The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Baan Dek Foundation leverage networks and technology to educate vulnerable children in Thailand

Through the MIT Solve platform in 2017, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) formed a partnership with Baan Dek Foundation to support the “Digital Superheroes Academy.” This educational app teaches life skills, soft skills, and tech literacy to children living in urban slums and construction site camps throughout Thailand. These skills are taught in the form of ‘superpowers,’ and as children successfully complete each superpower, they graduate as superheroes!  

This collaboration between the Australian DFAT and BDF has extended far beyond a traditional financial partnership. In December 2017, Ambassador Paul Robilliard from the Australian Embassy in Bangkok visited BDF’s office and field programs in Chiang Mai. In learning about the Digital Superheroes Academy’s potential for scale-up, Ambassador Robilliard discovered that the Project Staff need to find a mobile app developer, but they were struggling to find someone with the desired skillset and budget.

Ambassador Robilliard activated his personal network and put BDF in touch with DollarSmart Global, a FinTech start-up based in Thailand, whose CEO Dwight Willis quickly matched BDF with a team of mobile developers who were an excellent match for the unique needs of the Digital Superheroes Academy. Today, this team of mobile developers are working closely with BDF to transform the Digital Superheroes Academy from a web app into a mobile app, which will make it possible for children and families to access the app from their own smartphones anywhere in Thailand.  

The Australian DFAT has also provided BDF with a Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist, who is assisting project staff to develop robust tracking of the project’s social impact. This specialized expertise will further enhance project scale-up and results.

Also in December 2017, the Australian Embassy in Bangkok’s Direct Aid Program announced funding to improve the physical infrastructure of these children’s living environments. This project has led to transformative WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) improvements in slums and construction site camps where these children live. This project also educates communities about ways to improve and maintain WASH standards in their own living environments.  

From improved standard of living in these communities to the international scale-up of the Digital Superheroes Academy, these collaborations between BDF, the Australian DFAT, and the Australia Direct Aid Program exemplify how meaningful partnerships can successfully address global challenges.

BDF would like to thank its partners the Australian DFAT, MIT Solve, and the Australian Direct Aid Program on their wide range of contributions to the Digital Superheroes Academy. To learn more about these projects, contact BDF Director of Strategy & Partnerships Allison Sanders at allison@baandekfoundation.org.

The Digital Superheroes Academy is supported by the Australian Government and the ENGIE Foundation.