Scaling So Millions Learn: Educate! Highlighted in New Brookings Report

Educate! is featured in a new industry-defining report from the Brookings Center for Universal EducationMillions Learning seeks to understand the crucial factors driving major improvements in educational outcomes around the world, distilling lessons learned from case studies of Educate!, Pratham, Room to Read, Sesame Workshop, and other leading organizations. The Millions Learning project specifically focuses on education innovations that can be implemented efficiently, effectively, and sustainably on a large scale. Out of over 100 potential cases, Educate! was chosen as one of only 14 solutions to become a detailed case study for the Millions Learning report.

Educate! Launches in Rwanda

Educate! is thrilled to announce a monumental opportunity to reach more youth than ever before. This year we are launching in our second country: Rwanda. Through our education reform efforts, we will impact the education of every secondary student across the nation-- that’s 215,000 youth annually. This expansion is a major milestone toward sustainably impacting youth livelihoods through education systems change.

Last year Rwanda reformed its upper secondary curriculum, aiming to use skills-based education to directly tie secondary school to a better life after graduation. The government invited Educate! to serve as a technical advisor on the reforms. In mid-2015, Rwanda’s Ministry of Education introduced several successful components of Educate!’s model into the national entrepreneurship curriculum that is being rolled out in 2016. This partnership means that components of our model, Skills Labs and Student Business Clubs, will reach all secondary students across the country.

Our work in Rwanda is called the Educate! Exchange and is a partnership between Educate!, the highly respected Rwandan organization Akazi Kanoze, and EDC, a major international development organization. The goal of the Educate! Exchange is to improve teaching methods and techniques to support teachers with adopting the new competency-based methods included in the entrepreneurship curriculum, especially the Skills Lab and Student Business Clubs.

Now, we are busy laying the foundations to launch the Educate! Exchange on the ground. We’ve hired a core team of ambitious, passionate professionals who are eager to reach tens of thousands more students annually. To support the roll out of the new curriculum at the school level, Educate! will focus on teacher training in 100 secondary schools for two years. We will start by running workshops to prepare entrepreneurship teachers for the new curriculum. We will also produce structured lesson plans for teachers to help them adopt the new Skills Lab and Student Business Club structures. Finally, we will engage teachers in learning exchange visits, providing them an opportunity to visit each other schools and observe one another practice the new teaching methods!

We are inspired by the huge opportunity for impact in Rwanda. Recognizing the significance of our expansion, we remain focused on rigorous monitoring and evaluation of our impact. We are especially excited by the chance to do “research and development” on how we can best support reform.  We are thrilled that the prestigious Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) has awarded us a grant to partner with their researchers to carry out a randomized controlled trial in Rwanda. In the first evaluation of its kind that we are aware of, we will measure the impact our methods for implementing skills-based education reform have on youth livelihoods.

Our activities in Rwanda are an opportunity to test the most scalable, sustainable ways to create impact on youth livelihoods through systems change, and are an important step toward achieving our Vision for 2024 of reaching one million students annually across 10 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

An International Women's Day Message from Educate!'s Makindye Team

Educate!'s team in Makindye, Uganda shared this poem with their teammates on International Women's Day:

Today is a celebration for women all around the world;
Ladies like us who have dared to dream big, ever since we were little girls;
For the diversity and talents that lie with in our hearts;
For the courage and determination that prevents us falling apart.

We can raise families and build businesses and be proud of all we've achieved.
Where once over, visions of that scale could never have been believed;
Ladies, let us stand and be counted, smile at how far we have come;
And cherish every single day, as a daughter, wife, companion, or mum.

Don't let anybody tell you that there are set paths for you to follow;
A little girl with passion is an inspiring woman tomorrow.
So I celebrate us women and acknowledge the great things we all do.

Happy Women's Day Educate! Ladies.


Makindye Team

Educate! Director of Policy and Partnerships to Present at CIES Conference

This month, Educate!’s Director of Policy and Partnerships, Maggie Appleton, is attending the 60th Annual Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Conference. The CIES conference is the premier global education event, focusing on fostering cross-cultural understanding, scholarship, academic achievement, and societal development to address education policy and implementation issues in developing countries.

Maggie will speak on a panel with representatives from the amazing organizations Aflatoun International and Grassroots Soccer, and will present Educate!'s work with governments and curriculum reform. Her presentation is titled "NGOs, Globalization and Curriculum Integration: Recent Experience and Evidence." 

Entrepreneurship Training Works: Evidence from S4YE Report

An important report from Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) details how the odds are stacked against youth around the world, and includes several mentions of Educate!'s proven solution!

Did you know that in the next 10 years over 1 billion young people will enter the global job market? There are a record number of young people alive today—nearly 1.8 billion – and 85 percent of these young people live in developing and emerging economies and fragile states. Nearly one third of these young people are not in school, employment, or training.

The S4YE report found that despite such huge challenges, there is clear evidence that investments in youth employment pay off. “Empirical evidence shows that youth employment interventions, especially those that provide skills or entrepreneurship training...yield positive and statistically significant results on labor market outcomes for participating youth.” Additionally, one of the report’s most exciting discoveries was that not only do skills-based entrepreneurship education programs work, but that they work better than anything else: “Entrepreneurship promotion interventions activate the highest return on productive work for young people”.

Educate!'s Uganda Program Director Hawah Nabbuye is quoted in the report, which is authored by Nicole Goldin, one of our amazing board members and a leading international expert on global youth affairs and youth in development.

Educate! is honored to be featured in the report as one of the most innovative solutions to the global youth unemployment crisis.  Check out the full report to learn more about the youth employment crisis and how Educate! is pioneering a solution.

The Global Innovation Fund Selects Educate! as an Inaugural Investment

GIF Investees

We are excited to share that Educate! was selected as one of the Global Innovation Fund’s inaugural investments.

The Global Innovation Fund (GIF) is a new fund backed by the US Agency for International Development, the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, Omidyar Network and other industry leaders. Educate! was one of only eight organizations selected out of over 2,000 applications as an inaugural investment.

GIF funds organizations based on their ability to be better than existing development practices, to obtain evidence of meaningful impact, to have a stellar team, and to demonstrate realistic plans to reach millions of individuals. According to the Global Innovation Fund, “We look for innovation backed up by evidence of impact, potential to scale and a credible team.” Educate! is honored to be in GIF’s first batch of investees.

The Global Innovation Fund brings "a fresh perspective to foreign aid, marrying the best of the venture capital approach to investments with a strong commitment to measuring social impact," by investing in innovations that are more cost effective, impactful, and scalable than current solutions.

Angelica presenting at GIF

Educate! Co-Founders, Executive Director Boris Bulayev and Global Director of Programs Angelica Towne traveled to the Global Innovation Fund launch event in London last week. Angelica gave an incredible presentation on Educate!’s proven model and the importance of youth employment in Africa.

Learn more about the Global Innovation Fund and the other selected organizations. 

Curious to know what makes Educate!'s approach unique? Learn more about our cost-effective, highly scalable approach, and our emphasis on rigorous monitoring and evaluation.




How I Launched Two Businesses and Put Myself Through University

By Doreen Byonabye, Educate! Mentor
Doreen is currently in her final year of university and is a Mentor to over 120 students in three schools in Central Uganda.

All my life, I had admired accountants and wished to be like them one day. But after graduating from high school, I had lost hope that I could go to university to continue with my studies because I couldn’t pay the school fees. My dad told me he could not manage to pay millions of shillings every semester. Despite this, I was determined to achieve my dream, so I searched for a job that would allow me to save for university. I believed that with education I could move mountains.

Fortunately, I was hired at KAC Chemicals and Paints to work as a supervisor. With my high school diploma, I was supervising people older than me! I applied to Kyambogo University and took the first course that would enable me to achieve my dream of becoming an accountant.

I started working in the morning and studying in the evening. It was hectic, but since I was working for tuition I knew it was worth it. I was able to raise half of my tuition every semester, and this was supplemented by my dad’s contribution.

I had a passion for business and decided to become an Educate! Mentor in 2014. I was no longer able to balance my job and my studies, but Educate! believed in me and believed that I could change many lives while achieving my own dreams as a Mentor. Through the YBE (Youth Business Experience) training, I started a project making liquid soap. It looked impossible at the beginning due to many challenges in the industry, but I never gave up. I decided to market my products in hostels, to friends, on campus, and to local people. Six months later, I had made enough that I was able to invest some of the profits in another project, a piggery, to expand on my income generation. These projects now enable me to raise half of my school fees and meet my necessities every semester, as well as put a little bit of money in savings.

Throughout it all, I valued patience, endurance, commitment, overcoming challenges, networking, and reading books. Now I am finalizing my degree-- Bachelor’s of Science in Finance and Accounting, and I employ myself and other people in my projects.

Reaching Uganda’s Most Impoverished Youth in 2016

Uganda district map

Next month, Educate! will launch our program expansion in Northern Uganda. This post-conflict area is the most impoverished region of Uganda – the poverty rate, at 43.7%, is nearly twice as high as the next-poorest region of Uganda, and more than two times the national average. After 23 years of conflict, two million people in Northern Uganda were uprooted from their homes and over 20,000 youth were abducted.

Educate! has high potential to create an exponential impact in this unique and challenging region. In 2016, we will be working in 80 additional schools in this region and reaching over 25,000 youth facing joblessness and struggling with the psychological impacts of war.

How did we prepare to operate in the region’s unique environment?

1. Learning best practices and listening to the community

Thanks to our partner Segal Family Foundation, Richard Luuba, Educate! Senior Program Officer, was able to travel to Northern Uganda to study best practices for Educate!’s expansion into the region. In a thought-provoking article he wrote for HuffPost Impact, he shares his insights on the importance of local leadership and community empowerment. Read the full article.

2. Experimenting with innovative solutions

The new areas we are expanding to in Northern Uganda are more spread out with lower school densities than our current districts. To prepare for working in this new environment, we experimented by combining two of our current remote districts to simulate conditions in the North. We’ve made several program adjustments based on this simulation, such as reducing field staff travel, which will inform program implementation in the North. We were pleased to see that the changes made throughout the year in our experiment districts have led to concrete improvements to program implementation in these districts.

3. Expanding our Uganda Team

More than anything else, successful implementation in this post-conflict region depends on the expertise and buy-in of people who are from the community and for the community. For this reason, we spent the last months of 2015 investing heavily in hiring the management team and staff who will lead our expansion into Northern Uganda, all of whom are from the region. Read more about the amazing team leading the charge.

Educate! Accepts WISE Award at Education Summit in Doha

Last week, Educate!’s co-founders-- Executive Director Boris Bulayev and Global Director of Programs Angelica Towne-- were in Doha, Qatar accepting the 2015 WISE Award, the pre-eminent global education award.

Educate! is a 2015 WISE Award Winner, and Boris and Angelica had the opportunity to present Educate!’s award-winning model to Summit attendees, as well as participate in a panel on the importance of skills-based education for youth and how to prepare a generation of leaders and entrepreneurs.

First lady Michelle Obama was in attendance, as well as hundreds of global education experts and leading innovators in the field.

For Angelica, one of the most inspiring moments of the Summit was listening to the First Lady’s speech: (She spoke) “about the power of education to give students a future their dreams couldn't even reach. She spoke of education taking her from a lower income apartment to the White House.”

We’re honored to have been part of such an amazing event! To see more highlights from the Summit, check out our Twitter feed and watch videos of some of the keynote speeches here:

Jane Ssebuyungo: Educate!'s New Program Coordinator Shares Her Perspective on Women in Leadership and Empowering Ugandan Girls


When Jane begins to describe her first teaching job at Mbogo High, her whole face lights up. Her love for the girls that she taught and the impact she made on them becomes evident. An all-girls school, Mbogo High served as a platform for Jane to grow into a strong teacher and advocate for female empowerment within the education system.

But then Jane met Maggie, Educate!'s Global Director of Policy and Partnerships, and a whole new world of possibilities opened up.  At the time, Maggie was the Program Director for Educate!, spreading the word about a new model of education that would help Ugandan youth lift themselves out of poverty. Jane recalls, “she communicated with the bottom of my heart. The passion of education. Empowering children with practical skills and entrepreneurship and delivering experience-based education. I had watched the girls I interacted with in my school grow stronger and more empowered. I believed working with Educate! was an opportunity for me to go outside the four walls of the classroom and impact as many girls as possible.”

Jane jumped at the opportunity to attend Educate!’s one-month Youth Entrepreneurship Training course.  She recalls, “it was a total transformation for my life. I discovered there was so much more in leadership and entrepreneurship, that I should be a leader so that I can impact many more communities.” Newly equipped with an arsenal of entrepreneurial know-how, Jane began working with Educate! as a Regional Officer for the Central Region of Uganda, overseeing the implementation of the Educate! model in over 18 schools.

Now, as the Program Coordinator, Jane’s impact has increased exponentially, fulfilling her dream of reaching and empowering even more young women and men through the Educate! curriculum. She is eager to utilize her new role to strengthen Educate!’s programming, design, and training while serving as an example to other Ugandans that “even women can make it up in management.”

Africans Are Optimistic, but Education and Jobs are Primary Concerns for the Future

Here’s some good news: a new Pew Research Center survey has found that people in major Sub-Saharan African nations are feeling more optimistic about the future than many others around the world.

“A median of 60% across the nine countries surveyed say their economy is going to improve in the next 12 months, and 56% believe the next generation will be better off financially than their parents. This is a much higher level of optimism than expressed by many others around the world.”

At the same time, there is acknowledgement of the pressing challenges currently being faced. According to the survey, when asked what the top priorities should be for their countries, two of the three biggest concerns were a lack of employment opportunities and the poor quality of education.

Results from this survey reaffirm the need for Educate!’s model and the important role it will play in ensuring youth have the tools they need to solve poverty for themselves and their communities. Read more about our innovative approach.

Stephen Uses Critical Thinking to Develop a Business Strategy that Solves a Local Need

Stephen Ogawang in his shop

Stephen Ogwang, an Educate! Mentor and businessman, just oozes charm. With a smile to kill and confidence to spare, he welcomes us into the Police Barracks in Nsambya, Kampala. This is where he’s set up shop; his brightly colored MTN Mobile stand among the uniforms, armed trucks and housing for police personnel. Although it may seem like an unusual place to conduct business, Stephen explains that his location is a part of his carefully-crafted strategic business plan to address a community need.

Before his business came to the barracks, there was no place for residents to buy common, daily necessities. People would have to travel to neighboring communities for simple items like airtime (for making phone calls and using internet data), pens, stationery and water. Now, with Stephen’s services, the community can spend less time running errands and more time investing their energy into other activities.

Stephen’s services have also identified another community need: computer literacy. Many people who live within the police barracks are job seekers, but lack computer access. Stephen, who says that “most people here don’t know how to write resumes; they don’t know how to write CVs”,  has incorporated drafting these essential documents into his business model and charges a fee for his expertise. He understands that his business savvy can be leveraged to positively impact the lives of those around him.

What’s next for Stephen? On top of the continual expansion of his business, he hopes to re-invest his income into higher education so that he can attend university. For Stephen, the sky’s the limit. Not only is Stephen impacting his own future, but he is also setting an example for the Scholars whom he Mentors by showing them that unwavering persistence and determination will carry you far.

From the Community, For the Community: The Right Team to Lead Northern Expansion

Educate!’s successful expansion to northern Uganda depends on people who are from the community and for the community. For this reason, Educate! has spent the last several months investing heavily in hiring the management team and staff who will lead our expansion into northern Uganda, all of whom are from the region. They have seen how destructive violence can be, they understand the deep consequences war has on a community, and they can directly relate to the youth they’re working to impact.

Educate!’s new Program Coordinator for northern Uganda is Lawrence Komakech. Lawrence is from Gulu, northern Uganda’s largest city. He is extremely passionate about and proud of his home community while also acknowledging that it has a complex and painful past. Lawrence’s Gulu roots are exactly why he is the perfect man to help lead the Northern Expansion.  Lawrence says that for a community that has gone through such collective hardship, trust is an essential factor. “For the community to really own this program, there must be high level of community participation and engagement, trust, consistency, honesty on both sides, and a belief or a feasible feeling that the program is impactful. A program can best be implemented by people who really understand and appreciate the needs of the people, the culture of the community they serve, the environment, the politics, and the unique history of the region."

With the expansion team in place, Educate! continues to actively recruit partner schools who want to bring the Educate! Experience to their students. In addition, Youth Leaders for the region will attend a two-week induction beginning September 21st, after which they will recruit, select, and train Mentors. In January, the new Mentors will attend an intensive induction to prepare for the first term of the program. This all leads up to the program launch in January 2016, when we expect to be working in 80 additional schools and reaching over 25,000 additional youth in northern Uganda alone.

Educate! Named 2015 WISE Awards Winner

We are so excited to share that Educate! has been named a winner of the 2015 WISE Awards. Educate! was one of six cutting edge projects chosen for transforming communities and providing one of the most innovative and effective approaches to a pressing challenge in global education. This award represents a huge accomplishment and validation of Educate!'s mission and impact, as our flagship program-- the Educate! Experience -- was selected by an international panel of education experts.

WISE (the World Innovation Summit for Education), was established by the Qatar Foundation in 2009 to identify and promote compelling education solutions. We are thrilled and honored to be a part of WISE's global effort to solve the greatest challenges facing education today.

Congratulations to all the 2015 WISE Award winners! Learn more about WISE and see the list of winning organizations here

Educate! Selected as Mission Meats’ First Featured Partner

We’re excited to announce a new partnership with Mission Meats, a young, mission-driven startup that produces grass-fed beef snack sticks without nitrates, gluten, or MSG. As part of its model, Mission Meats commits 10% of its profits to social good organizations. 

Mission Meats is the newest brainchild of entrepreneur Peter Awad, who has created several eCommerce sites and founded Slow Hustle, a podcast that dissects the balancing act of the startup world with family and personal life. 

Educate! is thrilled to have been selected as Mission Meats' first charity partner. Read more about the partnership on the Mission Meats blog.

Feedback and the Educate! Culture

Induction is a two week intensive training for Educate!’s passionate field staff (Mentors, Youth Leaders and Program Officers) where they reflect on the successes and challenges of the previous term and prepare for the next. It is a powerful intersection of work and play. “Camp Rules” are posted to the wall and there truly is an overnight camp atmosphere. Staff form Induction families to create a sense of community; they bunk together in the dormitories; they play games together during down time; they form essential bonds between those who are newcomers and those who are exiting the Educate! family, on to bigger and better endeavors. But most importantly, they learn together, challenge one another, and look forward to the next school term together. It’s an exciting environment, a mixture of determination and contagious laughter.

The unique nature of Induction stems from two of Educate!’s core values: "Always Learning" and "Only Solve a Problem Once". These tenets are a promise to ensure that all aspects of the organization are continually evaluated and improved upon and that we proactively solve and communicate problems to create long-term solutions. Embedding these principles in our culture enables Educate! to remain nimble as we navigate new terrain and work toward long term, sustainable impact.

At Induction, the focus is no different and all activities orbit around learning: the days kick off with “Knowledge Shares” where staff teach one another valuable life and business skills. Mentors then lead mock Leadership & Entrepreneurship classes. Following the mock lesson, the Mentors receive sharp, constructive feedback from their peers that helps to guide their growth, so that when their classroom is full of Educate! Scholars, they are prepared, confident and effective.

Mentors are not the only ones who receive feedback. Field staff are often given the platform to assess elements of the Educate! program in a continuous effort to improve and advance quality and efficiency. For example, two months ago, the Mentors requested that the color of their curriculum books be changed from white to red; the white covers got dirty very quickly and no longer appeared professional. Educate! listened, and at Induction Mentors received their freshly printed red curriculum books.

Finally, staff are trained on the latest programmatic upgrades whether it be new reporting protocols, updated policies or advancements in the curriculum. All staff exit Induction with a renewed sense of purpose and passion along with an arsenal of sharpened skills. 

Educate! Selected to join Epic Foundation’s 2015 Global Portfolio

Out of more than 1,400 applicants from around the world, Educate! has been selected by the Epic Foundation as one of the 20 most impactful youth organizations globally.

Epic has an innovative approach to global investment: the foundation promotes top-vetted charities in its portfolio much the same way that a business would pitch to investors before an initial public offering. Epic’s portfolio of charities operate in four areas of children’s welfare: health, economic empowerment, human rights, and education. This fall and winter, Epic will present its portfolio to three groups: entrepreneurs, “voices” (entertainers and athletes), and corporate donors. Calling this promotional tour a “road show”, Epic will stop in Boston, Geneva, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, New York, Paris, and Singapore.

Read more about Epic’s model, and see the other portfolio organizations in this Chronicle of Philanthropy article