Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Can we actually find way to build a more entrepreneurial culture in education? A tall order, indeed. But people are certainly trying. And... suddenly, there is serious hope.

My prior post bragged on the new Entrepreneurship/Economics course that the Idaho Digital Learning Academy is launching this fall. That's a great start; let me tell you about some initiatives that seek broader, systemic change!

The key to a more entrepreneurial culture is nurturing a more entrepreneurial mindset- here it's growing that mindset in educational leaders. In turn, we also need to provide strong mechanisms to enable leaders to implement more entrepreneurial solutions. Across the nation, one typical mechanism is to fund a public, inclusive charter school. (In some places the public charter school will supplant a failed existing school.)

In Louisiana they are beginning to train future principals and other administrators to think and act more entrepreneurially. (A solidly bipartisan effort hosted by LSU and pushed by new Governor Jindal.) Meanwhile, they've raised a ton of money to launch several of those inclusive public charter schools. By the time the schools are ready to go, a cadre of entrepreneurial principals will be ready to take charge. Eventually, this will become an official alternative certification for principals and these "entrepreneurial principals" will the ones assigned for all school turnarounds. (That is, if you want the job of doing a turnaround, you must have this training!) Fascinating model, but there are comparable programs nationally, from NYC to rural Indiana.

While much more expensive, building the schools isn't the hard part. The hard part (duh) is "converting" educators who've been immersed in the bureaucratic mindset -- Definitely not a job for amateurs! This is really a process of surfacing their "inner entrepreneur" - but at least the initial volunteers are visibly not your typical school administrator. And the "hook" of social entrepreneurship reduces resistance from the usual suspects while drawing increasing support from the entrepreneurial and social entrepreneurial community. If there was a core group of future Idaho principals going through first-rate entrepreneurship training, can you imagine the buzz if they attended a Kickstand meeting?

The highly constructivistic nature of entrepreneurship education turned them on too - great entrepreneurship training is far from the norm of most college classroom, so the entrepreneurial exercises they are going through are also building the credibility of this training. Like any competent entrepreneurship training, this isn't about transferring knowledge; the truly important part is changing how they structure their knowledge at a very deep level. That meant this was a pretty intense experience for me - you can't train entrepreneurial minds without understanding entrepreneurial minds and you can't train them without deep knowledge of constructivistic learning. In particular, we have to keep the students immersed in that deep change in how they think. Whew! (But we are getting there... so, yes, there's much hope!

[On a humorous note, I had the fun of showing them "entrepreneurial resource acquisition". My syllabus mentioned the OPM model... but instead of "Other People's Money", the teachers thought OPM stood for "Office of Personnel Management", which understandably baffled them, LOL! But... humor can be a powerful ally in this effort, eh?]


Blogger Cece said...

Norris, do you have a link to a story or other material that would be helpful to read regarding Louisiana's efforts? And from your write-up, I take this to mean that they are training the principals to be more entrepreneurial in their administrative efforts, not necessarily placing an "Entrepreneuship" class in the curriculum - is that correct?

11:45 AM  
Blogger DrOptimism said... is the main link. Yes, the idea is systemic change. How do we shift administrators a bit away from the bureaucratic mindset and toward a more entrepreneurial mindset?

The idea of creating new schools with entrepreneurial principals is pretty exciting. (And they got serious $$ from Gates...)

The website is not as clear as I'd like but it should be enough. (There are parallel initiatives in Indiana, out of Ball State, and in NYC & elsewhere.)

Thanks for asking!/nk

11:52 AM  
Blogger DrOptimism said...

p.s. there WILL be entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship classes introduced but that's a separate initiative. (They are eager to see what IDLA has cooked up for us in Idaho...)

11:53 AM  

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