Today I would like to write about a topic and a company of extreme interest. The topic is how to improve educational quality and performance around the world using technology and innovation and the company I would like to profile is called BrightBytes. It is a San Francisco based tech start-up (like so many others) and its core business is to build tech enabled research-based decision support platforms to help education institutions improve their spending decisions to focus on practices that actually improve student learning outcomes. It is a EdTech company that is much more than just posting grades online. The company is building a buzz and raising money. Having been featured in Fast Company, and raising 750K from Learn Capital in early 2013 and another $15M in Series B capital from Bessemer Venture Partners in 2014. Recently it was also named one of the 20 most innovative EdTech companies globally.
Over the last 2 months I have been taking my first online education class via Coursera. The course is on Gamification and is taught by Kevin Werbach at the Wharton Business School. It has been an overall positive experience. I encourage others who are interested to check out the course options. Truly Coursera, EdX, Khan Academy and others like them are transforming education. But that is a topic for another time. One of the gamification course segments was on the use of gamification in social impact settings. It was through this section I came to learn about Practically Green. Practically Green is an online platform which is adopts gamification tactics to inspire people to embrace healthy and more sustainable choices at home, at work at in their communities. It is a cool company, that recently was named as a finalist at the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX) Innovation Awards. Read on to find out more.
This week I would like to profile an emerging social venture being built by a friend with a very novel and important idea and objective, that the US scholarship system is broken and needs to be reinvented to make it more accessible, transparent and fair. Raise Labs which last year was one of the winners of Facebook and Gates Foundation College Knowledge Challenge, and recently won $75K at the UPenn GSE and Milken Family Foundation Education Business Plan Competition is beginning to turn heads as it has developed an interactive online platform bringing together experienced educators and technology professionals to reinvent college scholarships. Continue reading →
Over the last few years we have seen the emergence of a new model for public-private partnership which innovatively allows private financiers to help public sector or non-government actors to achieve needed social goals. That model is the social impact bond (SIB) – or as the Economist magazine calls it a new way to link commerce and conscience. It is a model which allows the private sector to finance social programs and get paid back with interest by the government if and when a pre-determined social target is met. Started in the UK in 2010 it has since caught on around the world being used in places like New South Wales, Australia, the state of Massachusetts in the US and notably by the New York City government in conjunction with Goldman Sachs in an effort to help troubled teens avoid going back to jail. More recently a new company, Instiglio, started by a bunch of bright young Harvard Kennedy School grads has decided to take the model to developing countries starting with Colombia and now also India. Read on to find out more.
Like many of us, I spend a large chunk of my day staring at my smartphone messaging with family and friends, emailing, using social media or just goofing off playing games. Turns out according to one study of the estimated more than 200 million new smartphone users in 2012 each spends roughly 10% of their time on the phone playing games. I had often wondered in the past if there was a way to take advantage of this large and growing mobile gaming market for social good. Well it turns out one company; Decode Global is doing just that. The company recently featured in Forbes is an incubator of mobile applications for social change. Its latest game called Get Water! is starting to capture buzz not only because it won the United Nations UNAOC Challenge and brings the important issue of water, gender and education to our daily lives but also because the game is fun.
On a recent visit to New York City I had a chance encounter with a very interesting co-founder who has helped create a business he prefers not to call socially oriented but definitely has the potential to be a game changer in the education and employment generation space. General Assembly is a new education and networking medium for young people looking to get a practical education or knowledge boost for today’s job market needs in the areas of technology, business and design. Started in New York City, it is now operating in eight cities around the globe including the recently opened campus in London – which was strongly endorsed by Prime Minister David Cameron.