NYC & Boston: a step back to power up

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Dear Mirror Networkers,

August has started off on the East Coast under a beautiful sunshine that has allowed me to enjoy speedy walks from one great meeting to a lifechanging other.

NYC and Boston host some of the most important traditional powerhouses of the United States in business, politics and academia. It has been interesting to see how they now interact to better face the 21st century’ challenges and opportunities.

I was surprised to find such a vibrant EdTech startup scene in NYC and Boston and enjoyed learning more about innovative models such as General Assembly, One Month or Panorama. Should it be alternative courses offline or online to help people develop new skills or new tools improving schools’ culture and processes, many young entrepreneurs – often freshly out of university – are making huge progress in moving the Ed scene forward. They didn’t enjoy their experience as students or couldn’t land their dream job so they took the responsibility to change things. And they are not alone!

It is impressive to see how the business world, academia, the non-profit sector and politics are all closely linked together when it comes to education. In all the places I went to, I have always appreciated the fact that by looking closely at education I ended up learning about the economy, the laws, the way families function, and people’s dreams. Well here on the East Coast, all these different layers come together to actually set up the basis of a learning (r)evolution.

There are more and more cross-interests between the different stakeholders. Some for the best, like when a neurosurgeon from Harvard who also graduated from the Ed School and now works on cognitive sciences, elearning and robotics is asked to give conferences at big companies such as Google, Apple or Salesforce to help them improve their learning systems. Indeed, organizations now know that they must manage their talents carefully – from recruitment to lifelong career development – in order to make the most of their human capital and make sure they motivate and retain their rising stars.

Some partnerships are more complicated. The Teach for America model for example, is promoted worldwide as a game-changing ngo enabling graduates from Ivy League schools to become teachers for 2 years. The goal is to give these future leaders the opportunity to know what is broken in the educational system and to make them want contribute in something afterwards to make things better. But this vision comes with some downsides: these teachers only receive a 5 week training and that somehow discredits the 5 years of studies others go through to become teachers, these teachers are not prepare to interact with others and their Ivy experience doesn’t necessarily contributes to improving school cultures or peer to peer exchange of best practices, these teachers only experience very difficult schools and when they eventually get the possibility to change something they advocate policies based on this biased experience. So as we can see, even though schools, companies, ngos and parties should be talking the setting and aims of the conversations are extremely important.

These examples prove how important the ecosystem is when it comes to changing education. We cannot limit ourselves to the sole classrooms and need to develop a more systemic vision of the sector that will benefit schools’ leaders, teachers, students, parents, entrepreneurs, businesses, researchers, and investors.

I started the Mirror Network to provide all these stakeholders with an accurate big picture of the educational sector for them to make the most of the new opportunities and realize more and more every day now how important it is.

Research needs to nurture investments and strategic planning, investments need to support bold ventures and chances for schools to evolve, ventures need to facilitate online and offline change for educators and learners to get in the know and take part in the public debate as well as get access to interesting careers.

If we manage to set up this virtuous circle we will prove how education can be and must be everyone’s business.

I will keep in mind that:

–       investors, and not only the ones looking at impact investment, have a big role to play in the evolution of the sector;

–       companies have to move from human resources to human capital and must therefore develop agile and clever learning systems;

–       schools often know exactly what kind of tools and reforms they need so they should not only be studied but also listened to;

–       the West Coast was right to invest in new frontiers and the East Coast is right to look for the perfect power balance as for innovations to make it they need the right ecosystem.

Let’s all take a step back and realize that education isn’t only an issue, a sector, or a market but a global arena driven by many forces that actually need one another to exist and succeed. So whatever your starting point is, paying attention to the others will only reinforce your chances of reaching your goals.

And hopefully the last posts on mirror-network.com will help you take that enlightening step back!

On my way to Brazil to “dive in scale” and find many occasions to toast with delicious caïpirinhias,

From not so far,

 

Léa