We are a Canadian educational charity that enables teachers to create change both here in Canada and abroad.Learn More
Our Business Model
Most charities solicit donations. We sell educational programming and toys, using the proceeds to fund our work overseas.Learn More
How We Fund Our Work
We sell valuable interactive education services to schools, parents, fairs and museums. We also sell educational toys through the ET store.Learn More
How we create change
Our domestic and First Nations programs touch many lives as do overseas programs, to which we allocate the majority of funds raised.Learn More
Educational programs by teachers, for teachers.
Elephant Thoughts enables teachers to create change, both in Canada and abroad. We are a registered Canadian charity, founded in 2002 by a group of teachers, principals and other professional educators.
We are many things: a new form of charity built on principles of self-reliance and self-sustenance, a source of educational programs in the classroom and beyond, and a force for sustainable change in education both in Canada’s First Nations and in the developing world.
First and foremost, we are teachers. Everything we do is done in a spirit of education, with the intention of creating sustainable change. We are determined to bring positive impact to the lives of students everywhere. If you’re a teacher and you’d like to get involved, let us know.
As a teacher-run organization, we mandate that 75% of our voting membership consist of teachers, either active or retired. This helps us leverage the expertise of hundreds of teachers and education professionals to create some of the most effective and innovative educational programs offered in any school, anywhere.
Elephant Thoughts currently works with schools in Ontario, in more than 100 First Nations and Inuit Communities across Canada, and in Tanzania, Nepal, and India. Elephant Thoughts also responds to major humanitarian issues including rebuilding schools after the earthquakes in China and Nepal, and sponsoring refugee families when necessary.
The Elephant Thoughts business model and why it works
Elephant Thoughts is a registered charity that makes money in order to create change. Approximately 10% of our annual revenue is donation-based; the other 90% we make ourselves by selling programs and operating a retail store.
We are a leader in First Nations and Inuit educational programs, which we operate on a not-for-profit basis. One of our value-added services in this area is teaching First Nations communities how to source and write educational grant applications—a practical example of our focus on sustainability in education.
Other organizations in our area focus on fundraising; we focus on creating valuable services. It’s an example of social entrepreneurship that works: our revenue has almost doubled every year since our beginnings in 2002.
How we fund our work
Most charities make their money by fundraising: they ask people to donate, and provide incentives to make donating more appealing. We have found a better way: we create real value.
We sell valuable interactive education services. We use the money generated to provide valuable education services to communities that simply can’t afford to pay for them. We also operate an educational toy store that turns a profit. All told, we generate revenue in over half a dozen distinct ways! Here are the main ones:
We operate an educational toy store in Collingwood, Ontario, and as a mail order business. The products we stock are rated by our teachers for their educational value and their suitability in the classroom. We strive to bring in products that are both ethically manufactured and have limited environmental impact.
We are quickly becoming one of Canada’s largest providers of educational workshops and school programs. From science workshops to in-school full day field trips, to major installations like inflatable planetariums and the coolest hands-on palaeontology exhibition available, we provide schools with an affordable solution to costly field trips. Find out more
From science shows to telescope demonstrations and laser tag to human gyroscopes, our special events programs spark curiosity and inspire a love of science. We do them all: fairs, festivals, shopping malls, and other special events. Find out more
We help artists and fair trade initiatives all over the planet. We buy and sell products at fair rates, which benefits the creators while supporting our educational programs.
How we create change
ET positively affects the lives of more than 20 000 children from hundreds of schools worldwide annually. Everywhere we work, we do so with the philosophy of supporting our partners with the resources they need to build better lives for themselves. We offer resources, not solutions as we feel that people in struggling communities know what will improve their situations and what works in their particular paradigm much better than we do. We get great educational minds together from all over the world to help problem solve and find creative solutions. We offer a hand-up, not a hand-out and always follow the principal of “teaching a man to fish.” We are a partner in development never the initiator or sole engine. We prefer to facilitate the gathering of local people who are already making a difference in their community and support them rather than initiating our own projects. We learned early that outsiders can support change but can never be the change maker. It takes a local community member to truly understand what their community needs to develop and to have the passion, fortitude, and lifelong commitment to do what is necessary for real transformation and sustainable development. All we can do is humbly support their efforts.
In The Developing World
In the developing world we are active in a number of ways. We sponsor kids to go to school, we support local environmental projects, we supply water, and we back local champions making a difference eradicating poverty in their community.
We also have a flagship program we have been developing since 2011 called the Sustainable Schools Model. It is being piloted in Igoma, Tanzania at the moment and was inspired by Timothy Lugejuna.
Timothy Lugejuna, Chairman/Director of Elephant Thoughts Tanzania, is a former principal who successfully brought change to Igoma Primary School in northern Tanzania. Timothy motivated community members to help implement school initiatives. Improvements such as beautification of school grounds and building additional classrooms corresponded with improved school ranking, moving Igoma from 165th place in the district in 2000 to 5th in 2006.
From simple school to community hub
The Sustainable Schools Model aims to take Timothy’s work a step further, incorporating the income generation programs that benefit both students and community. The idea is simple: we help schools meet their own needs by transforming them into community hubs. In this way, a school changes from a net cost to a net income earner, creating symbiosis and interdependence with the surrounding community.
We help schools in developing countries to become sustainable. We enable them to provide for their own basic needs and to achieve educational excellence. We mobilize communities to take a greater part in the long term success and well being of their schools.
In First Nations and Inuit Communities
Elephant Thoughts is a leader in First Nations and Inuit educational programs. Our team of professional educators specialize in incorporating First Nation and Inuit values, culture, special needs, and specific disciplines into all of our programs. These not-for-profit programs celebrate distinct Native culture and identity, while at the same time teaching and integrating both traditional and contemporary knowledge. We focus on programs that increase graduation rates, excite students about learning, connect the entire community to the education system, and teach programs that are pertinent to the audience, meaning material they are interested in and can use. It’s a unique approach that engages students and communities, and gives students the skills and courage to chase their dreams.
In Our Local Community
Elephant Thoughts is very active in our own community supporting local Canadian children. We put kids in summer camps and after school programs that they could not afford otherwise, we run unique and effective alternative learning programs for youth-at-risk, and we teach environmental science and help school aged children develop a passion for environmental stewardship.
Through initiatives like Watoto Learn, a program that enables children to explore and discuss issues of international sustainability, we teach children to become better global citizens.