Mango Tree Educational Enterprises (revised application)

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Mango Tree Educational Enterprises (revised application)

Uganda
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Mango Tree manufactures innovative educational tools for schools and health centers and provides training in how to use them effectively. Our products include educational games and toys, pictorial charts, counseling tools for health care workers, and large format story charts used to ignite discussion on subjects such as gender, communication, and HIV/AIDS. Many of our educational tools are made from locally available materials like grain sacks, bottle tops, recycled slippers (flip-flops), bicycle spokes, gourds, and plastic jerry cans. This makes them easy to replicate by low income educators. Our products impact low-income individuals by improving the quality of educational services they receive. Our clients are teachers and health care workers. The educational model they use in teaching is lecture-based and focused on rote memorization with little regard for meaning or understanding. The few teaching tools available through traditional sources support this out-dated paradigm. Mango Tree's educational products are specially designed to encourage participatory teaching. Learners understand and retain information better because they play an active role in the teaching process. To summarize, the innovative aspect of our products and services are in these three areas: 1) They are designed collaboratively with grassroots educators. 2) They are culturally relevant, durable, inexpensive, and made from local materials that can be replicated by users. 3) They encourage educators to use participatory teaching methods.

About You
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Your idea
Sector of activity

Education

Other sector of activity

Healthcare

On the mosaic diagram, which of these factors is the primary focus of your work?
Factor

Poor understanding of the human and social capitals of low income communities

Principle

Change radically the logic behind your business model

Innovation
Description of your products or services:

Mango Tree manufactures innovative educational tools for schools and health centers and provides training in how to use them effectively. Our products include educational games and toys, pictorial charts, counseling tools for health care workers, and large format story charts used to ignite discussion on subjects such as gender, communication, and HIV/AIDS. Many of our educational tools are made from locally available materials like grain sacks, bottle tops, recycled slippers (flip-flops), bicycle spokes, gourds, and plastic jerry cans. This makes them easy to replicate by low income educators. Our products impact low-income individuals by improving the quality of educational services they receive. Our clients are teachers and health care workers. The educational model they use in teaching is lecture-based and focused on rote memorization with little regard for meaning or understanding. The few teaching tools available through traditional sources support this out-dated paradigm. Mango Tree's educational products are specially designed to encourage participatory teaching. Learners understand and retain information better because they play an active role in the teaching process. To summarize, the innovative aspect of our products and services are in these three areas: 1) They are designed collaboratively with grassroots educators. 2) They are culturally relevant, durable, inexpensive, and made from local materials that can be replicated by users. 3) They encourage educators to use participatory teaching methods.

Description of the operational model:

Founded in January 2000, Mango Tree is a private limited company with thirty shareholders, the majority of whom are employees. From a small village workshop with five employees producing three products, Mango Tree now has over 125 products and a range of training workshops and consulting services as well. a) PRODUCTION: Originally we made all of our products in our own workshop. As we increased our production capacity we recognized we did not have to do it alone. We now work with about fifteen different subcontractor groups. Some are NGOs working with marginalized groups like the disabled, street children, and HIV positive individuals, while others are private sector businesses. b) DISTRIBUTION: Our products are on display and available for purchase at our office. We also sell directly to schools and health centers, mainly in the Kampala area. Larger sales are through government and donor agencies that assist in their distribution. c) MARKETING: We primarily market our products to government entities and NGOs working to improve standards in the education and health sectors. The innovative aspect of our operational model is that we operate as a profit making business. We want to demonstrate that a private business can also have a wide social impact. We contribute to society: - By empowering low-income individuals through improved educational tools and methods - By employing Ugandans, paying taxes, and being a role model for the private sector - By shifting the educational paradigm in Uganda toward a more participatory, learner-centered model - By building the capacity of our employees and contractors through on-going engagement in professional development activities

Impact
Description of the financial model:

Established with an initial capital investment of about US $2,500, Mango Tree has been a self- sustaining enterprise since its inception. Because our products are made from local materials using simple technologies, we are able to keep our manufacturing costs down. Even though our products are low cost, individual teachers and schools still struggle to buy from us. We reach this audience by selling to larger organizations (donor-funded NGOs or government agencies) who then distribute the products through their projects. We also sell a ?starter kit? of our products and teach educators how to make their own tools using locally available materials. At times, we provide materials and trainings to small groups, doing work we feel is important, at little or no cost. Mango Tree, despite the difficulties we face, is a financially viable business. We are ?profitablish?: not wildly profitable, but enough to grow, have the social impacts we desire, and provide our employees with a proper wage, life and health insurance, and the opportunity to grow professionally. It is our wish to be a profitable business that maintains its humble, grassroots origins and always stays focused on service to our primary customers: the village teacher and health worker.

Client fees represent this approximate percentage of operational budget:

99%

Key operational partnership:

Subcontractor groups: We have more than 14 subcontractors that play a role in the manufacture our products. Professional Development: Enterprise Uganda (funded by UNDP) and Business Uganda Development Services (funded by European Union) provide business consulting services especially in the areas of strategic planning. Ashoka East Africa: Selected Craig Esbeck to be an Ashoka Fellow in 2002. Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports and Ministry of Health: We work closely with the ministries following their guidelines. Customers: We work side-by-side with our customers to develop products that are relevant. The general challenge we have is everyone on our administrative team wears three or four ?hats? so time constraints play a factor in developing strong strategic partnerships. In working with subcontractor groups, we have issues that include quality, speed, and reliability which we manage by helping them build internal capacities. Government ministries are essential to ensure our products meet local policy guidelines. They can be cumbersome to work with and have little or no funding, but are key to our business. Working side-by-side with educators to create products is time consuming, but in the end we feel it allows us to make superior, locally appropriate educational tools.

Current outreach:

We are at the <i>Scaling Up</i> stage. After six years of rapid growth Mango Tree is in the process of redefining its strategic goals for the next 3-5 years.

How many clients have benefited from your product/service in total? Over the last year?:

In the past two years we have supplied educational tools to over 4,500 primary schools in Uganda. Approximately 12,800 teachers have been trained in how to use our tools to improve classroom performance. About 875,000 children in village primary schools have been impacted by our products and services during this time period.

What percentage of your clients is below the poverty line ($2 per day)?

<i>75%</i> Many of our products are targeted to schools in war- affected northern Uganda where poverty levels are much higher than the national average.

What is the order of magnitude of the potential demand for your products or services? Which other low-income groups, countries or regions could benefit from it? Try to quantify (number of clients, market size in currency).

Our total sales for 2004 were about $275,000. With our current capacity we expect to expand. We estimate the market to be about $1.7 million/year for educational non- book materials including the health sector in which we have only started to design products. To tap this market we would reach about 130,000 educators who in turn would impact millions of learners. We have no data on markets outside of Uganda, but plan to investigate expanding into neighboring markets in the next 3-5 years.

Scale-up strategy:
How many low-income individuals do you plan to benefit in three years from now? How are you planning to scale up or replicate your solution? What are the major constraints to scale up?

In 3 years time we expect to have our products in 100% of the schools in Uganda. This would impact about 1.5 million more pupils than we currently reach. As far as replicating the business, we are currently doing that by expanding into the health sector using our same business model. We also expect to branch into science education which is a major priority of the Ugandan government. In 3-5 years time we will assess which of the neighboring markets (Kenya, Tanzania, e.g.) offer markets given our business model and the local needs and competitive climate.

Which specific areas - and why - in your field would benefit most from investment by corporations, foundations, and other investors:

Africa needs investment in education that truly releases the potential of the individual. The minds of African children are being shaped by an out-moded educational paradigm that not only has no link with reality, but also drains most students of any passion they might have for thinking and learning. If the continent is going to develop, it needs citizens who are equipped with the mental tools to actively engage the challenges they face with creativity, passion, pride in their heritage and a vision for the future.

Sustainability
The organization: How does the initiative fit with your overall organization's strategic goals and priorities? How did the initiative start?

The idea for Mango Tree Educational Enterprises was born shortly after the US Peace Corps abruptly evacuated volunteers from Uganda in 1999. Craig Esbeck had just extended his contract with Peace Corps for a third year and did not want to leave, so after collecting his severance pay and cashing in his plane ticket in Kenya, he returned to Uganda. Two years of working at the grassroots level with village primary schools gave Craig insight into the needs of teachers and pupils. He also believed that what Uganda needed most if it hoped to develop was a strengthened private sector that would create employment and generate taxes. People often wonder about our business name. Craig chose ?Mango Tree? because many village primary schools in Uganda use the shade of a mango tree as a classroom. He wanted to create an enduring and meaningful symbol that communicated the grassroots focus of the business and also celebrated the best qualities of traditional African village life.

Organization's legal status:

private limited company

Number of Employees:

25