and 10 NGOs. In the next 3 years we aim to reach 15,000 children, 60+ facilitators and 60 refugee facilitators. Success will be measured by numbers reached, user experience and learning outcomes.

How is your innovation unique?

We’re an early childhood education initiative focusing on empowering NGOs, teachers, volunteers and other relevant actors. We constantly incorporate feedback from prospective users and the refugee community to ensure that our beneficiaries are also major developers of our solution. Our curriculum is backed by research evidence providing effective activities ensuring quality education. Our mobile app has a diverse game database and customized curriculum based on user criteria. Our app ensures timeliness and user-friendliness, which is critical in refugee camps. We provide opportunities for refugees (15+) to act as facilitators and gain skills. This community-based approach allows education activities to organically grow even if NGOs are inactive in the refugee context. With 2 team members from Arab countries, we have a deep understanding of the linguistic, cultural and contextual background of many refugees, and can thus tailor to a diverse set of needs.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

First, financial viability and market need of the product. Since we mostly consulted people in the refugee context for product development, we need to understand the market size and customer needs in a non-refugee context. Based on this, we will explore a range of other revenue streams including corporate social responsibility model, an NGO direct purchase model and an in-app purchase model to ensure sustainability of our innovation. Secondly, we are missing talents in technology. We are looking to recruit an application developer responsible for development and maintenance of the app, as this is a major product component. Also, we need a marketing expert to introduce Peak-A-Box to more prospective users and supporters.

Tell us more about you.

We are 6 fellows in the competitive WISE Learners Voice, of Qatar Foundation program. Tehreem & Lilia are experts in education & teacher training; responsible for curriculum development and impact evaluation. Rayah & Omar are experts in business and speak Arabic; responsible for operations, sales and translation. Alex and Jiqi are experts in IT and project management; responsible for product development. We have experience in Greece refugee camp and supported by an expert in emergency education.

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

  • Prolonged displacement
  • Other (please specify in next question)

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

Our solution is designed specifically for refugee children. UNHCR estimates around 65.3 million displaced people globally, half of which are children outside formal school systems. We choose Greece as our first pilot location as it is the entry point to Europe for many refugees who will stay for a prolonged time. In the future, we plan to scale the solution to refugee camps globally. As our solution is designed to be adapted for multiple contexts, it can be used in various complex settings.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Our first pilot location will be Greece, a major refugee transit country. Also, we plan to reach camps and detention centers in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Our app content and functionality can be adapted according to the language, culture, and conditions in different contexts. We will also utilize the subsidy business model; selling Peak-A-Box to private institutions to subsidize the cost for camps. For private institutions, we may need to add functions to adhere to their needs.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for less than one year.

In-country Networks

We will pilot Peak-A-Box in July 2017 with the NGO Drop in the Ocean, in Skaramangas Refugee Camp, Greece. Additionally, we have connections with 10+ NGOs in Greece, such as METAdrasi and Khora. We are in contact with NGOs in Lebanon & Turkey for another possible pilot. We have access to the WISE global network for potential partnerships. Our team members have connections with professors working on education in emergencies and we also have connections with toy manufacturers in China.

Sector Expertise

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

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

Our team has a mix of social and business experts. Half the team has 5 years of experience co-founding and managing NGOs that empower marginalized families & train teachers. The other half has 5 years of experience working in social initiatives. We also have education professionals, ensuring the development of a high-quality curriculum. Finally, we have two Arabic speakers, which ensure linguistic and cultural appropriateness of our initiative in targeted refugee communities.

Innovation Maturity

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: I have tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.

Organization Status

  • We are not formally registered but are a formal initiative through an accelerator, hub, or other entity.

Organization Location

We're based in various locations (US, Canada, Switzerland, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Egypt). However, we plan to operate in Athens, Greece.

How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

We tested the project in Scaramagas and Eleonas refugee camp where we introduced Peak-A-Box (curriculum/app/box) to volunteers and involved them in the reflections and focus group discussions. The main changes are the following: - Simplify the instructions of the games (record videos etc.) so it would be easier for the volunteers to facilitate. - Add games which teach life skills (personal hygiene, communications). - Create an online community of facilitators who can support each other.

Who will implement this Idea?

An initiative team will implement the idea, 2 people from the team are eager to devote themselves full-time to the project, and the rest of the team can put 10 h per week to support the project development. We are based in various locations. However, geographic locations help us scale the project in the future and different expertise helps us distribute work on the project enabling part time work. Besides of that, we would need to hire IT developer to develop and support the product technically. The missing talent also is Marketing & PR strategist who would be able to build the outreach.

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?

Our target end-user are organizations working with children in unstructured environments. On an individual level, users’ biggest issues are limited time and resources to maintain quality programs. Also, high volunteer turnover is an issue for organizations as this provides no consistency for programs. On a systems-level, we acknowledge and understand our users major struggle is the instability and constant movement of the refugees living in the camps. Refugees have no time frame as to how long they will be in the camp and families are constantly moving in and out of the camps based on relocation notice. This poses an issue for organizations attempting to design and maintain consistent educational programs for refugees as they are unable to confirm there duration of stay and time frame.

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

We are currently a small social enterprise. Based on our piloting with NGOs on the ground, and conversation with private institutions, we vision to maintain financially sustainable in the following 2 ways: - Subsidy model, we are in the process to pilot the box with private institutions, and explore the possibility to donate 1 box to refugee camps by selling 1 to private institution; - CSR model, we will explore ways to develop Peak-A-Box as private company’s CSR program. Companies can donate to subsidy our cost, or donate their resources or expertise.

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?

Impact: By 2022 we aim to bring Peak-A-Box to the assistance of organizations in European, Middle Eastern and African Regions. Shaping a better learning environment for 25,000 kids through play-based education. Question: How do we have a sustainable and scaleable model to continuously provide quality early childhood development education in refugee camps, and while adapting to the diverse cultural context in Europe, Middle East, and Africa?

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

We created a logframe to outline how the outcomes will be measured. One of the outcomes is to foster children's physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. This is currently measured through a survey given to organizations and volunteers that piloted our project. The survey consists of ECD indicators and how often they are displayed before, during and after piloting. If improvement in each indicator is observed over time, it will reflect progress in ECD and success in our project.

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

2017: Pilot in different countries (EU and the Middle East), keep improving Peak-A-Box, regarding curriculum and app function. 2018: Officially launch Peak-A-Box with 100 proven games, and a smart algorithm to automatically generate curriculum based on user behavior. - Launch 1:1 business model; 2019: Scale to 10-15 organizations reaching 8 000 kids. Open up the online community for facilitators to contribute to the curriculum. 2020: Impact on 15 000 kids living in unstructured environments

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Under $50,000 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 not a registered entity.

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 Model Support
  • Program/Service Design
  • Product Design
  • Other Technical Expertise


Join the conversation:

Photo of Rebecca Petras

Greetings Liliya,
Your initiative is a very interesting one and is crucial for providing quality education for numbers of children especially minority groups who are not receiving education in their native languages.
We are actually submitting an idea to support the education of children refugees in Greece and we would like to collaborate with you.
I am the Deputy Director in Translators without Borders (TWB); a U.S. non-profit organization that aims to close the language gaps that hinder critical humanitarian efforts worldwide. We recognize that the effectiveness of any aid program depends on delivering information in the language of the affected population. By maintaining a global network of professional translators, we help non-profit organizations overcome communication barriers, increasing access to critical information and services while fostering a climate of understanding, respect and dignity in times of great need. We invite you to learn more about our work through this link. Translators without Borders is a non-profit organization supported entirely through our volunteers, grant funders and generous donors and sponsors.

TWB’s current translation capabilities exceed more than 190 language pairs with over 20000 translators. So far we have translated over 45 million words as part of humanitarian crisis response, and health and education services. We have also provided basic translator training to over 250 trainees in our translator training centre.

Since 2010, Translators without Borders (TWB) has played a crucial role within the humanitarian and development sectors leading on localization and translation of complex and lifesaving information into more than 190 languages, especially for populations in crisis. TWB has contributed to building the capacity of local translators in different parts of the world including in Kenya, Guinea and Greece.

Translators without Borders is expanding its program to support Mother Tongue Education programs. We want to work in collaboration with education providers to overcome the language barriers to mother-tongue education. TWB has the expertise and to:

Translate and adapte educational materials in local language, including training translators in local languages
Support Ministries and education providers to develop materials to support teachers in teaching in mother-tongue languages

We believe that our expertise around language and localization when coupled with your expertise and efforts in Education will expand the outreach to marginalized populations unable to benefit from quality education opportunities. It would be our pleasure to connect with you and learn more from you on your ongoing projects and discuss possible ways of cooperation together.

Photo of Liliya Borovets

Hello Rebecca Petras ,

Thank you for reaching out to us! While piloting Peak-A-Box in Greece we faced a challenge with language barrier. We understand that it would be much more effective to have multi-language app or content. Thanks for your offer! We would be glad to talk about possible cooperation! Could you give us your e-mail so we can continue conversation?



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