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May 11, 2009

Social Enterprise Tools for Education Reform

Catherine New
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Above: Members of the Social Enterprise Club with Joel Klein.

What are the most important characteristics for MBAs in the education sector?

Transparency, consistency and being genuine, Jemina Bernard, executive director of Teach For America, told students at a recent lunch with the Social Enterprise Club.

This year the club has organized events with education leaders from Uncommon Schools, The New Teacher Project, a meeting with New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Washinton D.C.’s chancellor Michelle Rhee, as well as the recent lunch with Bernard as part of its education initiative. The education events are part of the club’s peer-to-peer structure, which gives students within the club a group based around their particular career interest.

At the brown-bag event, Bernard added that TFA and the education reform movement are receptive to MBAs because graduates have “strong people and project management skills.”

As the business and education sectors continue to cross-pollinate, there are even broader lessons from the field of social enterprise that are shaping education reform say members of the club.

Lisa King ’09 says the education sector can learn to “replicate successful models and scale to meaningful impact” from the development of other social ventures.

Another lesson is to apply more quantitative methods for measuring what works, adds Jessica Hendrix ’09. “Social Enterprise has started to emphasize the ability to quantify results in order to measure success,” she says. “After quantifiable data exists, it is far easier to determine the success drivers which need to be replicated to spread successful results.”

Organization, rather than management alone, is another key distinction for successful education reform. “One can be a gifted manager or a talented planner, and that’s needed to keep an organization running,” says Joe Chmielewski ’09, the club’s co-president. “But to affect organizational change, you need to work with constituencies.”

“Organizing generates that buy-in and an enthusiasm and passion for vision that will carry it through the bumps in the road of implementation,” adds King.

Photo courtesy of Joe Chmielewski ’09


by Lysia | May 12, 2009 at 12:51 PM

It's unfortunate that this type of fresh approach to education reform terrifies teacher's unions. As Chmielewski rightly points out, one key to success is working with the constituencies to affect broader change. Organizations like The New Teacher Project and TFA are not anti-union, as they can be portrayed. But they recognize that in order to face a problem as profound as educational inequity, other methods and thinking must be employed, some of which run counter to the union's traditional approach. Entrepreneurship programs committed to education reform will face their biggest challenge before they even get into classroom achievement results - bureaucracy.

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