The Rise of The Edupreneur

15 Sep 2013

…each of us has known mutations in the mind

When the world jumped and what had been a plan

Dissolved and rivers gushed from what had seemed a pool.

For every static world that you or I impose

Upon the real one must crack at times and new

Patterns from new disorders open like a rose

And old assumptions yield to new sensation;

The Stranger in the wings is waiting for his cue,

The fuse is always laid to some annunciation.

-Louis MacNeice

Watching the shifting European geopolitical landscape in the 1940’s, MacNeice wrote prophetically about change.  In education, the landscape is changing. Higher expectations, new tools and new schools are causing many of us to reconsider mental models; our “world jumped and what had been a plan dissolved and rivers gushed from what had been a pool.”  Our “static world” has cracked and new patterns are emerging (and not all look like roses).

Politicians had a big influence–some positive, some negative–on American education in the last decade. In this decade it’s the education entrepreneurs, what Anya Kamenetz and others have called edupreneurs, that are having a big impact on the opportunity set for young people. A writer called last week and we discussed the rise of the edupreneurs

What is success for an edupreneur? Being an edupreneur means creating a new capacity. It could be a new tool or a new school, a new way to learn or a new way to share. Some teach, some lead, some fix, edupreneurs start something new.

Impact is my second criteria: measurable benefit for students and teachers. That implies a scalable and sustainable capacity.

What characteristics do edupreneurs have in common? Edupreneurs have different profiles and backgrounds, but most are mission-driven. Edupreneurs are typically smart, driven, and impact oriented–that’s what makes working with edupreneurs so rewarding.

When I think about the 500 people and organizations we recognized in August Smart Lists, persistence is the second factor that comes to mind.  Most of the edupreneurs that sprung to prominence recently have been hard at work for a couple decades. They built school networks, college access organizations, ELA and math resources, new apps and platforms, and site to learn almost anything. They built products and organizations in spite of big barriers and few investors.

What’s most encouraging? The unprecedented inflow of talent over the last 48 months is really encouraging. All the smart kids want to work in education–they see the opportunity to build impact organizations.

All of the investment (philanthropic, government, private) in creating new tools and schools is not only improving learning opportunities for youth, it is Improving Conditions & Careers of educators.

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