One Classroom at a time - 100% Project
An extensive interview with Co-Founder Andrew of 100% project.
A Sabahan raised in Tenom.
About 100% Project
100% Project is a social enterprise and was part of the first cohort of the Malaysia Global Innovation Centre (MaGIC) Accelerator Programme for Social Enterprises. The team is made up of three co-founders; Amelia Tan, Andrew Yong and Karthik Karunanithy, whose collective experiences with the Teach For Malaysia movement led them to build a crowdfunding platform for education. 100% Project aims to remove the barriers that teachers face in providing the best learning experience for their students, by allowing people to discover and directly support impactful classroom projects.
TE: Can you tell us about 100% Project?
AY: We started 100% Project at the end of 2015. Our mission is to empower teachers to provide the best learning experiences. We started off as a crowdfunding platform, which is a website that people can visit and to find projects that they could donate. What we do is we go to teachers who have a special projects in mind, extra things that they wanted to do inside the classroom but they could not get funding from their schools. Some, they come to us and we will take their project by telling their story online. Others may read their stories online and contribute into their project. We have been funding projects from tables, chairs and basic equipments for classrooms and libraries for better learning condition. Then there are other categories where teachers want to create robotic workshops for the kids; music classes and Taekwondo classes.
TE: What inspired the three of you to start this project?
AY: I was personally motivated to do something special in Malaysia, especially in the education sector. I always had the heart to contribute but I did not think it would be so soon. But opportunity came to me when I met my co-founders in Teach For Malaysia. When I was hanging out with Teach For Malaysia, there were teachers in their second year of fellowship they needed to make a project, an initiative for the schools. The problem was, they did not get fundings from their school. My co-founder was working under Teach For Malaysia. She basically raised money for the organization where she had to go out to individuals and corporates to raise funds. She found out there were a lot of people who are willing to support education and they prefer to give the funds directly to the teachers. So I thought, I can do the platform for both of the companies, a platform that is trustworthy for donors to donate directly to the teachers which will help these teachers who are raising funds by themselves.
TE: Where do 100%Project find their fundings?
AY: There are two (2) sources. The more popular source would be from public. We really want to share stories from teachers, what motivates the teachers, to inform the public that there are passionate teachers out there, their projects and their experiences through the whole project and how it will impact the kids. We publish these stories on newspaper, our online website and social media platforms. We get our funding from both Malaysians, overseas and from corporates. There are companies with passion to help and support education but needed the expertise to help channel money into the right places, we would help and since we already have an established process of actually channeling the money safely to the teachers.
TE: How does 100%Project spread the awareness?
AY: The website is what we call a two-sided market. To get more donors, we need to get more projects; but to get more projects, we need to get more donors. So what we did was we picked one side, which was the teachers. We went out to look for teachers who have really awesome projects to fundraise. We started by going to Teach For Malaysia who already have around sixty (60) teachers. We got eleven (11) projects to start off with and we made sure they had a story to tell that comes with great photos and content to show. After we curated that initial set of content, we reached out to the media and social media. Several paper was writing about us. Back then, we joined an accelerator agency called MAGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre). What MAGIC does is basically help small companies accelerate their growth. We applied for it and they helped us to reach out to our partners, corporate partners, media and investors. That network was how we grew, but we initially started with a set of really great projects and teachers.
TE: Being the pioneer crowdfunding project that mainly focused on education, what were the difficulties that you guys faced?
AY: A lot of difficulties, but the most obvious ones are how new it was. We educate teachers especially teachers who are not Internet savvy. We have a lot of teachers who are not so familiar with technology. For most people, they do not know what crowdfunding is. But when you talk to the city folks, at least they knew what Kickstarter was. What I normally did was told them that 100%projects is like Kickstarters but for teachers. For people who do not know what Kickstarter is, I need to explain how crowdfunding works. So there are a lot of education about what crowdfunding is about. Now it is easier because we have projects ready, a lot of people have heard about us so they understand what these are about.
TE: How does this project affect your life?
AY: The funny thing was after two (2) years of doing this, they thought I am an expert in education. But it is not my background and I have never been a teacher. In a way, it forced me to really understand the education landscape. I need to know what I am talking about so I can speak confidently about the topic. Initially, I feel like an imposter. People keep on asking for my advice about education. I was also invited to talk about education and then there was me, surrounded by education ministers and education experts. It was a really a challenging stage of my life, but then I thought I should really try my best be an expert. That is how it changed my life.
Highlight: Teachers are the backbone of our education system.
Read more on TE Issue #10.
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