The Economist-InnoCentive Challenge on 21st Century Cyber-Schools

Posted by Connie French on May 28, 2010 2:07:57 PM


We recently announced our collaboration with The Economist's Ideas Economy event series to launch the Economist-InnoCentive Challenge on 21st Century Cyber-Schools. InnoCentive is very excited about this partnership.  The Economist is  trying to solve some of the big problems plaguing mankind – which is exactly what we're doing.  We do it through our global network of Solvers and they are doing it through their Ideas Economy Event series and the reach they have with their subscribers.  Both audiences contain some of the world’s most intelligent, highly engaged thinkers who are motivated to make a difference.  Given both audiences, along with our expertise in the process of Challenge based innovation, it makes perfect sense for us to join forces.

We asked InnoCentive CEO Dwayne Spradlin to provide his thoughts on this Challenge, and explain some of the benefits that we expect to see from this partnership:

Hi Dwayne - thanks for talking to us about the InnoCentive-Economist Partnership and the Cyber-Schools Challenge.

Absolutely - glad to have the opportunity.

What was inspiration for this particular Challenge?

The idea for this actual Challenge and for future Challenges will be driven by the theme of each of the Ideas Economy events.  These are all themes that we feel strongly about addressing.  The first key conference theme is Human Potential.  At the event, participants will discuss and debate how to boost human productivity by harnessing the potential of individuals and societies.  The Challenge addresses this via expanding education to people who are currently not able to access it. The Challenge winner will touch upon global education best practices, free market solutions to education, the testing dilemma, and how online learning will transform our schools.

In addition, we believe that this  is a Challenge that just about every attendee of the upcoming Economist Conference has both a stake in solving and something to offer. We have all been students at one time or another – so we all can relate to the Challenge from our own perspective.

How will solutions be used?

The way I see it is that there are two intrinsic motivations for engaging in open innovation – to find/create solutions which can be leveraged internally by a Seeker organization (an idea which is embraced by many of our Seekers) or in order to spur on conversations and innovative development (practiced by many Not for Profits, including, NASA, X-Prize, etc). I believe that this Challenge falls into the latter of the two categories. It is principally directed at helping to initiate a global conversation on this important opportunity and topic – how do we address the education of the world’s next billion inhabitants?

The award, which includes recognizing at least one valued contributor or Solver, will also help to lend much needed publicity to thought-leaders in this area and highlight some potential people who will lead the path forward on this topic.

How is Challenge doing?

The Challenge is doing very well.  We have over 700 project rooms in a short amount of time – which underscores the real interest level of the Challenge.  The Economist’s community of readers has also engaged tremendously on this Challenge which shows that our approach isn’t only well suited for developing cutting edge technologies or scientific pursuits, but rather it can also be used to stimulate innovative discussions on very important non-technical topics such as this.

Are you specifically targeting educators for their ideas or a broader audience?


Our research shows, and we really believe that in order for the conversation to be most effective, we need to reach out to as broad an audience as possible – including but not limited to educators. Therefore, we have left the Challenge quite broad and it seems that Solvers are participating in the Challenge in ways that they feel most comfortable. Technologists are attacking the technology hurdles. People with technical backgrounds are focusing on STEM education, etc. I think that this is a wonderful display of the diversity of our network.  That said, we've been lucky to have had significant interest and engagement from educators through blogs and industry publications as well.

Can you mention any specific promising solutions now?


That’s probably premature at this point. But we can say that there is clearly a lot of diversity among our participating Solvers. The have unpacked this problem in ways that I would never before have imagined – in that they are picking up on very nuanced issues around this problem area and helping us all gain even deeper insights into the profound cultural, social, technological and logistical Challenges that underlie deploying cyber-schooling in the 21st century.

Thanks - we're looking forward to hearing more about this when the Challenge closes!

You're welcome.

Topics: Challenges

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