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Learn Through Play


Sesame Workshop

Jumping in

Sesame Workshop is an independent nonprofit on a mission to help children everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder by learning through play. was tasked with designing Sesame Workshop’s educational content for a WhatsApp chatbot, which would enable caregivers and parents in disadvantaged areas to provide education through play, while staying true to the Sesame style and tone.

Developing the persona

Before we could craft the journey and conversation, we needed to know who the parents and caregivers would be talking to.


We decided to base the chatbot's persona, Zanele, on the real-life Sesame Workshop facilitators who are experts in the subject of learning through play.


We carefully outlined Zanele's backstory, personality, and role, and then built on from there. What are the things Zanele would say, and wouldn't say? What can she do, and what can't she do? 


We then set to work visualising Zanele, ensuring that she represented a 34-year-old South African woman, who'd been 'Muppetised.' To prevent the users from falling into the uncanny valley, we wanted to ensure they knew they were speaking to a chatbot, and that the visuals of Zanele weren't that of a human. 

Crafting content for a conversational platform

Then it came time to rework Sesame Workshop's existing educational modules for a conversational platform. This content, which we received as PDFs, needed to be overhauled completely to work seamlessly on the WhatsApp platform. 

From text-heavy information for parents and caregivers to storybooks for the little ones, we developed formatting formulas to ensure consistency across the service, enabling the user to move through their journey intuitively.

Transcreating for multiple South African languages & cultures

Sesame Workshop has an audience as diverse as South Africa itself. Because of this, we prioritised delivering the service in not only English, but isiZulu, Sotho and Afrikaans too.


After the thoughtful development of Zanele's persona, as well as the work that went into maintaining Sesame's style and tone, we knew a simple word-for-word translation wouldn't suffice in delivering the experience non-English speakers deserve. We needed to keep the sentiment and meaning in-tact across all languages, but also ensure that the content was adapted through a cultural lens.


For example, an emoji or saying that works for an Afrikaans audience may not necessarily stick the landing with a Sotho audience. We needed experts in each area to adapt the English content, keeping language, emotion and culture in mind as they did so. 

It's time to learn through Play

Zanele Live is available in South Africa and offers educational storybooks and activities for the little ones, as well as information for parents and caregivers. Users can opt in for episode and playtime reminders, and access all things Sesame from a platform that's affordable and accessible.

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