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Skateistan : Afghanistan

Kabul & Mazar-e-Sharif, AfghanistanBerlin, Germany
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Skateistan uses skateboarding as a way to engage children and connect them to further education and leadership opportunities. The organization has a strong focus on creative education, sports, youth ownership, and empowerment. Skateistan is an international NGO that began in Afghanistan in 2007.

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

What if every child, regardless of their country or origin or socio-economic background, had access to a safe space where there is a focus on ed
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Youth make up 68% of Afghanistan’s population. Prolonged conflict in the region has lead to an extreme lack of basic services, especially for kids most in need like girls, street-working, and disabled youth. Education in particular has suffered. Only 18% of women are literate, quality education is only for the elite and regular Public schooling lasts only 3 hrs/day consisting of route learning and with no focus on creativity or problem solving.

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

Skateistan believes that if the youth around the world, like the young people in Afghanistan, are going to inherit many complex issues, they need the opportunity to develop qualities of leadership, problem-solving skills, and confidence to identify solutions and lead positive change. Using skateboarding to engage youth and break down social barriers, Skateistan aims to empower children from all backgrounds in a safe space. While skateboarding is the initial draw, Skateistan is then able to provide access to education and new opportunities. For many children in our programs, Skateistan is the first opportunity they have for education and for all youth involved it provides self-respect and an identity beyond their socio-economic status.
Impact: How does it Work

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

Skate and Create” is Skateistan’s flagship program, teaching 700 Afghan children weekly. It provides accessible, structured skateboarding instruction alongside an arts‐based curriculum with semester‐long educational topics. The weekly, two-hour curriculum (split across the skatepark and classroom) does not require literacy, creating a “level playing field”. The program has been successful at growing the confidence and life skills of youth while building trust and understanding between children of different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. 16-year-old Madina first joined 'Skate and Create' while working in the street. She’s since become a Youth Leader, teaching her peers, and has spoken at TEDxKabul, UN events and parliament.

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

Qualitative impact on Skateistan students includes dramatic increase in self-confidence, increase in teamwork, creative thinking, and leadership skills. Some other impact results include: 900 students that regularly attend Skateistan programs every week internationally; over 40% female participation; 50% involvement of street-working children; 20% of Cambodian classes are for youth with a disability; 195 Afghan children re-enrolled in the Afghan public school system; 9 ethnicities represented in Afghanistan; more than 30 youth leaders in training in 2014; Afghan and Cambodian youth positively represented regularly in major media coverage like the New York Times, BBC, CNN and The Guardian; Skateistan Youth Leaders represent Skateistan and issues facing youth at Afghan National Parliament, UNHABITAT World Urban Forum, TedX Kabul, GIN Youth Conference, UN Young Leaders Camp in South Korea.

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

In 2011, Skateistan first began working outside of Afghanistan in Cambodia where the organization saw similar challenges facing young people. Skateistan worked together with local youth to adjust Skateistan's programs to suit their needs, and has had great success in Phnom Penh. In 2014, Skateistan will again try to repeat the successful adaption of Skateistan programs in South Africa. Skateistan has learned that skateboarding is desirable and relevant to youth in a variety of contexts and will continue to adjust programs to address local contexts and expand impact sustainably.

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

Skateistan has a three year development plan for the diversification and stabilization of funding sources for all project sites. This includes funding from governments, foundations, corporations, and individuals, as well as self-generated funds from the sales of Skateistan merchandise and co-branded products with major skateboard companies.

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

While the majority of sport NGOs use soccer, Skateistan is one of the first initiatives to use skateboarding. The sport is non-competitive, requires minimal resources, and can be practiced almost anywhere. Furthermore, the novelty of skateboarding in Afghanistan and other lesser-developed countries means that cultural norms that prevent girls and children with disabilities from doing other sports don't exist. Skateistan is also innovative in its approach to connecting with street-working youth. Outdoor sessions are successful at engaging at-risk youth who avoid institutional environments.

Founding Story

Skateistan's founder Oliver Percovich arrived in Kabul with a couple of skateboards, and was struck by the interest of the local youth and the sport's ability to break down the social barriers that prevented interaction between children from various backgrounds. He wasted no time developing a small skate school that held lessons in an empty fountain each week. The enthusiasm and amazing progress among the young Afghan skaters prompted Oliver to think bigger: by bringing more boards to Kabul and establishing an indoor skateboarding venue, it would be possible to teach more youth, but more importantly, it would also provide a safe space for children to learn and to have the support and access that is essential for success in education.


Skateistan has an international leadership staff consisting of an Executive Director as well as directors in 5 departmental areas. At project sites there are locally based teams. Project teams lead and manage sites and are often former students that have been specially trained into leadership roles. Skateistan has an international advisory board with a team of experts from business development, women's issues, education and youth development.
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Organization Country

, BE, Berlin

Country where this project is creating social impact

, Kabul & Mazar-e-Sharif

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

Friends and family, Individuals, Foundations, Businesses, Other.


Global Journal Top 100 NGOs in 2013 (highest ranked sport for development organization), UNICEF Sport for Education Award from the Beyond Sport Awards 2013, Sport for Innovation Award from the Beyond Sport Awards 2012, Best Image of the Year from Peace and Sport 2011

Primary Target Age Group

6 - 12, 13 - 17.

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).

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?

Whole child development is undervalued: Essential parts of development get left behind as children get older, such as healthy habits, executive function, and social and emotional learning.


Partners who use creative learning and sport to join forces for research and M&E

What key learning outcomes does your work seek to improve?

Every semester at Skateistan has planned learning outcomes specific to the curriculum that focuses on civic education topics like health and nutrition, the environment, colors, storytelling and theater, etc.

More important is the overall learning outcomes that are incorporated into Skateistan's teaching methodology and program delivery such as emotional learning, teamwork, self-confidence, communication, respect, self-awareness, leadership.

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

a)Skate&Create-combination of skateboarding and creative arts workshops with themes like nutrition, environmental health, gender equality. Back to School enrols kids out of school in public system. Youth Leadership-program within the organization and community. Street outreach to reach most vulnerable kids and give them a chance to skateboard and connect to the org. b)in our facility and in community c)every children comes at least once/week d)minimum of 2 hrs e)trained Afghan staff and volunteers both of which are largely former program recipients (built around Youth Leadership program).

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.

An increase in the legitimacy of the Sport for International Development sector is a promising development in how the global community perceives the value and capacity of sports to facilitate change. The UN Sports for Development and Peace now advocates for sports as an important method of achieving positive change. Skateistan is inspired by the world taking notice of the power of playing sports and hopes to be a key player that contributes not only to the overall knowledge and evidence of sports play for development but also for playful education that promotes life-skills development.

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

For many children living in a conflict zone, their lives and futures are seriously affected by stress, trauma, and a loss of a sense of community and identity, which limits their childhood development. Skateistan believes that if young people are going to inherit many complex issues, they need the opportunity to develop qualities of tolerance, leadership, problem-solving, and confidence that will allow them identify solutions and lead positive change. Whereas learning through play is seen by many as a luxury, Skateistan knows that play is an essential part of learning and is integral.

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

In 2013, 60% from governments/large institutions, 34% individuals/corporates (includes in-kind donations), 2% foundations, 4% other. Skateistan has a funding diversification strategy for sustainability being implement from 2014-16, which aims for a 30% gov/inst, 30% founds/corps, 30% individuals

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

Skateistan aims for a cost-sharing model rather than 100% self-sustainability. This is because Skateistan’s beneficiaries are largely impoverished children who are unable to pay for the services provided by the NGO, and ultimately this will always be the case. This would be true for any child-focused non-profit that is operating in conflict zones.

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

Skateistan would use unrestricted funds to cover its international support costs to the project in Afghanistan. These costs include but are not limited overseeing financial management and transparency, fundraising, and monitoring and evaluation.

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

With our local partners (MMCC, Hagar, People in Need, etc) we share ideas about creative learning techniques, outreach methods, and educate each other on issues like children’s rights and child protection. We participate together in events, provide training for each other’s staff, and ultimately create a wider community that supports children and their development in Afghanistan and around the world.

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

Yes, definitely. We rely heavily on partnerships and creating a wider community and are very open to new partnerships for sharing information and best practice. Learning about other initiatives has definitely gotten us talking about how we can contribute to and what we need from new partnerships.

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?

We would reach hundreds of thousands of vulnerable youth in Afghanistan and around the world by encouraging the scaling of programs by former program recipients through outreach and independent projects. If Skateistan had unlimited funds it could finance worthy initiatives by the most promising young people who have the desire and experience to continue to scale positive change in their own communities.

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

Each activity at Skateistan a set of indicators and outputs, which are based on our Theory of Change. We use an Annual KAP survey of participants, focus groups, weekly program reports, a student database, and enrolment questionnaire/records, as the basis for documenting our success. As Skateistan encourages participation for as long as possible between ages 5-18, one data point we would like to better track is long-term duration of participation.

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?

1,001 to 10,000

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

Other (please specify)

Other (please specify)

Skateistan has been included in research, but due to being located in Afghanistan has not yet had an external M&E evaluation.

Number of Employees:


Number of Volunteers:


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.

Physical Play, Creating a Supportive Socio-Emotional Environment, Providing a Range of Opportunities (providing the equipment and materials needed for various types of play), Educational Structuring (developing playful projects within educational contexts), Other (please specify).

Other (please specify)

Play through sports that are not "game" specific

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

Skateistan is associated with the Lego Foundation (in-kind donation of lego materials) and Hands on Technologies in South Africa


Maria Radu's picture

This project is very impressive and the work is has done in the past 7 years is amazing, especially the diversification is such distant countries. I cannot really fault the program, but maybe I would e interested to learn more about how the older and more experienced skaters play a role in the NGO and if they are used as tutors for the newers skaters, or if you have any plans in this respect? Keep on the good work and you have all my respect and apreciation for your project!

Maria Radu's picture

This sounds like a great and successful idea and am looking forward for it to be implemented in SA as I am going to be there for the next months working with children and trying to tackle the needs and gaps that do not offer a rounded education, as does your program!

Hi Maria,

Thanks so much for the feedback! We really appreciate it.

Yes, we definitely have our older students involved in mentoring other students. We have a specific program called "Youth Leadership" which specifically helps our students get more involved and teach other children. These students volunteer their time but also have access to special training and skills development!

Thanks Maria, I appreciate the feedback and updates on South Africa will be online. Best of luck for your work as well!

Maria Radu's picture

This sounds like a great and successful idea aănd am looking forward for it to be implemented in SA as I am going to be there for the next months working with children and trying to tackle the needs and gaps that do not offer a rounded education, as does your program!

Indrani Sharma's picture

Your model is unique in context of Afghanistan and achievements are demonstrative of the impact. Magic Bus in India is also doing something similar but the sport here is soccer. You may like to interact with them. You can find them on

Thanks for the suggestion. We love Magic Bus! We will definitely try to get in touch with them.