One of the lingering issues we've seen with the pandemic since last year is access to laptops and internet connections for students in the B40 group.
National initiatives such as the 2021 budget and Syed Saddiq's Botak challenge have brought this topic further into focus and signaled the urgency in times like these.
However, John, Wei Sheng, Qi Jun, Ashley, and Syakir didn't want to sit at home and wait for those big players to make changes for B40 students on their own.
Therefore, the quintet came together in a 12-week program under the McKinsey Youth Leadership Academy to make Connect.ED a reality.
Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing to achieve their goals
Connect.ED is a social enterprise that aims to equip B40 students with digital devices like laptops to make online learning easier.
To achieve this, they developed three steps:
- Collect and recondition used equipment from privileged schools, businesses and willing donors.
- Crowdsource funds and digital experts help them acquire new equipment and create digital programs.
- Channel the devices and help you have collected to equip students with what they need to study.
They are currently working with Fell For Malaysia Scholars and AIESEC to identify the beneficiaries of their B40 students.
The process of collecting and refurbishing these laptops
Donors interested in donating these digital devices can first contact them using their device donation form or via social media.
"So far we have mostly received laptops, sometimes accompanied by chargers," John told the Vulcan Post.
"We then evaluate the specifications for e-learning suitability and hand them over to the student technician for repair and overhaul."
They are currently working closely with an experienced student technician who has been repairing and refurbishing laptops and desktops for some time.
For B40 students who qualify to receive one of these laptops, they can expect to use them for at least a few more years.
Laptops that can be refurbished before donating to students / Image Credit: Connect.ED
However, crowdsourced laptops have some shortcomings. John shared that sometimes they are given equipment that is irreparable or unsuitable for e-learning.
"These laptops either lack web cams or sufficiently powerful processors, and we decide whether the device should be repaired and overhauled, based on our technician's judgment," said John.
Aside from just disposing of those old laptops, the team would salvage some of their usable components for sale online.
While inventory turnover for these components may be slow, they hope this alternative source of income will give them enough funds to fix and refurbish more laptops to donate.
When procuring donors, they have usually only approached the general public in order to receive device donations.
One of her student beneficiaries, Azhar (left) and 3 laptops in the process of being refurbished / Image credit: Connect.ED
Profit sharing 70:30
“From the start we wanted Connect.ED to be more of a social enterprise than a purely non-profit organization. The idea was that we wanted to create a sustainable business model that would allow us to make lasting impact without having to rely on donations and grants, ”said John.
Connect.ED has so far achieved a profit split of 70:30, with 70% of the profits going directly to refurbishing equipment for the students and the remaining 30% going to keep their social enterprise going.
Among other things, they raised funds for this program by selling student-designed goods, such as shopping bags made by their student recipients.
The students have the task of creating designs that represent their personal dreams. Then Connect.ED would digitize those designs, print them on the goods, and sell them.
The tote bags designed by their students / Photo credit: Connect.ED
Helping their students improve their skills once they have received laptops
In addition to providing these students with access to a decent laptop, Connect.ED aims to create digital programs to help their students continue their education.
In doing so, they have teamed up with AIESEC at Sunway University to bring one of their beneficiaries into their Speak Up! Project.
Do you speak! is a youth-led initiative that aims to improve students' English and STEM skills while giving them the opportunity to develop themselves.
"This collaboration gives one of our students (Azhar) the ability to use the laptop we were able to equip him with so he can learn game development skills and actually create his own video game," John told Vulcan Post.
As of now, John and the team will be taking a break in February to focus on their studies and recharge before returning to Connect.ED.
- You can find more information about Connect.ED here.
- You can find more social enterprises that we wrote here here.
Selected image source: John Peter Lee, project manager for Connect.ED