ICanBe- early childhood vocational discovery

ICanBe- early childhood vocational discovery: Play based, hands on education for developing healty employability habits

Bucharest, RomaniaWe will adress initially around 10 groups of 15 kids from disadvantaged communities in Romania, as close as possible to us, who will be willing to recieve us or is supported by an interested sponsoring entity., Romania
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

ICanBe is a program that higlights to kids, through play, the main areas of work in human life. Decent life is about good work. Good work is a lot about doing stuff that relates to what you’re about. Finding out what you’re about and what you like to do should start early. As early as kindergarten..

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

What if the future of children in disadvantaged communities means more than just tossing garbage, being a janitor or a bodyguard?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

What you do in life ammounts much to the choices you have and how they relate to you. They are in part connected to what you know about what people do for a living. In many cases it's what your parents do. Or what the other people in your community do. But what if your views were broadened . You might also find out more about yourself and want to learn more. And what if that vocational search is started early? As early as kindergarten age?

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

We propose a kindergarten program (or program for children aged 3-6 years old). The program is composed of 9 modules with lessons taking children through 9 occupational themes: Artist, ToyMaker, Explorer, Environmental Engineer, Material Scientist, Constructor, Technicus, Doctor and Reporter. Each lesson has a set of specially designed educational materials that allow children to learn about stuff in a playful, hands-on manner. They build the stage, or the costumes for their play; or the technical machinery they use; they assemble their music box and deconstruct simple devices to find out how they're made. We believe it's the best way to learn about how the world works, to open the apetite for exploration and self reliance.


One of our previous related programs was part of our Re-Imagine Learning 2015 Competition entry
Impact: How does it Work

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

For instance. The Module ICanBe a Toymaker takes kids through a four step exploration of being a toymaker. They get to hear about what toymakers actually do and then to explore some of the activities involved. In a playfull and hands-on manner. The goal of this program is double: stimulating curiosity, empowering children and creating healthy premises for future vocational exploration. If you don't know that making toys is a real job that can be attainable to anyone, you probably won't strive to be a toy maker. That is if you enjoy it more than other occupations. Also understanding that the occupational world is a complex, yet friendly one will encourage to further explore the matter when you grow up.

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

More than 130 parents in Bucharest (in 6 kindergartens or at our educational centre) were convinced to adopt our program. We are starting to get more and more reqests from people hearing about what we do. The materials are economical, eco-minded, they don't take up a lot of space and are easy to move. We have a set of simple techniques that are easy to learn and allow for efficient dissemination and implementation. The activities are, fun, relevant and stimulating for the children. It seems to be very successfull so we believe that it's worth taking to disadvantaged communities as well. Either directly or through partners. Implementing it on a large scale there could be easy and thus would increase impact. We believe this program is fundamental for development as it approaches in a holistic manner the vocational subject in a way that is new to communities of Estern Europe and Russia.

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

The project will focus on 4 actions: 1. Us promoting, refining and further developing the program through our for profit programs; we aim at convincing more and more kindergartens to adopt ICanBe; 2. Using some of the profits to create the infrastructure for implementing it in disadvantaged communities; The infrastructure will need also a system of fundraising; 3. Raising awareness for: early childhood education, fair development and sustainability; Educating the market 4. Finding ways of open sourcing some of the knowledge in order to maximize impact.

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

Costs of development based on our ongoing program: Costs of building a complete set of materials for 9 modules (can service 300 kids at once; materials can be reused 75%): 6000 Euro Operational costs for 150 kids: 36000 Euro Estimated income (safe): 49500 Euro Profit: 7500 Euro to be used for further development It's easy to see therefore that this would be a cheap, scalable educational program for developing vocational awareness.

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

Our program is purposely oriented towards vocational discovery in a holistic, sustainable manner. Organisations that work with hands-on, experiential education include:Teach for Romania,Teko-Neko,Fabrilabo,Science Kids,Fast Track Kids. Some of them while using similar educational methods do not address the issue of vocational discovery and/or do not aim at expanding their programs for the disadvantaged communities. Some (Teach for Romania) address directly the disadvantaged communities , and may share some common values but are focused more on general education and reducing school dropout.

Founding Story

eematico is one of the offsprings of our first educational startup Ikedoo. So our educational exploration started 5 years ago. It was a congrunece of aha moments that fused childhood experiences, memories and desires with the awareness that education is fundamental to a better future for mankind. We started off with the idea of a more balanced education, that will include more experiential, playful learning into the lives of children. It materialized in the first hands-on building course for children. As time went by, we learned more and created eematico to focus on developing educational programs founded on play as the main learning mechanism in nature and making is its most advanced form.


Our organisation includes 11 founding members all of them previous founders or contributors of ikedoo. our organzation is horizontal with each of the founders having acted at some time or acting as project manager and various execution roles: Adina Marin- architect- overseer, educational designer, product designer, project manager of ICanBe, vice president of the eematico ngo- full time; Andreea Panoiu- psychologist- educational designer, trainer- full time; Bogdan Mihai Balanescu- psychologist- educational designer, trainer, product execution- full time; Carolina Pascal- linguist- educational designer, trainer, product execution- full time; Ioana Mladin- architect- product designer, product execution, ocasional trainer- part time; Ion Neculai- architect- overseer, administrator, educational designer, product designer, ocasional trainer, marketing, president of eematico ngo- full time; Irina Bogdan- architect- educational designer, product designer, product execution, ocasional trainer; Luiza Udrea- psychologist- educational designer, trainer, trainers coordinator- full time; Mihaela Alina Sultana- pr specialist- sales & marketing coordinator, pr, customer care- full time; Nicolae Ion- kinetotherapist- educational designer, trainer, product execution- full time; Vasile Cristian Stoica- self taught engineer- educational designer, product designer, product execution- part time. In addition we have a few collaborators on our team: Cristina Ionita- pr specialist- sales and customer care- part time; Ioana Iancu- sociologist- trainer, part time; Roberta Elena Balaita- journalist- trainer, part time.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Through an Ashoka Fellow

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Co-Founder, Organisational Overseer and Educational Designer

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

As specified above we were part of a first educational startup and NGO, Ikedoo Institute. We developed it during 4 years, created more than 200 hours of educational content in more than 15 programs for children 3-12 years old as well as for adults, providing educational activites for more than 2000 kids, 200 adults and to nearly 200 children in disadvantaged communities. We achieved financial sustainability, were the beneficiaries of a generous Erste Foundation Grant, recieved sponsorships from Bosch, Renault, BCR, EMAG and were selected Pioneers in the 2014 Re-Imagine Learning Challange. Since the road on which we engaged is such a complex one, this year we have decided to move on and develop two organisations out of the first one, pursuing more specific goals. One of them is eematico.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

We have a partnership relation with Erste Foundation that has provided us with some financial help as well as learning opportunities in their social entrepreneurship development programs.
We have a non-formalized partnership with Bosch Romania. They provide us with the electrical tools that we use in our DIY activities.