Sombat Boonngamanong

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1999


This profile was prepared when Sombat Boonngamanong was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
Sombat Boonngamanong has long seen a divorce between Thailand's educational system and the social needs of its people. By actively listening to community members, identifying issues of local importance, and devising solutions together with them, he is designing an educational system distinguished by how successfully it has knocked down barriers between different parts of the community. In the process, he redefines existing notions of both education and community. School becomes a sustainable learning system that mirrors the needs of the community: Sombat's school engages students at all levels, not just high-performers, and includes a childcare center developed by parents responding to needs identified by their children. Sombat has connected the school to the "wired" world, and through the Internet the school has drawn in books (100,000 so far) and long-term volunteers/role models/mentors who bring their skills and show students the relevance of their education. The school is even making strides toward, also with the help of the Internet.
Sombat's peers have said that his school is the first Thai citizens' organization to use Internet technology to address social needs. While others have used it to advertise, Sombat not only fundraises with the Internet, but also builds allies for his learning system. The technology is organically suited to his goal of breaking down barriers, and he uses it to expand the notion of community beyond local to national and even international levels, bringing together communities on an ongoing basis that were not previously linked. His most recent idea is to use the Internet to help the hill-tribe members of the community become citizens, by registering names, ages, and locations and getting other citizens' organizations to log in and add similar information. The job of gathering the data necessary to move the government to action would otherwise take years of travel and census taking.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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