Sage Youth

Usha Tamba Dhar, Excellence in Literacy Foundation.
A programme that fosters personal development and social integration among vulnerable children and youth through strengthening their literacy skills, building their self-esteem and integrating community support.
What solution does the innovation propose?

Sage Youth targets vulnerable groups such as refugee children, high school students with a wide range of special needs, children from low-income and new Canadian communities, and homeless and street-involved youth. The aim of this programme is to empower students to realise their full potential and become confident, contributing members of their communities. For this purpose, it teaches literacy skills combined with vocational training and mentoring. At the same time, the programme empowers communities by providing volunteers, leaders and educators with the training and tools needed to effectively teach literacy to their students. This innovation is currently inactive.


Usha Tamba Dhar is an Ashoka fellow (2010).

Impact evidence

  • Students with exceptionalities increase their literacy skills by an average of 199% in 14 months.

  • Those from low-income communities reach a 226% increase in 16 months.
  • After less than a month, newcomer refugee students more than double their literacy skills.
How does it work?

Programmes are delivered by community partner organisations during the school year and are free for participants. The curriculum supports the students’ holistic development and provides:

  • Essential core literacy instruction in verbal, phonetic, comprehension and writing skills.
  • Vocational education and practical mentoring programmes to strengthen professional skills.
  • Leadership modules to teach life skills, problem solving and financial literacy. 

Materials are adapted to diverse groups to reflect their cultural and social realities. Training practices engage community members with diverse educational backgrounds, and expert staff members are always on site to fine-tune literacy and give life-skills support adapted to the needs of every individual student. Techniques can be used even if volunteers do not master English literacy skills: they develop their own skills as they teach, acting as leaders and role models.

Geographical scope

Where was initially developed
Ottawa, Canada.
Where has been implemented so far
The model has been transferred to over 400 community organisations across Canada.
Last updated: 
May 2019

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Estándares Upsocial

Innovation type

Innovación complementaria

Supplementing innovation
Strength of the evidence

Evidencia prometedora

Promising evidence
Adaptation experience

Adaptación regional

Regional adaptation

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