Business, Social Entrepreneurship, and Education – Exploring Intersections and Interchanges #School3pt0

One of the things we do at Unboundary is explore the intersections and interchanges of business, social entrepreneurship, and education. In the past few days, a number of things have crossed my path that relate to this nexus of learning innovation and significant transformation. I thought I’d share just a few of these things…

A dear friend and colleague emailed me last week (we actually stay in touch every week), and with her permission I am posting a little bit from our latest e-correspondence.

Also, I usually check out your blog from time to time. Doing so always inspires some thoughts, connections, the quiet voice I hear inside me… the one who says “teach them they are not who they think they are.” That is what I heard myself say in response to “how do we teach young people to thrive in a world of possibility?”
I really love the time in which I have lived my life. I would not want to go back but I have loved the life I have lived and look forward to the future. I do struggle with the corporate influence on education. Going way back before my time I still like what Thomas Dewey said in 1910… “The aim of a 20th century education is not the creation of a labor force but the enrichment of the individual and society by developing a child’s social power and insight.” The good news I think is that 21st century skills and education really do help to develop social power and insight.

When we spoke by phone, we agreed that education is a “both-and” issue. Education should BOTH enrich the individual and society AND create a high-quality labor force. I’m not really interested in making schools more business like – at least not like many people interpret that “corporate influence on education.” However, I am very interested in examining ALL of the ways and means that business, social entrepreneurship, and education can work together as something like sections of the same orchestra – for the benefit of learners and for the benefit of the challenges and opportunities we face in our world. I may be oversimplifying the complex, but it seems to me that we should all see ourselves as playing for the same team.

With that in mind, and with a few projects happening here at Unboundary, the following two articles are well worth reading. Both articles point to collaboration among business and education. I find the comments at the conclusion of the first article particularly interesting, and I think they provide a compelling segue into the second article.

I’m forming my own hypotheses about the future intersections and interchanges for business, social entrepreneurship, and education. By sharing these bits here in this post, I hope I can contribute just a bit to the hypotheses you might be forming.

America’s Shoddy Education System Is a Business Problem,
by Jeff Stibel  |   9:00 AM December 6, 2012

Jeff Stibel’s company is implementing a three-part plan to help address some of the issues in education. The entire HBR article and the comments are intriguing, and I found these two paragraphs particularly poignant. [HT to Frank Rauss for bringing this article to my attention.]

Our most precious natural resource is not diamonds or oil or agriculture; it is human capital. The seeds we plant grow only with education. While our program will help offset any immediate gaps with existing employees, the primary focus is on the next batch of bright and talented employees — the children who will one day bridge the talent gap for businesses across the nation.

There are many ways to tackle this problem, and it’s time that businesses focus on the ones within our control. We cannot rely solely on the government, parents or educators. This is our problem too. I am honored to say that my company is doing our small part. If other businesses follow suit or take their own novel approaches, we can solve the education and talent gap.


School Reform for Realists,
by by Andrea Gabor |   August 28, 2012

Andrea Gabor shares examples of Cisco, NYCDOE, iZone, Global Technology Preparatory, and Houston Petroleum Academies. She also offers some profound takeaways about “best practices” in business-education partnerships. [Another HT to Frank Rauss for making sure I didn’t miss this link in my feed reader.]

On the ground, the most effective business–education partnerships are those that foster innovative education opportunities in which both students and parents can participate, and those that create bridges between schools and the outside world, including potential employers. The following stories demonstrate some of the principles that help these partnerships work. What distinguishes them from many outright failures is the quality of collaboration. In these examples, business leaders did more than donate funds and technology; rather, schools and businesses sought to learn from one another.

Finally (at least for this post), I recommend looking at the relatively new business structure called L3Cs (L3Cs explained on Wikipedia). As I walk Lucy in the morning and as I work, I am enjoying thinking about the potential of L3Cs for the future of schools and schools of the future.

In a “3.0 school” established as an L3C, lines between the labels of “students,” “researchers,” “social innovators,” and “employees” get blurred. Perhaps in the future, L3C “schools” will actually pay salaries to young learners (instead of collecting tuitions from them) who are studying such things as cancer cures, robotic surgeries, and transportation and communications innovations in un-siloed coursework that seems a lot more like on-the-job training complete with degree credits. An L3C working to solve the planet’s energy or water issues could synergize the NGO aspect of that work with the for-profit opportunities and integrated-studies possibilities.

Last month, Unboundary participated in an exciting meet-up about L3Cs and higher education. Here’s the press release distributed by Americans for Community Development.


On November 14, 2012, in Indianapolis, Indiana, Americans for Community Development (ACD) hosted a conference on the groundbreaking concept of implementing the L3C business structure as a form of organization for colleges and universities, using the L3C model to create opportunity ecosystems within the higher education system.  This conference was facilitated by the Lumina Foundation and held at their headquarters in Indianapolis. This meeting was the first of its kind in history bringing together a group of professionals from within higher education, business, law and philanthropy. Over the course of the day the main topic of discussion was how to connect higher education, job creation, entrepreneurship and economic development with the L3C business model as an organizational structure for colleges and universities. This concept “reflects a totally new way of thinking about higher education and how to organize it”.  L3C institutions will be individually unique but will resemble each other in underlying structure. This is a fresh outlook on the organization of colleges and universities that create holistic environments in which institutions are giving back to the students and communities and the students and communities are giving back to the institutions therefore creating opportunity ecosystems that thrive. The very first L3C university, Rockport University L3C, was formed just prior to the conference and conference attendees were asked to contribute intellectually to its development. A large number of the attendees asked to be part of a taskforce ACD is forming to advance the concept of L3C colleges and universities. ACD thanks Bo Adams and Govantez Lowndes from Unboundary for being part of the small group we invited to participate in this ground-breaking event.

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