Written by the Amal Alliance Team
COVID 19 has presented unprecedented challenges, but has also provided an opportunity to reimagine how learning can take place anywhere, at any time. It has propelled individuals, organizations, governments, and education stakeholders to tap into innovative ideas and technologies, as well as the wonderful world of imagination! At Amal Alliance, we too were among the visionaries that sought to tap into our creativity to explore and reinvent our traditional learning methods with imaginative solutions. We understood this complex issue would require an equally comprehensive response, and thus sought to work through a consortium effort, which built on the expertise of our global partners.
We quickly delivered our podcast in 4 languages to our beneficiaires via WhatsApp, but also shared it with over 17 global platforms whose networks reached 543 organizations. Seeing the positive feedback and engagement, we posted our solution to OpenIDEO to share best practices with our colleagues and peers. We were delighted to reach the top 20 and enter into the Celebration Phase (party time!). From there, we learned of the Humanitarian Education Accelerator Call to Applications, and knew this opportunity would give breadth to a much broader reach of children.
Then we got the email; top 16 ideas! Words can’t describe how thrilled we were to see that our idea resonated with organizations we deeply admire, but now we had only a couple of days to put together a pitch! Truth be told, we had never created a pitch deck. We quickly put it together and outlined the most important concepts we wanted to convey. We only had 5 mins, and were cognisant that every word mattered. Nerves aside, it was invigorating to learn about all the wonderful solutions being implemented worldwide! We were happy to hear the turnaround time for decisions to the top 10 would be quick. Opportunities such as these are small and few. As a toddler organization that just turned 3, we cherish moments where we can learn from our mentors, our peers, and the communities we serve. Our content and quality of our programming depends on it.
As the boot camp start date approached, skepticism ran high. How would a virtual bootcamp even work? Would it be hours on end trying to keep a straight posture on zoom? Would we really be able to connect with our mentors and peers? Did we misread, or was it really on CEST time? But then it started… Being able to experience remote learning for ourselves, gave our team new found respect for the systems needed to achieve the results we all want. Not only did we take away vast knowledge, but now have a plethora of ideas on how to adapt our programming. Speaking with our colleagues, we validated that social emotional learning is very much a necessity, and there remains a massive gap of services for early childhood development.
Two things infinitely surprised us. First, we were able to identify where we were at not only with our project, but also as an organization. We knew who we were and where we wanted to be, but we found gaps that we didn’t even know existed! Yet, we also learned techniques and thought-provoking insight that could help us create the future we envision. The fundamentals of going to scale, engaging with governments and donors, the technical aspect of human-centered design, and being able to identify assumptions that are often misguided was unbelievable. Learning these was one thing, but hearing it directly from the experts themselves was even more incredible. We also learned how peers were using the multiple communication channels or tech solutions to address the connectivity issues displaced populations face. Second, we learned virtual CAN be interactive! Whether it meant being whisked away to a Zoom Breakout Room, playing with Colorful Post-Its on a Miro Board, or simply creating a chat wave in the window — virtual interaction is possible. Midway through the bootcamp, we traveled the globe (at 3 am EST mind you) from Asia, to Africa, to the MENA region, all from the comfort of our own homes. When was the last time you were able to experience direct feedback from the refugee communities with a solid internet connection in so many locations under 3 hours? Amazing!
Last but certainly not least, we built a bootcamp family. We may have started off as a cohort of competitors [for lack of a better word], but ended up as a community of practice that can learn from each other, compliment each other’s work, and support one another through our mutually shared interests. This journey of reimagining learning may have started off to serve our kids, but has also been one of discovery for ourselves, our work, and the infinite possibilities that exist when you work from the heart.