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KidKnits : Changing the World One Craft at a Time

Chillan, ChilePeoria, Estados Unidos
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Through the fair trade import of handspun yarn from women in developing countries, KidKnits offers a simple knitting craft kit which provides youth an opportunity to change lives. Knitting hats changes lives in Rwanda or Chile, donating them changes lives in their own hometowns.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

all children could change lives on the other side of the world while doing something the love?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

KidKnits addresses two separate but connected issues. First, KidKnits believes that American youth often do not understand or appreciate the extent and severity of world poverty. Additionally, staggering world poverty statistics often hide the names and faces which can provide an opportunity for children to identify with those in need. Second, KidKnits seeks to permanently lift our partners out of poverty through providing sustainable jobs.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Upon learning of Rwandan widows’ ability to spin yarn, nine-year old Ellie wanted to help support these women. She had the idea to purchase their yarn and create KidKnits, a craft kit containing hand-spun yarn plus everything needed to knit a hat. Through an accompanying curriculum, students can engage in activities which demonstrate the severity of world poverty, engross themselves in different world cultures, and become inspired to change the world while also knitting their own KidKnits hat. The students have the opportunity to go beyond the curriculum and become active participants in a movement helping to solve world poverty. Finally, they can further their impact by then choosing to donate their finished hats to a local organization.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Recently, after completing the KidKnits project, a central Illinois 5th grade class began discussing where they would like to donate their hats. Kyle, one of these fifth graders, had made the suggestion that the hats could be donated to the Ukraine. As it turns out, Kyle was adopted from an orphanage in the Ukraine when he was two years old. His classmates supported this incredible idea and voted that the hats should indeed be sent to an orphanage in the Ukraine. With support from Kyle's mom and Olga, a translator in the Ukraine, the hats were able to reach a group of orphans, aged 5 to 8, in Eastern Ukraine. The translator wrote to us in an email, "They are really happy to get such wonderful and colorful hats made by the children."

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

KidKnits kids all around the world have now knitted well over 5000 hats over the past three years. Over 40 schools in 12 American states plus Canada have completed the KidKnits project. And, in developing countries, our partners in Rwanda, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, and India are impacting hundreds of lives by providing jobs to women in need.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

KidKnits will continue to impact more lives as more schools, churches, and other student groups around the world learn about this project. Through large scale partnerships with Girl Scouts of America, school districts, and other youth service organizations, KidKnits will reach thousands of more students and provide them a fun and easy way to change the world through craft. In addition, as KidKnits expands into other types of craft kits which utilize other hand-made components such as crayons, beads, or paper, more students will have the opportunity to change the world!

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

KidKnits, though non-profit, sustains itself through the sale of KidKnits craft kits. Each of our kits is sold at a very slight profit margin above the prices that we pay to each of the artisans whose products are included within the craft kit. With this slight margin, KidKnits can cover overhead costs which are necessary in order to scale our impact, including new kit and curriculum development.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Numerous peers exist, all of whom are empowering youth to make a difference in the world including Free the Children, World Vision, Tom’s Shoes, and others. However, none of these programs are offered in conjunction with a craft which can be done inside the classroom, and provides the students with tangible proof that they can make a difference in the world, and in fact, already have. In addition, the fact that KidKnits was founded by a nine year old provides further inspiration and evidence that children can truly make a difference in the world.

Founding Story

In 2009, Ellie's parents became involved in working with the country of Rwanda, through a connection with genocide survivor Immaculee Ilibagiza. They met with Diana Wiley, the director of a Rwandan NGO, who had a vision for jobs for widows in Rwanda when Ellie’s mom noticed a ball of yarn sitting on her desk which the women had learned to spin with sheep's wool. Ellie's parents brought home this ball of yarn to Ellie, as she had recently learned to knit hats in a Girl Scout meeting. Ellie wondered if buying yarn from the women in Rwanda and teaching her friends to knit hats would be a way to help. After talking to Diana and purchasing the first balls of Rwandan yarn at the beginning of 2010, Ellie founded KidKnits and her work began.


Steve Zika is an independent consultant advising a number of start-up businesses and social enterprises. He is currently acting as Executive Director of KidKnits. Kristin Zika is the Education Director, and she develops all new curricula and new craft kits. Ellie is now 13 years old and is actively involved with KidKnits, speaking to groups of children in a variety of settings. Other friends and family members actively volunteer to help us grow.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name


How long has your organization been operating?

Organization Country

United States, IL, Peoria

Country where this project is creating social impact

Chile, Chillan

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, Foundations, Customers.

Primary Target Age Group

6 - 12.

Your role in Education


Please specify which of the following best applies:

I am applying on behalf of a particular program or initiative.

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with (if applicable)

Public (tuition-free), Private (tuition-based), Home-School.

Intervention Focus

Curricular, Extracurricular.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Putting Children in Charge: Giving children a voice and cultivating agency via experiential learning, project-based learning, and civic engagement.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Trapped Between Competing Pressures: Educators face a lack of capacity to re-imagine and restructure educational settings.


Public Relations, Marketing


Business planning and scaling

What key learning outcomes does your work seek to improve?

KidKnits seeks to empower youth to change lives, both on the other side of the world and in their own communities through craft. Specifically, when knitting hats using yarn which is handmade by women in developing countries, youth are changing lives on the other side of the world. When they then donate the hats to local organizations, youth are changing lives in their own community. When completing the custom curriculum in conjunction with the knitting project, youth are learning about world poverty, world cultures, and just how easy it is to change the world by doing something they love.

Secondary Form
PROGRAM DESIGN CLARITY: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Please succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

KidKnits provides a curriculum and craft kit that empowers students to change lives on the other side of the world, teaches about world poverty, and allows them to complete knitting a hat. The activity is typically held either in school or after school weekly for 1 hour over a six week period.

INSPIRATION: What do you consider the most important trends or evidence that inspire you to believe the world is ready to Re-imagine Learning? Please elaborate.

While we are admittedly not professional educators or experts on the topic, the rapid growth of KidKnits, from 3 schools in our first year to over 40 in our third year, suggests to us that educators are ready to incorporate fun through play and craft into their curriculum.

LEARNING THROUGH PLAY: What does “learning through play” mean to you and why it is a must-have, instead of a nice to have?

One of the primary lessons that KidKnits teaches is that youth CAN change the world, regardless of their age. While there are many curricula and programs that TELL youth that this is true, we believe that KidKnits uniquely SHOWS youth that this is true. Through craft, which is our version of play, kids are abel to directly impact lives on the other side of the world. And, while many service projects require a choice to serve locally or globally, if a completed hat is donated to a local organization, the same craft project can serve both locally and globally.

SUSTAINABILITY: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating the percentage that comes from each source.

KidKnits is self-sustaining as we sell the craft kits to schools and other student groups at a small margin above our cost to purchase all of the supplies. It therefore allows us to fund curriculum development, marketing, and other nominal expenses.

MODEL: How does your mission relate to your business model (i.e. Non-profit, for-profit or hybrid)?

While our legal structure is non-profit, we operate in a highly sustainable way, with less than 5% of revenue from donations and other gifts.

FUNDING PRIORITIES: If your organization were given $20K in unrestricted funding today, how would you use it? Why?

With an additional $20,000 in funding, KidKnits would develop additional curriculum and craft kits that would allow our message to be brought to students of all ages. Today, the knitting craft kit is targeted to 4th-6th grade. Additional content and kits would enable younger and older students.

PARTNERSHIPS: Tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

All KidKnits suppliers of the materials included in our craft kits are our key partners. They enable us to focus our energy in the US, while they provide the local expertise to provide jobs around the world. Our partner currently operate in Rwanda, Kenya, Chile, Mexico, and India. In the US, our key partner is Girl Scouts and they help us to reach many more students than we could do on our own.

COLLABORATIONS: Have you considered or initiated partnerships with any of the other Challenge Pacesetters? If so, please share.

As of now, we have not collaborated with other Pacesetters, but are very open to doing so.

VISION: If you had unlimited funding, and you could fast forward 15 years to when your program has been able to achieve wild success - what will it have achieved?

KidKnits currently educates approximately 1000 students per year, while providing sustainable income to nearly 100 families around the world. In time, because our model is sustainable, we can scale to offer a dozen or more craft kits, educating 100,000 students of all ages per year, while supporting 1000 or more families around the world.

IMPACT - KEY METRICS: Please list the key data points that you would cite as evidence that you are able to achieve lasting learning outcomes. Please also share one data point for which you most hope to see better results over time

Our metrics are qualitative thus far, and come largely in the form of teacher, student, and parent feedback on our program. Many teachers have called KidKnits "the best service learning project I have ever seen". Others have credited KidKnits with bringing the world into their classroom, with teaching their students empathy, or with inspiring their students to change the world.

IMPACT - REPORTING SAMPLE: Please attach any examples of your impact reporting. [optional]:
RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE: Please link or attach any research or evidence resource you are open to sharing more widely [optional]. Building research and evidence is a key aim of this initiative, and the resources you share may be chosen for listing in the Center for Education Innovations library:
SOURCE: If applicable - who created the research or evidence you are choosing to share? :
IMPACT - REACH: How many people did your project directly engage in programmatic activities in the last year?

500 to 1,000

STUDY: Has an external evaluation or study been conducted of your organization?


Other (please specify)
Number of Employees:

Fewer than 10

Number of Volunteers:

Fewer than 10

APPROACHES: Given the complexity of play, it is not surprising that there have been numerous research attempts to categorize the different types and approaches! Please indicate which of the following your project focuses on.

Play with Objects, Other (please specify).

Other (please specify)

Craft play

AFFILIATION: Please specify if your organization has any existing affiliations with the LEGO Group.