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Vodafone Foundation funds VR learning programme for struggling youth

08 Jan 18

The Vodafone Foundation’s funding innovation to help communities access a digital future is paying off.

The Vodafone Foundation’s Innovation Fund offers three tiers of support: Seed Funding of up to $10,000 to explore early-stage ideas and concepts, Pilot Funding of up $50,000 to turn ideas into practice, and Scale Funding of up to $200,000 for organisations with a proven project to increase the scale of their work to enhance outcomes for young people.

Dunedin-based social service agency Methodist Mission Southern was one of the first ten community organisations to receive Pilot Funding recently.

It had already created a Virtual Reality Learning programme prototype (with assistance from University of Otago and Animation Research Limited) for adult learners in prison settings.

Mission business development leader Jimmy McLauchlan says the programme was developed from years delivering literacy and numeracy programmes.

“A key area of interest for many of our learners is working on cars and engines – but until now we’ve been unable to effectively build learning programmes around these interests.

“This is largely because of the cost, complexity and logistics of doing hands-on learning with real cars and engine parts – especially in places like prisons and youth justice facilities,” McLauchlan says.

They’re now using their Vodafone Foundation funding to create and pilot a bespoke youth version, tailored specifically to the experiences, barriers, skills and goals of high-priority youth learners.

“We will explore opportunities for youth learners who may not be succeeding in mainstream education, and who need to develop their foundation level literacy and numeracy skills. Many are dealing with complex issues that impact on their ability to learn.

“We know how exciting it can be to pull on a headset for the first time and be instantly immersed in a realistic looking warrant of fitness testing station in South Dunedin," McLauchlan says.

"We plan to get future learners heavily involved in the ongoing programme design process,” 

Foundation manager Lani Evans says being able to bring high-quality opportunities to young people who are excluded and disadvantaged is what the Innovation Fund was set up to do.

“We are on a 10 year, $20 million journey to transform the lives of 210,000 young people who don’t have the resources and opportunities they need.

"We want to partner with people to significantly transform lives across the country, and the Methodist Mission is a great example of this.

“Their programme is aimed at higher participation, completion and achievement rates, and to ongoing education and vocational achievement,” Evans says.

The Innovation Fund is now open for the next group of community organisations keen on support for their groundbreaking ideas.

“We are looking for proven or promising ideas, projects and programmes that align with our strategy, generate outcomes in one or more of our six keys areas and that utilise technology,” says Evans.

The Innovation Fund is now open for applications until 5pm on January 31, with Innovation Fund recipients announced in late March.

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