Wanji: Gamified job training and skills building at the last mile

Wanji uses interactive learning to provide access to training opportunities to geographically remote audiences using mobile phones.

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  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Paul Falzone

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative’s representative gender

  • Man

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • Indonesia

Where are you making a difference?

East and Southern Africa, West and Central Africa, and Asia.

Website or social media url(s)

Website: www.pvinternational.org Twitter: https://twitter.com/PVIMedia Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-falzone-b1331b18

When was your organisation founded?

January 2011.

Focus areas

  • Financial skills and capability
  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce
  • Creating digital tools

Project Stage

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways) 

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $50k - $100k

Organisation Type

  • Non-profit / NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

PVI delivers media that matters to some of the most remote populations in the world. We innovate new approaches that will reach people with the information that they most need in ways they understand with the tools they already have. While working on a campaign for the UN in very rural Uganda, we realized that basic cellphones were ubiquitous but that their full potential was unrealized. We began to combine the accessibility of radio (spoken words in the local language) with the interactive interface of basic cell phones with the power of story, creating a new medium that could be used by people with limited literacy who are often missed by traditional training, education or media. After much trial and error, what emerged was Wanji.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

Per the ILO, 1 in 5 young people do not have an occupation. Research shows that soft skills such as positive attitude, communication, teamwork, self-management, resilience, and planning are increasingly essential for employability across sectors and industries. But youth living in poverty are the least likely to gain these skills at home or school. The challenge is to reach marginalized and remote populations with training in these skills.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Wanji uses basic telephony to provide interactive, educational stories through spoken audio in local languages, using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology. Wanji narratives are designed as ‘choose your own adventure’ interactive stories, placing listeners in the position of decision-maker and asking them to decide what happens throughout the stories in order to build engagement and enhance learning. IVR allows consumers to dial into and navigate a bank of audio material using their phone keypads. Callers listen to pre-recorded audio scenarios that then ask them to select what will happen next in the narrative. Selections are based on audio navigation prompts which ask callers to select the next pathway within the story. The stories are drafted by PVI with input from local experts and are subsequently translated and recorded into local languages. It engages listeners in a creative, engaging manner that traditional teaching does not. It is able to reach the most remote populations who may be missed by more sophisticated technologies due to limitations in internet access, electricity, equipment and limited literacy. Importantly, Wanji is free to its beneficiaries.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

Wanji leverages time and space to bring learning to audiences in a way they can access now. We know that people think and remember in story. We use these principles to reach people where they are, with the tools they have, in ways that speak to them - motivating increased and more meaningful involvement of these populations in creating social change. Wanji also tackles a gap in education, which has high levels of correlation with economic disempowerment, by delivering content in local languages. For instance, a campaign to help smallholder farmers in Madagascar reached over 200,000 unique individuals in its first nine months and 50,000 of these callers registered to receive further information on climate insurance.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

PVI works closely with content partners with expertise on local employment markets and what skills are needed to secure jobs to develop Wanji Games. On the basis of these conversations, static messaging is designed and subsequently integrated into PVI drafted scripts with multiple pathways to emphasize different choices. Learners engage with information (interaction), experiment with different choices (counterfactual thinking), and practice making informed decisions that affect their lives (roleplay). In doing so, they increase their own sense of agency, itself a valuable employability skill. The platform of Wanji is flexible and elastic, and can be easily adapted to different country contexts. Completed games are hosted toll-free by domestic mobile operators, ensuring reach and access to subscribers.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

From 2018-2019 with the support of a grant from the Australian government’s InnovationXChange, PVI worked with a team of scholars to test a pilot Wanji promoting future skills in Cambodia. That experiment demonstrated Wanji’s ability to increase job-seeking confidence and planning intentions even after a single exposure to Wanji content (currently being written for peer review publication). The Ashoka project will focus on similar soft skills at scale. The Wanji platform will gather comprehensive and precise analytics on the project’s reach and in-game learning.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

While there are dozens of initiatives that address employability thematically, we are not aware of any other initiatives which utilize gamified narratives that are delivered via basic spoken telephony. Wanji is the first product to market of its kind. Crucially, the Wanji Games platform is dynamic, ensuring its capacity to scale. It can be easily adapted to a variety of different country contexts and redesigned to stress different aspects of employability and soft skills. Wanji games have been implemented in 13 countries since 2017 and our first game will be appearing in Indonesia in Q2 2020.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Wanji was first tested in northeastern Uganda in 2015. In that test, 16% of participants demonstrated knowledge acquisition and 12% reported a new intention to improve their harvest storage. Since 2017, Wanji has scaled to 13 countries and received calls from over 1.4 million people on issues including health, livelihoods and family planning. A recent small scale experiment in Cambodia demonstrated that this platform can be used for future skills and soft skills training. We are excited to work with Ashoka to finally realize this potential at scale.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Designed as a business to business model, PVI designs games for international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) for a modest investment. INGOs can reach thousands of data dark users, who access the platform toll-free through relationships PVI’s technical partner has with national mobile network operators. Short-term, Wanji’s relationships with a number of large INGOs will continue to facilitate the rapid development of games, including future skills, to scale. Currently, PVI receives new contracts on a biweekly basis. Medium term, PVI will further monetize Wanji by developing templates on a suite of issues and scaling to new countries. Long term, PVI will increase sustainability through ongoing refinement based upon impact research.

10. Team

PVI is an award-winning media innovation firm focused on improving lives in the developing world. Its staff of seven social entrepreneurs are based in the USA and East Africa. Led by an Executive Director with a PhD in social and behavior change media, Wanji is managed by a Uganda based Field Manager, who builds relationships with content partners and is responsible for scaling the platform. Wanji is the winner of the 2018 MIT Solve award for Youth, Skills and the Workforce for the Future.

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • I'd rather not say

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Article in the news

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

Wanji Games is built on the principle that sustainable development is only effective when communities are engaged as stakeholders, who can be agents in their own change, and not solely as beneficiaries. Wanji Games are drafted with extensive feedback from content partners, who leverage the platform to engage communities who have traditionally been difficult to access. At the beginning of each partnership, Wanji partners fill out an intake form elucidating their key messaging and their target audience. PVI then drafts scripts, which are reviewed by the local content partner for approval. Subsequently, the games are launched by PVI’s technical partner, with any promotion undertaken by local content partners. In a recent example, PVI developed a game on positive gender relationships targeted towards youth in Botswana following a series of consultations with youth hosted by UNICEF.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Staff Development
  • Marketing Strategy, Design

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

foundation or NGO grants: 3%

grants or contracts: 35%

earned income : 62%

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

Wanji Games is currently entirely self-sustaining following the successful completion of two grants from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), which provided the infrastructure to scale the platform from two countries to twelve countries in a two year period. Increased operational presence and visibility has enhanced PVI’s capacity to receive contracts from new partners. At $5,000 a game, Wanji receives new contracts biweekly, with an estimated earned income of $60,000 in 2020. PVI recently recruited a Field Manager, based in Kampala, Uganda, who will be responsible for generating earned income through further developing partnerships with local content partners. Lastly, PVI has developed marketing materials for our technical partner, Viamo, to continue to sell games on our behalf.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

At present, Wanji Games are available in 19 countries, with recent rapid expansion following the launch of COVID-19 themed games in 5 countries. PVI will also increase visibility and impact of the platform by increasing unique callers through developing pro-bono games in highly saturated markets, such as Mali and Indonesia, enhancing Wanji’s track record and attracting clients in new markets. 

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

Marginalized communities are reached easily by basic mobile phones and given access to critical information needed for them to make informed decisions regarding their lives. This has an add-on ripple effect, as greater access to information contributes to the development of changemakers adopting practices which foster development as well as contributing to the achievement of developmental goals at the local level.

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

Wanji is a winner of the 2018 MIT Solve award for Youth, Skills and the Workforce for the Future.

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

The prestigious Ashoka Future Skills Innovation prize provides valuable name recognition to PVI's track record as we continue to seek innovation-based prizes and build new partnerships with earned income clients.

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.


Evaluation results

12 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

Yes, absolutely! - 41.7%

Yes/maybe - 41.7%

Maybe - 8.3%

Maybe/no - 8.3%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 58.3%

Yes/maybe - 16.7%

Maybe - 25%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 16.7%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 8.3%

No - 8.3%


Yes, absolutely! - 41.7%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 25%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 100%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 100%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 28.6%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 42.9%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 66.7%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 33.3%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 100%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 83.3%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 16.7%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 33.3%

Other option - 0%


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