Can Social Enterprise Lead Innovation in Education?
The LEGO Foundation and Ashoka had a simple question: What are we discovering about scaling innovation to advance learning outcomes?
To answer this question, social entrepreneurs from the Re-Imagine learning Network teamed up with leading thinkers and organizations from OECD to UNICEF and met for three roundtable discussions in Boston (US), London (UK) and Reggio Emilia (Italy) to discuss measurement, formal education and early learning. Collectively, they sketched a powerful road map to increase the value of disruptive innovation with the promise to reimagine learning.
Key aspects of how they see social enterprise leading innovation in education are:
Rethinking learning as engagement, discovery and play
All of the enterprises within the Re-Imagine Learning Network have shown through their daily practices that education works when children are engaged and participate because they want to rather than because they have been compelled. They have shown that play, experimentation and discovery—trying a theory out and discovering information for yourself rather than being told about it—is the most effective and memorable way to learn.
The experience of social entrepreneurs such as STIR Education and Center for Inspired Teaching illustrates that educators can easily become cogs in an inflexible system—but that this is not what they want. In fact, if given the tools and support to become changemakers rather than administrators or disciplinarians, teachers are likely to embrace the opportunity.
Committing to Equality
The Re-Imagine Learning social enterprises are united by a refusal to accept long-standing social injustices. From Skateistan’s transformation of opportunities for girls who were left out of education and physical play; to VINYÃS’s demonstration that state schools can be nourishing environments, these social enterprises show the world that all children can become engaged learners through enjoyable ways of learning.
Going beyond the classroom
The enterprises were most effective when the different, interconnected parts of a community became involved. Parental understanding and involvement was crucial to their success. Loyalty to the work increased when the wider community joined in playful-learning activities, such as when Kidogo invited parents to help make toys and resources for the children or when Imagination Foundation’s Cardboard Challenge allowed people of all ages to feel the pleasure and achievement that comes from working with others to create something new. Powerful change occurs when all generations participate in playful learning.
Designing for scale from the beginning
Reflections from the social entrepreneurs globally show that designing for scale from the outset is critical. More often than not, this means recognizing that one individual or one organization cannot scale impact alone. STIR notes, bringing public sector actors in as partners from the beginning gives them a sense of ownership and agency in the design process.
Measuring what we treasure to scale with quality
Depending on funding and the priorities of the communities they work with, these social entrepreneurs measure impact in different ways—from increased academic scores and fewer school absences to decreased engagement in violent crime and reduced unemployment. Regardless of the type of measure, they each focus on building quantitative evidence to strengthen their models and show the value they add to society. What do they all have in common around learning through play? Measuring the quality of the child’s learning experience to determine if it is joyful, meaningful, iterative, socially interactive and actively engaged. This shared element enables powerful cross-learning among organizations, which leads to sector- wide and systems-level change.
The learnings are captured in full in the Re-imagine Learning report to be downloaded from this page.
By David Gauntlett and Zelda Yanovich
Social Entrepreneurs Re-Imagine Learning
This report provides a selection of case studies from the Re-Imagine Learning network to showcase how social entrepreneurs are innovating learning in their groundbreaking enterprises.