Less than one percent of venture funding is afforded to women of color, and Maggie Grout had a vision that many deemed impossible – leveraging innovative technology to build schools at a record pace so that every child gets the opportunity to pursue their dreams. In 2015, she founded Thinking Huts to bring that vision to reality.
The international NGO, which builds 3D-printed schools in partnership with underserved communities, persevered through the global pandemic to prove the speed, strength and sustainability of its schools, which are constructed in a matter of weeks and capable of withstanding intense environmental pressures. Now it’s ready to make history once again with the world’s first 3D-printed school campus.
Thinking Huts’ work is funded entirely by donations, and although Grout has often faced roadblocks due to her age, gender and ethnicity, she believes that growing the nonprofit’s network of humanitarian-driven supporters will help change the tide of venture funding demographics.
“Scaling our impact is only made possible by equally passionate, driven individuals and families who view generosity as a way of life,” she says. “I am excited to call the most cosmopolitan region of Florida our new home base.”
Born in rural China, Grout was abandoned in a basket as a baby and discovered with a large scar on her leg. Her life would have followed a very different path had she not encountered opportunities through access to education, she says.
Thinking Huts goes beyond infrastructure to holistically empower its partner communities, providing others born into similar circumstances with the tools needed to lift themselves out of poverty.
Local sourcing and job creation are central to the nonprofit’s ethos, as is garnering community input to tailor its school designs accordingly. Thinking Huts’ next project will be the first of many Honeycomb Campuses incorporating several connecting “Huts,” toilets, solar power, wifi, a canteen and a water well. As economies of scale are reached, costs are reduced dramatically, Grout says.
“Jennifer Gates, Gary Friedman and John Sobrato are some of the donors who have adopted our vision as their own and made our work possible,” she says. “We can’t wait to welcome more aligned supporters to our family.”
Roughly three out of four secondary-age children in Madagascar are prevented from attending school due to barriers such as overcrowding, extensive and often dangerous commutes, or the lack of a school to attend altogether. Thinking Huts is committed to filling this gap while bringing together its local and global partners to oversee daily operations, ensure teachers are supplied, and coordinate maintenance.
An estimated 22,000 schools must be built to fill the need in Madagsacar alone. Once Thinking Huts has addressed the deficit locally, it plans to expand globally so that every child gains access to education.
Thinking Huts is an international NGO working to close the global education gap with innovative, humanitarian-driven technology solutions. Founded by Maggie Grout in 2015, Thinking Huts seeks to empower young people, especially girls, to achieve more opportunities by obtaining an education. Grout gave a TEDx talk in 2021 on “how we can tackle the global education crisis with 3D printing.”
To scale its impact and ensure more children can attend school, Thinking Huts is currently searching for philanthropic individuals and companies who share its values of honesty, innovation, compassion and empowerment.
As the nonprofit likes to say, “we’re in the business of making dreams a reality.” Its kingfisher logo represents the organization’s commitment to peace and prosperity for the greatest benefit to humankind. Building minds and brightening futures.