Imagine you are traveling to a new region or a new country. Have you ever wanted to connect to local people by sharing your expertise and skills – for instance, by teaching school children how to work with computers or how to play basketball. I certainly have and I am sure I’m not alone!
My name is Migan. I am of Armenian descent but was born and raised in Iran. Back in Teheran, I studied Software Engineering and IT management to then do my Masters in Sweden. After having worked at Ericsson for some time, I joined SAP two years ago as a developer at the SAP Innovation Center in Potsdam, Germany.
I feel lucky for having had the chance to live, study and work abroad, and I have always wanted to make use of the skills I acquired over the years and share them with young people. First and foremost, I want to motivate young women to focus on their education so they have more choices in life, like starting their own business or having a career abroad, as opposed to being housewives and taking care of their families (nothing wrong with that, don’t get me wrong..) I was able to do this by getting in touch with two NGOs, APY | Armenian Progressive Youth and UNDP, which support startups and social businesses in Armenia. Last time I visited Yerevan, I gave a presentation on how to use creative methods and workshops to come up with sustainable business models.
This was a very rewarding experience and one that I want to continue. But, looking back, I can’t help thinking that it was too difficult to make contact with these organizations and get the chance to share my experience. I wanted to share my skills and I knew there were people who wanted to learn but there was no easy way for us to get connected. Since then I have wanted to find an easier and much broader approach to using technology to connect willing volunteer teachers with people and organizations in need of their skills.
In October 2012, I was fortunate enough to attend the One Young World summit in Pittsburgh. One Young World is an annual conference, hosted by ambassadors such as Kofi Annan, Bill Clinton or Bob Geldorf, which aims to connect and inspire more than 1000 young people from 180 countries every year to start or join humanitarian, environmental or sustainability projects.
During a conference break, my colleague Gretta and I talked with delegates from Kenya about educational limitations and the lack of support for young people in our home countries. During the conversation we found that we had all experienced similar challenges when trying to give back to our home countries. There was no single platform for finding volunteering opportunities at home and we had to rely on personal networks at best or luck at worst when trying to do so.
It was then that Gretta and I came up with the idea of TeachSurfing.org. TeachSurfing is a global network which connects travelers, willing to share their skills, with those organizations or people in their travel destinations looking for volunteer teachers.
Back in Germany, after some ideation with NGOs in Berlin and colleagues from the SAP CSR team, we started a project at the SAP Innovation Center. A couple of months later, we had a prototype ready. Since then and now, the prototype has been iterated and successfully productized. TeachSurfing.org is now officially live and I want to invite all of you to join.
Based on the SAP HANA Cloud platform, TeachSurfing is a free web application for travelers and organizations to make contact and arrange volunteer classes or workshops globally in a very easy way.
TeachSurfing serves two kinds of users:
On the one hand, any business or tourist traveler like every single one of us 65,000 SAP employees can sign up and create a profile. Part of that profile is a listing of their skills – from languages, computers, marketing, and management to sports, cooking, singing, art anything that can be of value to others – and information on upcoming travel destinations and dates. Once completed, you can browse voluntary teaching opportunities at your travel destination or explore opportunities on the integrated map and plan your route around voluntary teaching possibilities.
On the other hand, representatives of schools, NGOs and communities can create an organization profile page and post their learning needs. Then, they can invite registered travelers with the desired skills to run workshops or courses.
TeachSurfing creates value for all users. By connecting with travelers, locals can expand their network and develop skills that will help them find jobs, or inspire them to continue their studies. In return, the travelers will gain a unique and deeper social and cultural experience through direct contact with local people.
It is easy to blame educational systems and governments for a country’s educational problems. But we can all take action on an individual level today! If you are a traveler visiting new destinations or your home country, or if you are a local aware of your community’s educational needs, become a Teachsurfer at www.teachsurfing.org and join us in creating a free, worldwide knowledge and culture sharing platform!
It was much fun to develop the TeachSurfing platform together with my colleagues from the SAP Innovation Center!