“We aim to move kids from screens to real world action that has positive impact on their communities.” – Dave Room, BALANCE Edutainment
BALANCE Edutainment entered the William James Foundation Competition in 2012. The BALANCE Edutainment team develops educational entertainment products for youth and families that raise awareness of critical social and environmental issues, and engages people who want to work together for positive change. Their flagship brand Pacha’s Pajamas helps young people to learn about their relationships with other species and ecosystems, and to more fully appreciate nature. The WJF’s Erin Jones recently checked in with Dave Room to see how BALANCE Edutainment is doing.
Where are you located?
We are located in Oakland, CA.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Two problems. One is that pop culture is damaging kids. The informational content of pop culture doesn’t support the healthy development of children and can actually be bad for kids. Kids are on screens for about 7 hours a day – Blacks and Latinos average about 13 hours per day. Unfortunately, most of what they are seeing is not actually helping them.
The other is the disconnect between the digital and real worlds. We aim to move kids from screens to real world action that has positive impact on their communities.
How did you become interested in this problem?
I had a child. It’s pretty clear that most of the stuff on radio and on the television and that kids want to pay attention to is not necessarily good for them. I wanted to create some stuff that kids find magnetic, but at the same time is actually good for them.
What is your solution to the problem?
We have a trans-media platform called Pacha’s Pajamas that is basically a set of stories and each of the stories manifests on a number of different media, a book, an app, music, a live show. We’re working on getting television going as well. We’ve taken a really fun story with an amazing message and put it on a number of different platforms that kids are already on.
Who are your customers?
What are some of your major challenges?
Funding has been a challenge, an extreme challenge, and we’ve made a lot of headway in that direction, but we almost ran out of money several times.
How many people do you employ?
We employ 3 people right now.
Has the William James Foundation competition and mentoring program helped you on your way?
The thing that helped most was the feedback from the people who looked at the business plan. I was pleased to see why people didn’t like what I had written.
What other resources have you found that are particularly useful for social entrepreneurs?
A lot of things seem like they’d be useful, like the Social Enterprise Alliance and other things that say they are, but there haven’t been that many things that have been very useful that are specifically targeted to social entrepreneurs. There is stuff that’s good for entrepreneurs in general. What’s been really helpful has been working with the Hub in Berkeley – that was helpful. It was really helpful working around people who are having the same issues and trying to solve aligned problems – the energy is great and people will introduce you and you can tap into a lot of people’s networks.
For readers who want to know more about what you’re up to, where can we send them?
Pachaspajamas.com or balanceedutainment.com