Solution Overview

Solution Name:

Hunu

One-line solution summary:

Building awareness and actionability with technology to turn the stigma around caring for special needs children into a celebration.

Pitch your solution.

Hunu facilitates parent-teacher collaboration to help children with autism and behavior deficits access early intervention 67% faster to develop the social communication and academic skills they need at home or school in Africa.

Many African children within the spectrum are among the most excluded people in education today. They are ten times less likely to attend school and need to wait an average of six years to access therapy or education.

Hunu is a teletherapy platform that coaches parents and teachers of children with autism and behavior deficits to deliver behavior therapy in the home or school and help these children develop social communication at home or academic skills in school.

With the help of an AI-based therapy assistant, Hunu can recommend treatment targets for children within the spectrum, enable parents and teachers to access instructional videos, audio lessons, and get support from certified therapists through WhatsApp and phone calls.

Film your elevator pitch.

What specific problem are you solving?

More than ten million African children with autism and behavior deficits are ten times less likely to attend school. Research indicates that early intervention for children with autism and behavior deficits is critical. Unfortunately, raising a child within the spectrum in Africa is very hard. Parents who are doing the best they can do not know what more they can do, and teachers have very little clue about how to teach such children while managing a class of 27 or more. 

Teachers do not have the proper training and support to provide the right learning environment for children within the spectrum. The high cost of engaging a specialist continuously makes it challenges for schools to make the resources available to teachers. 

With the therapist-to-child ratio at 1:2, therapy centers can only support very few children and have very little or no room to help teachers and schools to provide special needs education to children within the spectrum.

African schools continue to turn children with autism and behavior deficits away, although they need the support and education to develop socially and academically to give them a chance to succeed in life.

What is your solution?

Hunu, by Craft Education, teaches parents and teachers how to use applied behavior analysis (ABA) strategies to help children with autism and behavior deficits develop social communication and academic skills at home or school via WhatsApp and phone calls.

Just by sending a simple message to Hubeta (a therapy assistant powered by AI) on WhatsApp, parents can easily sign up to begin their behavior journey, starting with a free behavior assessment. Hubeta analyzes the data from each assessment to identify and recommend the appropriate treatment targets to help children build the proper social communication and academic skills they need to thrive in school and life.

Additionally, parents can add teachers to their accounts to deliver therapy support at school and collaborate to help children within the spectrum develop the right social communication skills at home while building the needed academic skills in school.

With a monthly subscription fee, primary caregivers (parents or teachers) can access simple instructional videos, audio lessons and schedule weekly phone calls with certified behavior therapists or special needs education specialists on demand. With Hunu, parents save up to 95% of their household income compared to traditional solutions currently available in Africa.

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Hunu is for parents and teachers of young children (0 - 14 years) with autism spectrum and behavior deficits in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our solution helps these parents and teachers understand the severity of their child’s behavior deficit and possible solutions available within minutes.

We are helping Africa caregivers primary caregivers seek extra support where needed and where possible while educating and assisting schools on how to integrate children within the spectrum into mainstream schools. We are showing African parents and schools that they have the potential to support children within the spectrum to develop social communication and academic skills. 

Current mobile trends indicate that Africa has over 475 million unique mobile phone subscribers, and WhatsApp continues to be a dominant force in the way people communicate in Africa due to the low data consumption of the app.  

Our studies indicate that most parents and schools cannot afford dedicated specialist support in the home or school. However, they are willing to chat with a specialist over the phone or on WhatsApp about challenging behaviors they encounter at home or school.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Other

Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.

Today children with autism and behavior deficits are being turned away by schools. This is because schools do not have the resources or continuous training to make their classrooms inclusive and equitable for these learners.

Hunu supports teachers in creating equitable classrooms by providing them with all the resources they need to support children within the spectrum to develop the right academic skills. Additionally, parents contribute to this growth process by helping these children build the right social communication skills at home, all with the help of their very own therapy assistant, Hubeta.

In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Accra, Ghana

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Pilot: An organization deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community.

Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution.

In partnership with a clinic and a therapy treatment center, we have been working with 71 caregivers in Ghana since April 2021.

In this period Hubeta, our AI-based therapy assistant, has completed 50 behavior assessments and facilitated 500 minutes of coaching to parents and teachers. Hubeta has also supported primary caregivers deliver 4,500 minutes of therapy in the home or school, with children mastering new skills at an average of 41%. Our therapy team has also created 100 instructional videos and audio lessons currently available to parents and teachers.

In September 2021, we plan to work with 50 schools in Ghana managed by Pencils of Promise and Rising Academies to support primary caregivers to identify and support children within the spectrum. This expansion will allow our team to improve Hubeta and her recommendations engine, streamline our coaching processes and generate new content suitable for home and school situations.

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Rudolph Ampofo

More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology

What makes your solution innovative?

Ambitious behavior change, turning "avoided" gaps into opportunities for inclusion and community, is our solution’s fundamental component. 

Our Technology: Hunu combines smart messaging and AI with applied behavior analysis (ABA) to prioritize challenging behaviors and recommend treatment targets for children within the spectrum. 

Our AI-powered therapy assistant uses parent-mediated interventions (PMI) to facilitate coaching sessions between primary caregivers (teachers and parents) and certified therapists based on each child’s behavior profile and treatment journey.  Unlike similar solutions, Hunu works on WhatsApp, SMS, phone calls, and online making our solution easy to scale across Africa. 

Our Content: Our simple instructional videos and audio lessons (content) are locally relevant and consider the cultural nuances of each country as we expand. We can easily translate our content into multiple African languages. Parents and teachers can make a difference in the lives of children within the spectrum in their local languages and on any mobile device.

Our Model: We prioritize partnering with schools and hospitals as these are the first places parents go to when they observe behavior challenges. Through our referral process, hospitals can refer parents to Hunu right after a diagnosis is given. 

Our partner schools provide teachers at each grade level who use Hunu to support children in school. This system ensures classrooms are equitable and children are building the right academic skills. 

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Audiovisual Media
  • Behavioral Technology
  • Big Data
  • Software and Mobile Applications

Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Women & Girls
  • Children & Adolescents
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Middle-Income
  • Persons with Disabilities

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 4. Quality Education

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Ghana

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Ghana
  • South Africa

How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

We are working with 80 parents and teachers of children with autism and behavior deficits in Ghana for our pilot. All the children have been diagnosed by a pediatric neurologist. 

We plan to expand our pilot and estimate to reach 3,500 primary caregivers within the first year of operations with over 100 partner schools across Ghana who enroll children in our therapy programs. 

In the next five years, we plan to reach 15,000 primary caregivers of young children with autism and behavior deficits in Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa, delivering support in 3 different African languages. In each country we launch our product in, we plan to build partnerships with schools to enable us to refer children to those schools to get the education they deserve.

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a data-driven methodology. As such, Hunu tracks the number of opportunities provided for a child to master a skill (discrete trails) and the number of times a primary caregiver assists a child to exhibit the desired response (prompts). These two data points allow us to generate the mastery criteria, which is the rate at which a child is mastering a skill. 

Hubeta facilitates the data collection daily from caregivers to help us identify the mastery criteria over WhatsApp or SMS if the user does not have internet. Hubeta also collects qualitative data, which helps Hubeta recommend coaching topics our therapists can have with a primary caregiver and the corresponding audio lesson.

Hubeta can also predict the number of sessions it will take for a child to achieve a mastery criterion of 80 - 100% over three consecutive days based on the number of sessions and the average minutes committed in those sessions, and the number of coaching sessions a primary caregiver has. Hubeta tracks and analyzes all this data and generates reports available to our therapy team in the ABA formats and available to primary caregivers in simple reports on WhatsApp, SMS, and Voice calls.

About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models

How many people work on your solution team?

Full-time staff - 3

Part-time staff - 5

Advisors - 4

How long have you been working on your solution?

2 years

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Hunu’s team and advisors have a combined experience of 50 years in mobile and artificial intelligence technology, applied behavior analysis, child and adolescent psychiatry, adult training methodologies, audiovisual content, and teletherapy platforms. These people have impacted millions of lives in marginalized and vulnerable communities.

  • Rudolph Ampofo (Co-Founder) - Supported Eneza Education scale into West Africa and raised $3.2 million to enable African learners to access curriculum-aligned content through SMS. He has expertise in product development, adult training, and business modeling. 

  • Efua Gambrah-Sampaney (CTO) - Efua has worked on SMS, USSD, and other messaging technology for the last eight years and understands the infrastructure needed to deliver content to people in rural and marginalized communities. Her work with Viamo has impacted the lives of over 10 million people in Africa.

  • Nakita Natala (Head of Research and Psychiatry) - Nakita is a medical doctor in child and adolescent psychiatry focused on autism spectrum and behavior deficits. She leads our research efforts and research and healthcare provider partnerships. She also brings a clinical perspective to our therapy process, making our product valuable to research efforts.
  • Akil Seema (Head of Therapy) - With over ten years of experience as a senior therapist, Akil is trained in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and has supported the set up of therapy centers in Ghana, Mozambique, and South Africa. He also has experience developing treatment targets and has managed to localize assessment toolkits based on the countries he has worked in.

What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership team?

We believe that the problem Hunu is solving needs the collective to solve; this includes working with parents and teachers of children with autism and behavior deficits. To achieve this, we have started putting a working group made up of parents, teachers, therapy providers, healthcare workers, and persons with autism and behavior deficits to advise on the development of Hunu and its support communities.

Craft Education is an equal opportunity organization. As such, we have committed to giving equal opportunities to all staff members and ensuring that we recruit for leadership positions internally by supporting our current team to grow into leadership positions who build their teams themselves. Our policies and practices do not encourage any discrimination of any kind. We are transparent with our hiring process and ensure that each person is aware of our decision process.

Your Business Model & Partnerships

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
Partnership & Prize Funding Opportunities

Why are you applying to Solve?

MIT Solve will provide Hunu with the opportunity to build meaningful partnerships with the research community and funding partners that will help scale our solution in Africa. Solve will also allow us to engage like-minded organizations to learn from and source knowledge, which will help us grow stronger and with a community of Solvers.

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Human Capital (e.g. sourcing talent, board development, etc.)
  • Business model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and global media)
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)

Please explain in more detail here.

Working with the right people is essential for us. We value people and believe that Hunu is as good as its users and the people who make Hunu a reality. Having the support to identify the right talent and put together a board that understands what we are doing will be crucial to our work.

We have made it a point always to improve and refine our business model regularly, considering the social, environmental, and cultural nuances of autism and social communications from one country to another. Getting the proper support to localize our business model in every new country will be a very powerful support to us. 

We need to have a compelling value proposition. Having experts in marketing, especially in social and global media, will help us leverage existing tools to grow our users, drive awareness of autism and behavior deficits much better, and reduce societal stigma.

Our goal is to integrate our impact model with our business model. Working with partners to ensure that we are tracking the right metrics and telling the correct stories through data will help grow awareness and progressively reduce societal stigma.

Technology is at the heart of our work. Getting the right tech advice is sometimes difficult, and we need to rely on our shared experiences or spend a lot of time solving tech challenges. Having advisory support or guidance on some of the technology we are dealing with will help us develop faster with our users in mind.

What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

Corporates, Foundations & NGOs:

  • Aga Khan Foundation

  • CARE

  • Segal Family Foundation

  • The LEGO Foundation

  • Sesame Workshop

  • Dubai Cares

  • USAID

  • Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation

  • Johnson & Johnson

Technical Expertise and advisory:

  • Children's Neuropsychological Services

  • MIT - JWEL institute

  • MIT - Early Childhood Cognitive Lab (Laura Schulz)

  • MIT Integrated Learning Initiative

Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The ASA Prize for Equitable Education? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Andan Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The GM Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Innovation for Women Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The AI for Humanity Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Children with autism and behavior deficits face a lot of stigmatization and exclusion in Africa today. No one is doing anything about this. Even if they did, they do not have the means to do anything that will impact the lives of many at scale. Many children within the spectrum are out of school without any hope of quality education or care. Hunu is changing this. 

We qualify for the AI for Humanity Prize because our technology leverages AI-based chatbots and machine learning to make it easy for parents and teachers to access care and support right from their mobile devices. Our solution builds a behavior profile of each child. It uses a recommendations engine to recommend treatment targets and monitor therapy session trends to predict when a child may master a skill and the number of days a child will need to achieve a mastery criterion of 80 - 100% to move on to a new skill.

Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The AI for Humanity Prize to advance your solution?

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The AI for Humanity Prize to advance your solution?

Hunu has a passionate team keen on leveraging AI to make a difference if African children with autism and behavior deficits. We have successfully developed an AI-based therapy assistant, Hubeta, that uses natural language processes to provide free assessments and recommend treatment targets.

With the funding from the AI for Humanity Prize, our team will improve Hubeta to do more complex recommendations and predictions on treatment journies. Researchers will be able to use our data to advance research on the prevalence of autism in Africa.

Beyond the improvements to the technology, the funding will enable us to roll out pilots in Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa to collect data and analyze data to enable Hunu to provide personalized support to teachers in these countries using AI.

Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The GSR Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

Solution Team

 
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