Transforming education in the developing countries

Here is a TED Talk released today by Charles Leadbeater on the topic of education in developing countries.  He argues that the western model of education just doesn’t fit the challenges of everyday life in many of these countries.  Leadbeater provides examples of novel approaches to education around the world and considers how they might be shared with the other thousands/millions of children and adults seeking education. He argues for a “Chinese Restaurant” approach to diffusion over a McDonald’s…in other words schools share similar principles but don’t look the same.

There are Chinese restaurants everywhere, but there is no Chinese restaurant chain. Yet, everyone knows what is a Chinese restaurant. They know what to expect, even though it’ll be subtly different and the colors will be different and the name will be different. You know a Chinese restaurant when you see it. These people work with the Chinese restaurant model. Same principles, different applications and different settings. Not the McDonald’s model. The McDonald’s model scales. The Chinese restaurant model spreads.

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Social Innovation & Special Effects

What perhaps distinguishes social innovation from any other type of innovation is its concern with effects.  In other words, what difference does it make, and proponents of social innovation are upfront in what they expect to see.

For Phills et al. (2008) –  a novel solution to the social problem qualifies as a social innovation only if it is “more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals (Phills et al., 2008, p. 36). This effect – known as “social value” – involves creating benefits or reducing societal costs in ways that “go beyond the private gains and general benefits of market activity” (Phills et al., 2008, p. 39).

The challenge is then to work out what qualifies.  Continue reading