Closing the education gap through crowdfunding

What if there was a way we could ignite children’s curiosity and love for science and spark a life-long journey? The Young Guru Academy (YGA), a nonprofit organization that promotes STEM education among young people, has found just the way. Based on the vision of reaching thousands of children across Turkey, YGA has created a science kit, consisting of electronic modules and building blocks, that encourages learning and play through fun experiments in and beyond the classroom. 

Following BOOST’s intensive regional acceleration program that included training modules on business and impact, digital transformation and technology, and alternative finance, YGA launched the first crowdfunding campaign, resulting from the program, in April. YGA’s campaign, Science Movement (Bilim Seferberliği), is designed to transform children’s curiosity and imaginations into interventions that develop their innovation-oriented thinking capabilities.

The campaign came about as a result of attending BOOST’s Crowdfunding Academy, one of the key pillars of the acceleration program. The academy provides capacity-building training to empower organizations with new skills targeting the preparation and running of a successful crowdfunding campaign. From strategy and activity planning to visual communication and storytelling, selected participants learned how to craft a compelling narrative, engage and attract new supporters, and diversify funding resources.

Closing the digital divide in education has become more urgent than ever amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, as the immediate crisis shifts to a long-term protracted one. There’s a growing gap between privileged private school students and students living in disadvantaged areas, located outside of Turkey’s metropolitan areas. Given the ongoing period of homeschooling coupled with unequal distribution of internet access among children, it means that not every student has access to the same educational opportunities. It is against this backdrop that YGA, with its science kits, brings modern science education to schools and encourages children that are currently not in school to take up STEM. 

“The UNDP BOOST Challenge helped us shape our future goals and think more in the digital mindset. We hope to implement these learnings by scaling up and expanding the Science Movement to the world.” 

 Duygu Gençoğlu & Didem Çevik, Science Movement 

Their science kits are developed for secondary school students to improve their know-how with fun experiments, while providing kid-friendly explanations regarding major scientific concepts. These kits are supported by the official school curriculum and can be used individually without internet access. While playing with the kits, children have the chance to learn about the working logic behind the technological devices via electronic blocks that can be easily put together with the help of magnets and discover how the latest technologies are developed. By creating a new learning environment, which is easy to follow at home, Science Movement is designed to develop kids’ natural creativity and curiosity, encourage their invention of hands-on projects, and provide better educational opportunities for children.

YGA aimed to raise 100,000 Turkish Lira to distribute kits to 4,444 children on the National Sovereignty and Children’s Day in Turkey on 23 April. By the end of their crowdfunding campaign, they had received over 53,000 Turkish Lira and were able to reach over 2,000 children, bringing science directly to children across Turkey and improving educational practices.

At UNDP, we see crowdfunding as a powerful tool to raise funds, particularly in periods where access to funding is strained, while simultaneously facilitating the building of a community. The Science Movement not only supports equal opportunities in education and promotes STEM among young children, but also sets a wonderful example for future crowdfunding projects on education in Turkey.

YGA is one of the 40 organizations that participated in BOOST, UNDP’s regional acceleration program for social impact innovation, that was launched in 2020 in response to the pandemic. They took part in BOOST’s Civil Society Technology Challenge, organized in partnership with Koç Holding, which supports civil society organizations in Turkey to embrace digital transformation or digital-centered solutions for development issues.

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