Building systems for learning through play

“Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge of the 21st century is to find out what works and scale it up.” — Bill Clinton

In a world where half of the current job market is at the risk of being automated by machines, where change is rapid and problems are evermore complex and interconnected, the ability to think creatively, navigate knowledge and adapt to novel situations is proving more and more essential for the next generation. But so far, the gap between what our societies and economies demand and what schools provide seems to be widening.

Virgin Unite, education, Ashoka, Design for Change

Image from Design for Change

The Re-imagine Learning Network, a collaboration between the LEGO Foundation and Ashoka, is an international network of social innovators that use learning through play as an effective means to address these issues and provide children with quality learning experiences and establish the vital skills needed to thrive in the 21st century. For these social entrepreneurs, the ultimate goal is to permanently change formal and informal education systems worldwide by redefining patterns, mind-sets and structures.

How can these social innovators rapidly and efficiently scale their impact to reimagine learning for all? The 2016 Re-imagine Learning Globalizer supported 16 social entrepreneurs from the network to design strategies for rapid and efficient scale.

For these innovators, their focus is less on scaling the size of their organisation and more on scaling the impact of their idea. This fundamental shift in approach means that reaching such extensive scale requires strategies that open up their idea and empower others to take it on and co-create solutions. Turning to India for inspiration, the innovations of two social entrepreneurs, Kiran bir Sethi and Sharath Jeevan, show this theory converted to practice. From an open-source strategy that launches a global movement to a collaborative approach between grassroots and institutional organisations, they are redefining what it means to ‘scale what works’.

Image from gettyimages

Design for Change and the ‘I Can’ school culture

Ashoka Fellow Kiran bir Sethi, believes that equipping children with an “I can” mindset can deeply influence the trajectory of their lives. She designed the Riverside School around fostering this ‘I can’ mindset and culture, giving children a platform to express their ideas for a better world and put them into action. She is proving that if children are listened to, they are empowered to become active, responsible citizens — they become the ‘now’ as opposed to the ‘future’. While the Riverside School is one of India’s best, its programming and curriculum has been decentralised and shared in at least 40 countries through the Design for Change platform.

This online resource centre makes their ideas open-source and downloadable, where the focus is on inspiring others to engage in their vision, and empowering them with the tools to own the idea and innovate around it, letting go of controlling implementation and allowing their context to determine how best to design and adapt the model. This builds a more diverse global network of local eco-systems that creatively and collectively contribute towards a common vision.

Virgin Unite, education, Ashoka, Design for Change

Image from Design for Change

Teacher Changemaker Networks

STIR Education, founded by Ashoka Fellow Sharath Jeevan, works to empower teachers as skillful, influential peers and practitioners that are redefining standards and experiences for learning. At the heart of their work, STIR Education connects teachers to local peer networks of teacher changemakers across Uganda and India. Participation in STIR programmes has improved teaching practices for 90 per cent of teachers. They currently work with 12,800 teachers and have impacted learning for 530,000 children.

STIR wants to impact 120,000 teachers and 4.5 million children by 2020 by creating systemic change within teacher training infrastructure.

They plan to do this by growing their work with government officials to co-create programs that support teacher changemakers through local action groups that identify structural barriers to quality learning and develop improvement strategies at a policy level.

This is strengthened by strategies such as ‘a policy changemaker programme’ that will encourage and train local officials as changemakers. This systemic approach builds a pipeline of changemakers — from teacher, all the way up to government officials — that are leading the way in redefining the role of teachers for the long-term.

Image from gettyimages

The solutions of the Re-imagine Learning network redefine classrooms, curricula and spaces through play, and empower teachers, adults and educators to foster experiences and abilities that enable children to thrive in the 21st century. For these social entrepreneurs and others in the social sector, scale is about empowering others to spread the impact of a good idea to achieve systemic change.

Ashoka and the LEGO Foundation believe in the need to re-imagine learning and in the importance of play as the best way for children to develop critical skills and engage them as creative changemakers.
We select and support the first global network of social innovators to re-imagine learning for the 21st century. For more information, check out our website, follow us on Twitter with #play2learn and on Facebook. If you or someone you know is re-imagining learning for the 21st century, nominate them here.

This article first appeared on Virgin on 15th August, 2016.

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We work across sectors with social entrepreneurs, businesses and educators to create a world in which everyone is equipped and empowered to be a changemaker.

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