Sesame Street Muppets Take On Financial Empowerment

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Date Published: 
Aug 2017
Author: 
Elattar, N. & Moskowitz, A.

How Sesame Workshop’s “Dream, Save, Do” program helps children and families build a better future

Nada Elattar is Director of Educational Programs, and Alyson Moskowitz is Manager of Educational Programs, for the International Social Impact division at Sesame Workshop.

“Girls, girls, we are girls!
Cool and smart girls.
Know if we can dream it,
Surely we may achieve it
Because we are girls.”

So sing the muppets Chamki, Bel, Lily, and Lola in a Sesame Workshop video aimed at children and families in India. The muppets sing in Hindi about what they want to be when they grow up – a detective, an astronaut, a teacher, and a painter – in a song that helps children think about and articulate their own dreams for their lives.

For Sesame Workshop, it all starts with dreams. Why? A dream is the seed from which the path to a better life can grow. Dreams provide the fundamental motivation that propels us forward, both financially and non-financially. A dream is the foundation of any goal, be it an individual’s, a family’s or a community’s. And a dream or aspiration allows us to set achievable targets to move forward and upward. Unfortunately, so many of the world’s poor and middle classes are consumed with day-to-day survival and making ends meet, that dreaming about what could be, or having an aspiration, ends up all too often forgotten. This is why we need to start with dreams.

But dreaming is just the beginning. When you combine that dream with the practical tools needed to save, plan and take small steps towards that dream, then voila! You have a powerful base for making progress. The ability to make careful choices, plan and save is essential for positive health, education and overall life outcomes.  As with so many other critical life skills, establishing a foundation for these abilities in the earliest years is essential to building positive lifelong habits.

Dream Save Do event in Chile. Photo credit: Sesame Workshop. Dream, Save, Do – Financial Empowerment for Families is a global initiative from Sesame Workshop and MetLife Foundation to help children and the adults in their lives set goals, have aspirations, make plans, and understand that the choices they make every day could help them achieve their dreams. The initiative targets young children and their families, and provides engaging Sesame Street content, language for discussion, and effective strategies for spending, saving, sharing and donating. 

What do we mean by financial empowerment? For Sesame Workshop, it consists of three components – attitudes, behaviors and knowledge:

  1. We can do it! Having a positive attitude including confidence and aspirations.
  2. How can we do it? Knowing behaviors related to self-regulation and executive function (conscious control of thoughts, feelings and actions) that can help set, plan and achieve goals.
  3. What information do we need? Having the knowledge and information needed to achieve financial empowerment and reach one’s goals. 

Dream, Save, Do has launched in nine countries (Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, India, Japan, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates) and is specifically tailored to address global needs as well as the particular needs of families in each country. Dream, Save, Do multi-media content has been created in all nine countries, in addition to the United States, and is shared across the program. Muppets from Latin America are featured in South Asia and vice versa, creating a global Dream, Save, Do family that can connect with parents and children around the world.

Children enjoying a mobile community viewing in India. Photo credit: Sesame Workshop.Although the content is relatively universal, the program is implemented differently in each country using a variety of mass media platforms and community engagement strategies to have the strongest impact. For example, India has found that partnerships with women’s groups, as well as broadcast TV and radio allow them to reach their target audience most effectively, whereas Mexico works with the formal school system, as well as utilizing museum exhibits, TV and digital to reach children and their families. Local teams and partners also create unique, local content to complement global materials and enhance their program. These materials are then shared and often adapted by country teams to boost their own programs.

To date, we have reached over 73 million children and caregivers globally with important financial empowerment multi-media and content through television, radio, digital and print distribution. We’re currently in the process of conducting a formal evaluation to measure the impact of Dream, Save, Do on financial empowerment knowledge, attitudes and practices in each of the countries. So far, the multi-media content and distribution strategies (including mass media and direct services) have been very well received by children and caregivers. Many have expressed that the initiative has changed the way they approach their own life and ability to plan, and has also impacted their ability to engage with their children about finances and the future. 

It is our dream and the aspiration of the entire Dream, Save, Do team to see this initiative positively impact children and the adults in their lives, helping them better prepare for the future, set goals and achieve dreams. As Chamki, Bel, Lily, and Lola sing, “if we can dream it, surely we may achieve it.”


Related reading:

On the Arabic Microfinance Gateway: عرائس سمسم والتمكين المالي (Sesame Street Muppets and Financial Empowerment for Children and Their Families in the Arab World)


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