Pencils Of Promise CEO Explains How They Pick Their Projects

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Answers by Michael Dougherty, CEO of Pencils of Promise, on Quora.

A: PoP [Pencils of Promise] schools are built in rural communities, with deep poverty, and include kindergarten through 6th grade. Typically 100 students in a community with 100 or so families. One classroom per grade, one teacher per classroom. And, of course, we always paint them yellow! All of PoP schools are public, that is, they are run by the government and aligned with the national curriculum.


A: Governments help us identify communities in need of their first school or an improved school. We then visit the community, meet with parents, elders and children, and confirm the level of need and their willingness to contribute 20% of the project cost (since these are subsistence communities, that means contributing labor and local raw materials). It takes us 3-6 months to complete a school, and then all children in the community help us open the school and enjoy it as their new, dignified learning place.


A: A PoP school in the developing world is remarkably inexpensive by comparison. A $35,000 donation builds a PoP school that will serve a community for 20 years or more and educate thousands of children. When thinking about children in need of education globally, I am excited to know that such a modest sum can provide so much benefit. Depending on the rainy season, a school takes from 3-6 months to complete, including countless weekends and evenings of parents provding the construction labor, in addition to working in the fields and caring for their homes.


A: Our first school was in Laos, and we selected an additional country in the poverty zones of the global south. We did this not because it was the easiest way, but because it was the best way to make sure our model could adapt to all children in need wherever they live. This diversity has been an important source of emergent learning for us ever since.

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