Low-income parents are motivated to give their children the best education, but struggle to do so, particularly during the early years. Their children enter primary school behind and never have a chance to catch up. The scale of the problem is enormous, especially in India, where there are 150 million illiterate women and by 5th grade, only half of children can read at a 2nd grade level.
Dost’s program solves everyday parent problems and nudges them to promote cognitive development, socio-emotional skills, and school preparedness. The program consists of 1 minute podcasts delivered via phone calls four times a week (“phonecasts”), a parent counseling hotline, and community-based workshops. Digital plus offline support in local languages allows us to reach parents right where they are and build awareness, empowerment, and motivation to take charge of their child’s early learning.
Our end beneficiaries are children whose mothers have usually attained a 7th grade education or less and whose households earn $5-10 a day. Our primary users - mothers - tell us that Dost serves as a daily reminder, cheerleader, and idea bank on how to engage with their children in positive, educational ways.
Our “customers” are often large NGOs with an existing operations and distribution network to low-income families, who have a shared aim of increasing access to early literacy curriculum.
Mission and Vision
Dost Education is innovating to get every child school ready in India. By putting parents at the center of early childhood development, our vision is to unlock every child’s full potential, regardless of where they were born.
Our first mobile product puts parents at the center of their child’s early learning, a period when 90% of brain development occurs. Currently launched in India, Dost reached 10,000 families in its first year and aims to turn 1 million homes into learning labs by 2020.
Dost, or “Friend” in multiple languages, is a mobile platform that helps low-income moms in developing countries engage in their child’s education. Through short, prerecorded voice messages delivered via a call to feature mobile phones, Dost offers parents a low-cost and highly scalable approach to access the knowledge they crave and unleash their child’s potential.
The Dost web platform allows the Dost team to add new users and user attributes (i.e. user phone number, preferred time for call, region), assign users to a content module, and automate call deployment. This platform makes it possible for Dost to scale quickly and add new users daily.
We consider most “competitors” as peers or allies, and some are even partners.
Other Indian non-profit organizations (i.e. Key Education Foundation, ToyBank, Saarthi, Saajha and Meraki) also work on parent support and/or the early childhood education space. These organizations provide support through community efforts or in-school programming.
Dost is unique in its ability to develop low-cost digital experiences that give parents a joyful, convenient and play-based approach to promoting early learning at home. Moms love that Dost conveniently fits into their daily routine.
Dost works because it pairs daily digital support with real, human connection. We are the only organization that designs products and services for a less literate parent (especially mothers).
Planned Goals and Milestones
By 2021, we will scale our “phonecast” product to 1 million families, work with researchers to refine the model for deeper impact, and innovate on new, rich-media prototypes for low-income families who are increasingly gaining smartphone access.
We are also training an AI model to transcribe and classify hotline voicemails to understand parent requests in real time, automate issue resolution, and get the right hotline counselor to the right user ASAP. AI will reduce counseling costs by ~2/3rds.