Imagine a city with a vibrant park at its center. In this park, a group of children gather to play. The laughter echoes as they slide, swing, and climb with joy. Now, picture a scenario where the cost of entry to this playground is imposed on each child. Some children, unable to pay, are left on the sidelines, yearning to join others but denied the opportunity. The park loses its spirit, and the community's sense of togetherness is fractured.
Now, let's rewind the scene. This time, the playground is open to all without any admission fee. Children from all walks of life flock to the playground, their laughter blending harmoniously as they embrace the shared experience of play. No child is left behind, and the park becomes a symbol of inclusivity, fostering a stronger community bond.
What we have witnessed here is a real-life example of a public good in action. Public goods are goods and services available to everyone, regardless of whether they contribute to their provision. They are non-excludable, meaning that it is difficult to exclude anyone from using them, and non-rivalrous, meaning that one person's use of the good does not reduce the availability or quality of the good for others. The playground, when accessible to everyone without exclusion or cost, becomes a catalyst for community cohesion, fostering social interactions and promoting a sense of belonging among its users. It exemplifies the essence of public goods, where the benefits transcend individual limitations and creates a collective atmosphere of shared enjoyment and societal progress.
In the context of education, public goods are those goods and services that are available to all members of society, regardless of their income, social status, or other factors. These goods and services include public schools, libraries, scholarships, and educational programs that the government, civil society organizations, or philanthropic organizations fund. They are essential for ensuring equal access to education and reducing educational disparities.
However, the provision of public goods in education has been a challenge in many parts of the world, particularly in developing countries. The lack of resources, infrastructure, and quality education in many communities has resulted in unequal access to education and limited opportunities for personal and societal growth.
To address this issue modestly, Mantra4Change has created ten-plus solution packages that are available free of cost to anyone who wants to use them in their context. Through this article, we are exploring deeper and understanding what a solution package is, what purpose it serves, why we thought of making it, and what the challenges are.
What is a solution package?
Let's consider a district in Karnataka where the enrollment rate in government schools is low. A team working in that district conducts a diagnostic exercise and identifies the root causes of low enrollment. They then develop and implement a set of strategies and interventions that successfully increase enrollment rates in the district's schools.
After the success of their work, the team creates a solution package that outlines the strategies, tools, and resources used to increase enrollment rates. This package can be used by other districts facing similar challenges to improve their enrollment rates.
The solution package is a tried and tested approach that has been implemented and proven successful in a real-world context. It saves time, resources, and effort for those who want to replicate the approach, as they don't have to start from scratch and can benefit from the experience and knowledge of others who have already tackled the same problem. However, there are some packages, such as our - Morning Assembly Package, that are research-backed, and a pilot can be done to see the usability.
How is a Solution Package made?
While the users see the end result in hand, a solution package has many steps that it goes through:
Set Objectives - The objectives and purpose of the solution need to be listed to set a sense of direction in the beginning.
Research Data - Collect secondary research data about the topic to understand the outlook of the solution to be designed
Primary Research - Based on the need of the process, necessary primary research data must also be collected.
Map and Document Findings - Map the findings to the set objectives and make necessary adjustments to plan the solutions. Document the same to have all the information in a single place.
Structure Solutions - Create a detailed structure of the solution that will address the chosen topic effectively
Pilot the Plan - Implement the solution in its first stage to understand the effects of the solution designed.
Restructure if Needed - Upon monitoring and collecting feedback, rearrange and restructure the solution to accommodate the needs of the stakeholders.
Disseminate Package - The whole process is finally compiled logically, from the start to finish, further to record the wins and challenges of the solution.
Different partners contribute in varied capacities at each point, ensuring continuous reviews are undertaken to gain different perspectives and work on the solution effectively.
What purpose does a ready-to-use Solution Package serve?
The primary benefit of a solution package could be that the users can readily use these as a resource to be implemented or modified according to their context. The back-end work of conducting the research and the possibility of what could be the result is cut down tenfold, thus saving a lot of time and effort by the stakeholders.
Taking it forward, the new users can also add their learnings to the package: what worked for them, what could be done better, and what modifications are needed - all of these can enable a cross-learning opportunity between various organizations.
Putting together a solution package inspires other organizations to share their resources as well. Together, we can build an ecosystem that works to transform functioning schools and ensure enriching learning experiences for children.
Why did Mantra4Change think of making the Solution Package?
As our work was expanding, encompassing new district and state-level programs, we made sure that the program designs and their respective components were readily available. This included providing information about the steps involved, proposed structures, and other relevant details. However, in our pursuit of "what else, what more," we realized that the detailed program design framework was not adequately capturing the specific solutions being implemented within these programs. This led to the idea of creating solution packages, which aimed to bridge this gap by providing a framework that ensured the specific solutions being implemented. This was crucial as Mantra4Change continued to grow and evolve.
Furthermore, as we were extending the reach of our EduMentum program to other organizations within the ecosystem, we became aware of the challenges faced by our partner organizations, many of which were relatively younger than Mantra4Change. It became apparent that these organizations had ambitious implementation goals but lacked comprehensive knowledge and understanding. Leveraging our extensive experience in successfully executing multiple projects, we were able to offer our solution packages to our partner organizations. This allowed us to provide valuable insights and guidance, enhancing their implementation strategies.
In addition, the multiple solutions being implemented at Mantra4Change for various programs and projects appeared scattered, making it difficult to comprehend the overall picture. To address this, the Solution Design Team took on the task of consolidating all the solutions into ready-to-use packages. These packages served as an umbrella, effectively organizing and aligning the implemented solutions and contributing to a more coherent approach.
The team continues to create more and more solution packages so that the benefit of this can be experienced by all stakeholders who decide to implement this in their context.
What kind of impact will it have on the education ecosystem?
Issues in the educational sector of our country are complex and require comprehensive solutions. There are numerous government agencies, NGOs & CSOs working to solve these issues. Attempting to solve these issues in isolation is a time-consuming and energy-intensive process. Collaborative efforts, on the other hand, can efficiently address these problems. We aim to enhance collective efforts towards solving these issues by creating open resource public good solution packages. These ready-to-use solutions can be utilized by NGOs and CSOs in different organizations and communities to meet their context-specific needs, saving their time and energy in designing various components of the solution themselves.
One of the key benefits of these solution packages is their comprehensive details and steps, making it easier for educators and administrators to understand and implement them in their contexts. These packages are also mapped to appropriate learning resources, supporting professional development and enhancing the learning experience. At Mantra4change, we believe public goods can help create a more equitable and effective educational ecosystem that benefits NGOs, CSOs, and communities.
What are the salient features of the solution packages?
Some of the salient features of solution packages are-
Innovation and adaptation: Solution packages involve innovative approaches to problem-solving and encourage adaptation to change circumstances. This package will push the CSOs to think of the use of new technologies, methods, or practices to implement their solutions & to achieve their goals.
Research-backed: By combining primary and secondary research methods, this solution package ensures that the recommendations are well-informed and grounded in data. It also allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the problem and potential solutions, which can help to increase the likelihood of success of a package.
Open-source public good: By open-sourcing solution packages, organizations can leverage the collective knowledge and resources of the community, allowing for faster development and implementation of solutions that can be adapted and customized to local contexts. This approach also fosters transparency, accountability, and inclusivity by providing greater access to information and resources, particularly for those who may not have the financial or technical capacity to develop their own solutions.
Scalability and replicability: Solution packages aim to create sustainable and scalable solutions that can be replicated in other contexts or scaled up to reach a larger population.
Monitoring and evaluation: Solution packages typically include monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track progress, identify challenges, and adjust as needed. They can use data and evidence to inform decision-making and ensure accountability.
What were the challenges faced while making these packages?
At times, we encounter incomplete resources, and we ensure their completion before adding them to the package. For instance, if a resource is missing certain information, we work on gathering the missing details before including it. Additionally, when we receive resources in different languages without an English version, we arrange for translations prior to incorporating them into the package.
In some projects, tracking outcomes and impacts was challenging, resulting in their exclusion from our packages. However, we do specify the parameters related to these outcomes and impacts in the package.
Obtaining field insights and personal experiences from project leaders proved valuable, although scheduling their availability sometimes was time-consuming. Furthermore, we invested time in finalizing a suitable template for the solution package, incorporating feedback from EduMentees (the cohort that is part of EduMentum) after the initial release of the first two packages.
The currently released packages primarily consist of projects already piloted or implemented by Mantra4Change. As we transition towards creating packages for projects that have not yet been implemented, a significant amount of time is dedicated to developing the necessary resources before package creation.
What can you do for better learning outcomes for students?
Providing public goods in education is crucial for ensuring equal access to education and reducing educational disparities in society. Mantra4Change's initiative to create solution packages that are available to anyone who wants to use them in their context is an effort to improve the quality of education and increase access to education.
As readers of this article, you can take action to support this initiative and contribute to improving education for all. Collaborate with Mantra4Change and volunteer your time and resources to support this work. Share these packages within your networks and encourage others to use them to improve education in their communities.
Additionally, advocate for government and philanthropic organizations to invest in public goods in education, such as public schools, libraries, scholarships, and educational programs, to ensure that every child has an enriching learning experience.
We all have a role in promoting public goods in education and creating a more equitable and inclusive education system. Let's take action and work together to ensure that every child has access to quality education, regardless of their background or circumstances.
Written and compiled by:
Bidyarani, Pavithra, Archana, Midlaj & Sushant - Mantra4Change