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media, muppets & more

Educating Children in Conflict Zone

Photo of Rajit Kumar
9 25

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What problem does your innovation solve?

Over 1.3 million children (0-8 years) in Kashmir live with conflict. It interrupts their education and development. With schools remaining closed for more than 6 months in a year, young children are missing out on the single most important factor that will help them build better lives. Where it is difficult to put boots on the ground, deploying engaging and well-researched content using multimedia can help children grow smarter, stronger and kinder.

Explain your innovation.

We know that the early years are the most critical in a child’s life, when children’s brains develop rapidly. Recent research shows that children who live with conflict are most likely to experience toxic stress, & that it has a direct impact on their cognitive and social-emotional behaviors. Galli Galli Sim Sim (GGSS - Indian adaptation of Sesame Street), has demonstrated significant impact on children’s cognitive, physical and prosocial outcomes. Our muppets are role models that engage children and caregivers with messages of hope; promote diversity & inclusion; model coping skills; and kindness and empathy, along with teaching them letters & numbers. Our idea builds on our success of using muppets and media (TV, radio & digital) to reach kids and caregivers with a curriculum and content that is culturally, contextually and linguistically relevant. Taking feedback from our user experience study with parents, educators and children we will: • Develop a curriculum that specifically addresses the needs of children in Kashmir • Dub existing content, produce additional content for radio, TV & digital in the Kashmiri language • Leverage our partnership with Doordarshan & All India Radio (Public Service Broadcaster) to help us reach children and caregivers at scale • Integrate IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System) into our radio broadcast for interactivity & anytime, anywhere access • Revise the Sesame Play app to make it available offline in low connectivity areas

Who benefits?

Using a combination of TV, radio and mobile phones we are aiming to reach over 2 million children (0-8 years) in urban and rural Kashmir. The user experience map captures our typical user – a young child who is unable to attend regular school and lives with violence. We are committed to girl child equity. First, our content is led by Chamki, a five year old girl muppet who models that girls can be anything they want to be. She inspires both girls and boys to stay in school and dream big. Second, multimedia allows us to break access barriers, providing equal opportunity for girls and boys to learn, laugh and grow. Finally as caregivers engage with the content, they are more likely to provide equal opportunity to their girl child. A longitudinal study (qualitative and quantitative) will measure the impact of the content on children’s learning outcomes. Using multimedia is scalable and cost effective in reaching kids living in conflict, in and outside of India.

How is your innovation unique?

We are developing a core curriculum that specifically addresses the needs of young children living with conflict and violence, along with addressing their basic educational needs. Sesame Workshop India is uniquely positioned to implement this innovation. Building on the expertise of Sesame Street working in high conflict zones (e.g. Kosovo, Israel, Palestine) we bring to the table: • Expertise in creating curriculum & content that fosters school readiness and addresses children’s psychosocial behaviours. • Our muppets as role models who model resilience and kindness • Multimedia partnerships to reach children & their caregivers at scale, in a geography that is challenging for sustained outreach programs • Integrating IVRS & Sesame Play to engage with caregivers as they learn language and strategies to help their children deal with challenges There are other organizations that are working in Kashmir, but they are limited in scale and do not address young children specifically.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Our dipstick study with children, parents and educators shows that the content presented (TV, radio and Sesame Play) was liked by all but that the preferred language should be Kashmiri. Most urban beneficiaries reported having a smartphone at home while access in rural areas were limited, which might impact our use of the IVRS platform. We are currently working to understand how to optimize the app for easier access on low-end smartphones, what specific strategies we will use to promote the intervention and what kind of partners we will need on the ground to support the project. We will undertake needs assessment study to determine further.

Tell us more about you.

Sesame Workshop India is a nonprofit leading the movement to change the early childhood development landscape in India through innovative projects that puts children at the centre of development. We develop and distribute high quality and engaging content through television, radio, community radio, print, digital and outreach to reach children aged 2-8. Since 2006 our flagship initiative GGSS has reached over 130 million children with demonstrated impact on their learning and prosocial skills.

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

  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

Kashmir has been in armed conflict for decades. The political climate and uncertainty have affected children particularly, where millions are growing up without the necessary education to facilitate growth. As Gordon Brown says “Children living in conflict zones are more likely to become the youngest soldiers in a trench.” Thousands of families have been displaced, schools shut and children left with no solutions.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Our project would start in Kashmir, which has been in conflict for decades. While we will design and create content for Kashmir, we will keep in mind the larger goal of creating content that is replicable in other areas in and outside India where children are impacted by armed conflict and are unable to attend school. We hope to replicate outside of India.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

Sesame Workshop India works with a wide range of partners that include public and private broadcasters, researchers, writers, experts, the government and other nonprofit community based organizations to help us reach children most in need.

Sector Expertise

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

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

Since 2006, we have reached over 130M children ages of 2 – 8 to help them become smarter, stronger, kinder. While we do address traditional school readiness skills such as literacy & numeracy we also address skills such as resilience, kindness, cultural diversity & executive function skills as we recognize their importance for a child’s life-long learning and success. We have deployed our content in over 9 Indian regional languages using multimedia & community outreach.

Innovation Maturity

  • Roll-out/Ready to Scale: I have completed a pilot and am ready or in the process of expanding.

Organization Status

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

Organization Location

Sesame Workshop India, 153 Modi Mills, Okhla Phase III, Delhi, India


How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

Based on feedback from the community, a dipstick study conducted with children (50), parents (10), teachers (5) and other experts we have refined the proposal 1. GGSS is not addressing children suffering from PTSD. The curriculum is structured to help children build resiliency. 2. Refining our distribution strategy to address the media gaps in urban and rural areas 3. Identifying that we will need to partner with community volunteers in rural areas

Who will implement this Idea?

Sesame Workshop India will constitute a project task team of 10 people comprising of content creative, research, marketing and program personnel to implement the project. Personnel time will be mapped to specific scope of work. We will further engage with the following partners: • Doordarshan and AIR (Public Service broadcaster) • Kashmir University (student volunteers to support M & E) • Awaaz.De (Technical partners for set up of IVRS) • Community based organizations (TBD) for volunteers in rural areas • Technology partner (TBD) to support the app development for offline use

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?

Decades of conflict in the Kashmir valley has resulted in a generation that has lost its childhood. The biggest challenge for children in Kashmir today is the lack of quality educational inputs both in and out of school. This leaves them idle and open to unsafe environment and influence. It is imperative to provide children with safe spaces where they can explore, learn, laugh and engage. Television, radio and mobile phones provide a sustainable way to reach these children and their caregivers, albeit informally. At a systemic level, access is the biggest challenge. Young children often do not have the agency, parents lack awareness and education themselves. The project will build in elements in the design to ensure that specific barriers identified in the needs assessment are addressed.

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

We are a mission based organization that create content for children. We use multiple approaches to distribute our content widely – popular media such as TV, radio and digital is the most cost-effective way we reach millions of children. We partner with broadcasters to provide airtime, we syndicate and license our content for a fee and we sell our content to those who can afford to pay. We also raise money through grants, individual donors, CSR and fundraising events. The money we raise goes towards making our mission sustainable for long term impact.

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 2021 we aim to scale our project in Kashmir by reaching over 2 million children annually through TV, radio and digital platforms. QUESTION What do we incorporate into our design to ensures that parents and educators are regularly tuning into GGSS and downloading the app, playing with their children so that by 2024 we can see measurable impact amongst at least 50% of kids in the 0-8 population in Kashmir.

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

Outputs for this intervention are GGSS episodes broadcast on TV and Radio, GGSS application for use on smartphones and audio content broadcast on interactive voice response system. We will use BARC (TV audience measurement) to track viewership of GGSS TV, AIR data to track listenership, downloads of the GGSS application and call-ins to AIR. A longitudinal study using both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used to assess the impact of the program and learning outcomes of children.

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

We are planning a three-year project. Year 1: Needs Assessment, Advisory meeting, Curriculum development, Content development formative research, and building Partnerships, Year 2: Baseline research, Broadcast, Community implementation, mid-line evaluation Year 3: Continued broadcast, end line evaluation, project report

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Above $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 registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

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?

  • Product Design
  • Other Technical Expertise


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dave Hughes

Hi Rajit, this is a great idea! My name is David Hughes and I am the Project Director for the Bendigo Inventor Awards.

Now in our 7th year, the Bendigo Inventor awards have as our focus inventions that address needs in the Emergency Services and Disaster Management space, and we offer a AUD$10,000 prize for the winning entry. The Bendigo Inventor Awards has also created an environment for inventors to obtain support for their ideas by bringing together a coalition of partners with the knowledge, skills and networks to accelerate the progression of ideas from concept through to commercialisation. Major Program Partners include Engineers Australia who are providing technical feedback, KPMG who are offering advice on commercial viability and the path to commercialisation and Red Cross, who are providing their perspective on the relevance of many inventions to disaster relief efforts. Our judging panel also contains representatives from Emergency Management Victoria, who are able to provide similar feedback on the applicability of inventions to the emergency services.

I believe your idea would be a fantastic entry into the awards. Applying is easy and can be done through our website Simply select the category that your invention applies to – ‘Concept’ or ‘Product and Prototype’, and answer some questions about your invention. All judges are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so your idea is protected. Entries close 5pm Friday 29th September 2017 AEST.

I very much look forward to seeing your invention go on to great success, and hope we are able to assist you in enabling that to happen. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to get in touch on the phone number above, or via my email at

David Hughes
Project Director
Bendigo Inventor Awards

Photo of Simon Mayers

Thanks for providing the detail information about innovation, maybe I need refer more about it to have a good innovation

Photo of OpenIDEO

Expert Feedback Question 4: In your expert opinion, does this Idea pass the ‘do no harm’ principles? Do you believe that there may be any unseen or undocumented risks?

- One expert shared, “Yes, I believe it passes the do no harm principles, With corporate involvement, it will be important form SWI to ensure that their content and curriculum are not compromised by inappropriate corporate interests.”

- Another expert shared, “TV shows are not an established method for treating trauma. As there is no strong evidence base for this as a treatment, it is possible that the attempt to reduce PTSD symptoms could backfire, as other "common sense" trauma treatments (such as critical incident debriefing) have been shown to do. The idea needs better research. It will also need to be culturally appropriate and the producers will need to make sure that the children (particularly the girls) would suffer no adverse repercussions for watching the program.”

Expert Feedback Question 5: Based on your experience and expertise, is this an Idea that you’d like to see brought to life? Why or why not?

- One expert shared, “Yes, it is an idea that I'd like to see brought to life because Kashmiris have been suffering through conflict for decades, and to break the cycle of violence, education through both formal and non-formal methods is very important.”

- Another shared, “Yes, but they should either commit to robustly researching the impact of their program on traumatized children to ensure its efficacy, or they should steer away from addressing traumatic experiences.”

Looking ahead in the development of your Idea, the following are some questions that may be helpful to consider and integrate into your contribution!

- Would you be able to describe your monitoring and evaluation plan that would ensure your idea will be responsive to the rapidly changing needs of communities living in emergency situations?
- How would your content and curriculum specifically speak to supporting the development and empowerment of girls?
- How will you measure the effect of your content on children who have been through significant trauma?
- What is your sustainability strategy? How will you include recipients in the design and review of content? How might you show us the IVRS and the details of how it will work?

Join us for Storytelling Office Hours Tuesday, July 25, 2017 from 8:30AM - 9:30AM PST! RSVP at by Monday, July 24, 2017 Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an Idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - August 6 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your Idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Have questions? Email us at

Looking forward to reading more!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Rajit Kumar and Team!

We’re excited to share feedback and questions from our experts with you. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your Idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your Idea. Your Idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

Our expert reviewers were particularly impressed your Idea integrated play into enhancing the learning experience with children, while addressing a problem that is pressing in the space!

Expert Feedback Question 1: Based on your knowledge and experience, is this a new approach or bold way of answering the Challenge question?

- Experts shared, “Sesame Workshop has a proven model as an effective non-formal learning program worldwide. This is an expansion of an already innovative idea, into an area which could benefit significantly from the project.It is bold in that it continues to adapt and innovate ideas that address specific contextual and cultural needs of communities.”

Expert Feedback Question 2: Human-centered design starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their real needs. We are seeking to support Ideas that consider desirability, feasibility, and viability. How does this Idea measure up? How does this Idea consider user needs?

- One expert shared, “This idea has great potential to succeed. It will be important for the contributor to consider the challenges they have discussed in their proposal by doing a needs assessment. They will also have to document best diplomacy practices among all stakeholders from families, communities, government, NGOs, and corporations to ensure that the model is replicable beyond Kashmir.”

- Another expert shared, “This project will be developed with and for Kashmiri communities, indicating that its development is human-centred, but will be led by experts.”

Expert Feedback Question 3: If this Idea is submitted from a larger organization, does it have a sustainable funding model? If this Idea is submitted from an early stage Idea, does it have the potential to develop a model for sustainability long-term?

- Experts shared, “The funding model is unclear based on info provided yet it seems that a series of materials can be produced and then sold or distributed for ongoing use. Any products sold can contribute to ongoing funding requirements.”

[Feedback continued in next comment]

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Rajit, would love to learn if there's any data you have to share about educational outcomes from your programs to date?

Photo of Rajit Kumar

Hi Ashley, Various studies conducted over a decade have shown that children exposed to our content show 2X more improvements in their literacy, numeracy, physical wellbeing and pro social behaviors. We will be happy to send related reports or you can visit where a lot of our research is uploaded.

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Thanks Rajit!

Photo of Vinni Gautam

An interesting and much needed programme...

Photo of Amit Abhilash

Very valuable project . Such needs of children had to be addressed and your effort seems like good minds at work for children . Congratulations and good luck in efforts