Raspberry Pi Foundation joins CoderDojo

The two organisations will work together to teach kids programming

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced it will be 'merging' with volunteer-run programming club organiser CoderDojo in order to encourage kids to learn computing, although they will remain separate legal entities.

Based in Dublin, CoderDojo runs clubs for children aged seven to 17 to teach them programming and computing skills. The clubs are entirely run by volunteers, with more than 1,250 locations in almost 70 countries.

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"In technical terms, what's happening is that the Raspberry Pi Foundation is becoming a member of the CoderDojo Foundation," Raspberry Pi Foundation CEO Philip Colligan told IT Pro, "and I'm joining the board of the CoderDojo Foundation."

"In practice, we will be working together really closely. So even though it's a separate legal entity, we will be pooling our resources and efforts and using our expertise and assets and resources to support them."

CoderDojo joins Code Club, another community-led kids' computing organisation, as part of the Raspberry Pi family. The Pi foundation announced its merger with Code Club back in 2015, running 5,000 clubs around the country to help children learn how to code. Since then, the foundation has also launched a computing magazine aimed at teachers trying to understand the subject better. According to Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton, pairing the Pi foundation with CoderDojo will allow them to reach more children than ever before.

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"CoderDojo, Raspberry Pi and Code Club have been key contributors to the recent renaissance in computing education," he said. "Together, we will form the world's leading movement to get kids involved with coding and digital making. Code Club and CoderDojo together will reach 185,000 young people in more than 100 countries all over the planet."

"Raspberry Pi will work closely with CoderDojo to advance our shared goals, pooling our resources and expertise to get more adult volunteers and young people involved in the movement. Our combined scale will allow us to invest more in the infrastructure and systems that underpin our work, and to offer a wider range of products and services to our communities."

However, Colligan was keen to stress that although there is some overlap between the two organisations, there are some compelling reasons to join forces. "They have some differences, and that's why we think it makes real sense to bring them together alongside each other," he said, pointing out that while Code Clubs are mostly run as an after-school activity and are directly tied to education institutions, CoderDojo covers a wider age group and isn't linked to schools. Another exciting element of the merger, Colligan said, is that it gives children somewhere to go after they leave Code Clubs at age 13.

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"There are different elements, and we think they're complementary. And the main thing, the goal that we really share is we think that kids, wherever they are in the world, should have a safe place to go and learn about how to make things with computers. And whether that's a Code Club or a CoderDojo, we just think it's important that every community has that safe place for kids to go and learn."

Both Code Club and CoderDojo are staffed by volunteers and according to CoderDojo Foundation executive director Giustina Mizzoni, the participation of IT industry workers as expert mentors for children is invaluable. More than 65% of CoderDojo's worldwide volunteers work in IT to some degree, but the company is hoping the merger will encourage more female professionals to get involved as mentors.

Part of this is to do with trying to get more young girls to engage with CoderDojo, Mizzoni told IT Pro. "Every year, the percentage of girls attending CoderDojo has directly matched the percentage of female mentors that we have, so therefore it's important for us to get more women involved in the movement."

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"Hopefully that's something that we see an increase on by the end of this year, and then year-on-year."

This deal marks the Raspberry Pi Foundation's second merger with a charity promoting programming education, and the organisation doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Colligan told IT Pro that although the organisation's current focus is on teaching kids about computing, the eventual goal is to help adults learn as well.

"For now, we're focused on supporting young people, but definitely on the three-to-five year horizon, I would want us to be using our expertise and our resources to support people at any stage of their life," he said. "Because technology's moving very fast, and we think that there is lots of potential for people later in their careers to re-train themselves, to learn skills that can help them do new types of work in the future."

Colligan and Mizzoni both stressed that their organisations are always looking for IT professionals of every industry, role and technical ability to pitch in as a mentor and volunteer. "This is a movement, Colligan said, and what we want is for people to feel they can get involved."

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