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Fondation Botnar Funds Youth Robotics Across Flying Labs

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January 20th, 2021

Youth TZ

We're very pleased to announce that Fondation Botnar has selected WeRobotics and Flying Labs for a 3-year grant to advance young people's health and wellbeing. Fondation Botnar is a Swiss-based foundation which champions the use of AI and digital technology to improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people in growing urban environments. To achieve this, the foundation supports research, catalyses diverse partners, and invests in scalable solutions around the world. 

As Fondation Botnar rightly notes, young people are some of the earliest adopters of emerging technologies. This presents a significant opportunity to bridge the digital divide and, more importantly, the opportunity divide. As we've witnessed first-hand, even when youth have access to new technologies, they are often sidelined and excluded from participating in and leading social good projects that leverage emerging technologies. Why? Age discrimination and the pervasive, dangerous notion that the foreigner is the expert. To this end, the context for our three-year project with Fondation Botnar is the pressing need for systems change. 

We want to shift power to local youth and to transform attitudes in the process. The historically entrenched conviction that "West is Best" and "White is Right" has led to a dominance of foreign-led, top-down, and techno-centric projects across the Global South—the Majority World. As a result, most so-called "Technology for Social Good" projects exclude local youth from meaningful leadership opportunities. And yet, local youth are best placed to transform the pervasive colonial ideologies into ones that recognize and celebrate the "The Power of Local," their power. The context for our project is thus the need for radical equity and inclusion. The more inclusive and-thus-locally led social good projects are, the more sustainable and impactful they become. The more we can collectively transform attitudes, which is key to systems change. 

Fondation Botnar's generous grant will fund a wide range of youth training sessions and youth-led projects across 7 Flying Labs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. More specifically, the grant focuses on secondary cities across seven countries. The grant will also fund career guidance, job placement, and advocacy for youth who seek to pursue their interests in the locally-led application of emerging technologies for social good. We're excited to get started and look forward to working with the foundation's team. More and more Flying Labs are directly involved in STEM and related activities, so this partnership with Fondation Botnar comes at the perfect time to grow The Power of Local by reaching more youth across more countries in meaningful, respectful, and authentic ways. 

Fondation Botnar's generous grant will fund a wide range of youth training sessions and youth-led projects across 7 Flying Labs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The Flying Labs network is no stranger to youth projects or STEM programs. Some of the earliest STEM programs within the network include Tanzania Flying Labs helping students map their schools, Zambia Flying Labs bringing drone technology to students with hearing impairments, Benin Flying Labs helping increase enrollment rates for STEM subjects, and the Flying Labs in Fiji introducing youth to both aerial and marine robotics. Even with the challenges imposed by COVID19 in 2020, teams at Papua New GuineaIndia Flying Labs, and Panama Flying Labs forged new pathways in online training to keep youths engaged during lockdowns. These projects also included training educators and getting the relevant ministries involved to ensure sustainability. A growing number of Flying Labs, including those in the Philippines, Nepal, and Panama, have already worked with our partner She Maps. This explains why we are pleased to partner with She Maps on this Fondation Botnar grant as well. Our colleagues at She Maps will join the project to provide the foundational training to Flying Labs.

Fondation Botnar joins our growing circle of funding partners that include Hewlett Foundation, Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Autodesk Foundation, Jansen Family Foundation, Atlassian Foundation, Omidyar Network, USAID, DFAT, IADB, and the World Bank.

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