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When it comes to youth acquisition of skills to overcome poverty, we are convinced that traditional project-based learning and learning-by-doing are not enough. Through our work with employers in Brazil, Nicaragua, Tanzania and Paraguay, we know that technical skills are not all that employers want. Rather, soft skills, such as capacity to communicate, understand instructions, deal with other people, fill out forms and take responsibility matter as much, if not more, than technical capabilities.

That is why, at Fundación Paraguaya, we take a different approach to learning. Our philosophy is “Learning by doing, selling, and making money.” We know that, as psychologist Albert Bandura proposes, learning happens when students can answer two questions: “Is it worth it and can I do it?”

We promote “Business Clubs” in hundreds of schools in Latin America and Africa where students are encouraged to sell the products and services they produce not only on campus, but also in the neighboring community. This allows them to learn people skills, overcome shyness, and understand what rejection is when products are not accepted by customers.

Boring, theoretical lectures are a thing of the past. Trying to promote learning-by-doing in unrealistic environments that do not resemble real life, and focusing solely on technical skills don’t work either.

We are convinced that soft skills must not only be part of the curriculum and syllabi, but also of all the activities that happen in school. The more the academic exercise resembles real life, the better acquisition of soft skills by students.

When it comes to poverty relief, however, skills development is not the only area Fundación Paraguaya works in.

We have also developed the Poverty Stoplight tool, an innovative approach to measuring and relieving poverty. Through a visual survey that uses a series of images, families self-assess their level of poverty in six dimensions of poverty: Income & Employment, Health & Environment, Housing & Infrastructure, Education & Culture, Organization & Participation and Interiority & Motivation. Each indicator within the six dimensions is defined as Red (extreme poverty), Yellow (poverty) or Green (not poverty).

The methodology generates poverty elimination life maps that go beyond traditional aid, seeking to bring about changes in the typical patterns that create and sustain poverty. First, families are the protagonists of their diagnosis through the self-assessment of their initial situation across the six dimensions described above. This is followed by their own choice about which specific indicators they want to change from red or yellow to green. Although our staff aids families in the process, it is the families themselves that choose the solution they think will produce the results they want.

Currently, the Poverty Stoplight is being piloted by more than 30 partners in 20 countries, including China, UK, and US.

To find out more about the Poverty Stoplight tool, take a look at this video.