Monthly Archives: août 2014

Lemann Foundation, an entrepreneur truly changing the world

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The Lemann Foundation is a non-profit organization, created in 2002 by Brazilian entrepreneur Jorge Paulo Lemann. The goal is to enhance the quality of public education in Brazil, with a focus on guaranteeing that every student learns, and to speed up social change in Brazil. They also focus on identifying and nurturing all upcoming talents to create an active network of game changers who will be able to move the country forward. 

The Lemann Foundation works on four key areas: 

> Innovation – promoting and facilitating the adoption of high-impact education innovations in Brazil

> Management – helping capacitate school systems and classrooms by identifying and training school leaders

> Policy – support research, test programs with all partners  in the field and disseminate promising models 

> Talents – nurture vocations for social change by training young leaders and connecting them

Instituto Ayrton Senna, enhancing the quality of public education

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What Formula 1 and the Instituto have in common are dreams. The pilot enabled many people to dream through his victories and he created the organization in 1994 to enable many more Brazilians to get a chance at making their dreams come true thanks to a great education.

The Instituto aims at addressing educational challenges in Brazil both from a qualitative and quantitative standpoint at the same time. They partner with the state, with ngos and with companies making sure all the actors play the same game and that their different efforts move forward in the same direction.

The Institute prepares more than 75,000 teachers and managers every year, and almost 2 million children and young people benefit directly from the work of these teachers, who are trained by the organization, in more than 1300 municipalities in various regions in Brazil. Funded by its own resources, besides donations and private initiative partnerships, the Institute provides to public administration, free of charge, management services of the educational process. This process includes diagnosis, planning, training of managers and educators, development of innovative pedagogical and technological solutions.

Their good results lead them to contribute to policy making in Brazil. The Instituto is a vivid example of amazing philanthropic engagement turning into high scalable impact. A model to join and replicate maybe?

Gera Venture Capital, investing in the future of education

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Gera is a Brazilian impact investment firm focusing on education. They identify the most promising entrepreneurs changing the field and participate in their financial success. The company shows an extraordinary expertise in education and therefore is more accurate in its investment strategy.

They do not limit themselves with time constraints and really focus on the business side of things to increase the impact. For all the company they back, they will of course provide investment but not only. The team makes sure that all the members of their portfolio receive the support they need to rightfully connect, better manage and increase their outreach. They invest both in growth equity and in early stage ventures while playing a crucial role in sourcing talent, giving access to the industry knowledge and sharing their managerial expertise.

Vox Capital, advancing education through investment

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Over the past decade, impact investment has attracted more and more capital. This investment thesis states that you can place your money wisely and get a high return on your investment while generating a high social impact. In order to participate in this virtuous circle you need to identify dynamic companies targeting the base of the pyramid.

In education, there are now more numerous organization’s trying to solves the problems of the field by creating accessible products for vulnerable populations. The role of an investment firm such as Vox Capital is to help these socio-business to get the money they need to correctly develop and scale up their impact. Any impact investment firm will look for the best balance between financial stability and high social impact, always trying to maximize profitability. When it comes to education, Vox capital invests in companies busy improving the quality of basic education through assistive technologies and management resources, as well as the methods facilitating access to technical schools as they can provide students with an income more quickly.

Investment is key when it comes to develop innovative solutions and the financial sector must be included wisely in the changing dynamics of the educational sector worldwide. Of course, there will always be a risk to see numbers prime over people’s interests but I guess it is a risk to take if we truly aim at changing an international and local reality.

Vox Capital works in this direction and created their Labs to give a chance to small business not developed enough to receive equity investment to be accompanied by an accelerator and to receive a very step by step financial support to develop their activities.

CDI, pioneers of the digital inclusion in Latin America

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Founded in 1995 in Rio de Janeiro, CDI is a socio-enterprise using a unique socio-education approach to empower populations at risk. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) are used to fight against poverty and to stimulate change and entrepreneurship within the communities. The 150 employees and 2000 volunteers now manage operations in 11 countries in Latin America and Europe and thanks to them 724 digital inclusion spaces can welcome new students daily. In addition to low-income communities, these peculiar schools are also present in indigenous communities, psychiatric clinics, hospitals for the mentally and physically disabled, as well as youth & adult detention facilities. 

CDI helped families learn the ICT skills they need to reconnect with their lost members after the earthquake in Chile. CDI also enables inhabitants from Rio’s favelas develop the skills they need to get a job and even provide them with some working opportunities. Today, you will quickly be excluded without any basic technical know-how, CDI is trying to minimize this skills gap in order for everyone to be able to participate in the conversation and not to be ignored because their poverty level prevented them to access a computer.


Brazil, where contrasts enable true community of destiny

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Dear Mirror Networkers,

Brazil was a transformational experience.

I enjoyed the talking walls – all covered by street art and statements -, I felt tiny in the gigantic cities, I samba-ed, I found ways to get meetings with the ever busy Brazilians, I was both shocked and amazed by the contrasted nation. I understood that all great changes come from actual people behind any kind of organization and that scale and prejudice are the enemies of social innovation. I got the feeling to be at a turning point, not only of this trip, but also of my life. How will I make it matter?

That was Brazil’s key lesson: we get to choose what matters.

Brazil intrigued me and I was curious to learn more about certain educational programs such as the democratic schools, CDI and digital literacy or Envisioning and its prospective work. I felt the urge to meet the contrasted giant. It took me some time, and some amazing people, to feel comfortable. Day after day, through fascinating conversations, I discovered the cleavage between the rich and the poor, the incredible natural diversity, the numerous cultures and traditions, the gaps between the state of things and the dreams of many, all of these differences impacting education.

Education is one of the key issues in Brazil as the world could see during the latest protests in June. Degrees are viewed as the main condition to any social uplift. Businessmen understood this a while ago and turned the system into a juicy mass market while he public system deteriorates. Public schools are heavily criticized and every family tries to find the most strategic balance between free education and private schools to make sure their children get into the right university. You can go to public school until the end of middle school, than attend a private high school that will enable you to access the best university program, which is generally public. Welcome to the educational jungle.

Indeed, the public educational system and decadent and corrupted. A local politician was schedule to visit a school so the director made sure that the abandoned school’s garden looked nice overnight by buying salads from the supermarket and placing them on the dry soil. The same happened with computers; about twenty of them were delivered to a classroom for an official visit and taken away right after the media show was over. Some classrooms do not even have roofs… On the other hand, private groups sell education as if it was any kind of regular product and display sales numbers on their corporate websites without really thinking about the humane side of things.

Education in Brazil is a game to play with unfair rules. Racism, poverty, crazy grading system forcing students choose their study path at 15, etc. School incarnates all the contrasts of the Brazilian society and therefore became an amazing playground for true innovation and ground braking change.

Recently, the “descolarizacion movement” has grown bigger with more and more parents taking their children out of school. A self-made doctoral program was just launched a couple of months ago by a dynamic group of university students too disappointed by the gap between their university curriculum and the actual world. For two decades now, democratic schools have been spreading with some iconic models such as Ancora or Politeia. In these schools, children decide what they want to learn, when and how. They work on projects with their peers and adults accompany them as mentors. Students validate all the national objectives but are completely free to build their own very personal learning path. One kid for example who got depressed and qualified as “stupid” in a regular public school now finds himself building a robot that can help him and others learn… Many new players in Brazil pay attention to and encourage such real human empowerment: the Media Education Lab tests creative projects in classrooms, Geekie changes the way educational content is delivered, FazInova shows how everybody can become an entrepreneur of their own lives, Cesar proves that consulting firms can lead social change and make a difference when it comes to the skills’ gap, etc. In Brazil, education is being revamped from the ground. Technology is perceived as a tool and is key when it comes to scale but it is people who take the responsibility to change things, for people. They not only question learning but also the way we work: Laboriosa takes coworking to coliving and House of Works offers a very productive model of destructured project management and alternative team building.

Brazil paves the way of pedagogical innovation not by caring about specifics, as I saw in other countries, but by having a systemic approach and slowly trying and incarnating the concept of learning communities. Many actors interact – NGOs, foundations, investors, companies, civil servants, startups – and are forced to both step back to envisage ways to scale up their proposals, and to take a very close look at how people really consume education as it is somehow a very humane country. This whole process results in an intense and not structured dialogue between the different players that actually enables conversations to move forward to actions. Stakes are big, so is the world. Maybe the Brazilian model could be an amazing lab for us to analyze how change could and should be nurtured and oriented more globally?

The process is organic, business and technology are actively part of it while some make sure they do not become “IT”, the conversation doesn’t exclude public and non-profit partners, human empowerment is central to innovative approaches and they are always systemic, people are considered, but never alone.

The question now lies in the processes and tools to make this whole dynamic function.

Mirror Network, which for now is a flying benchmark and community in construction, could be the perfect place for us all to discuss and suggest new ways for learning communities to develop, grow and function as they appear to be the future of education.

This weekend I enjoyed Rio’s lights, sand, and cocktails. I conversed in epic sceneries and almost reached the sky on top of the Corcovado. We too often forget how happiness is so simple; maybe it works the same way with the educational problems that we are all trying to solve, maybe we should make it simple. Of course it only works when the simplicity is shared!

Off to Buenos Aires now and I will continue exploring Latin America surprising and buzzing learning systems.

From beijos to abrazos,



NYC & Boston: a step back to power up

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Dear Mirror Networkers,

August has started off on the East Coast under a beautiful sunshine that has allowed me to enjoy speedy walks from one great meeting to a lifechanging other.

NYC and Boston host some of the most important traditional powerhouses of the United States in business, politics and academia. It has been interesting to see how they now interact to better face the 21st century’ challenges and opportunities.

I was surprised to find such a vibrant EdTech startup scene in NYC and Boston and enjoyed learning more about innovative models such as General Assembly, One Month or Panorama. Should it be alternative courses offline or online to help people develop new skills or new tools improving schools’ culture and processes, many young entrepreneurs – often freshly out of university – are making huge progress in moving the Ed scene forward. They didn’t enjoy their experience as students or couldn’t land their dream job so they took the responsibility to change things. And they are not alone!

It is impressive to see how the business world, academia, the non-profit sector and politics are all closely linked together when it comes to education. In all the places I went to, I have always appreciated the fact that by looking closely at education I ended up learning about the economy, the laws, the way families function, and people’s dreams. Well here on the East Coast, all these different layers come together to actually set up the basis of a learning (r)evolution.

There are more and more cross-interests between the different stakeholders. Some for the best, like when a neurosurgeon from Harvard who also graduated from the Ed School and now works on cognitive sciences, elearning and robotics is asked to give conferences at big companies such as Google, Apple or Salesforce to help them improve their learning systems. Indeed, organizations now know that they must manage their talents carefully – from recruitment to lifelong career development – in order to make the most of their human capital and make sure they motivate and retain their rising stars.

Some partnerships are more complicated. The Teach for America model for example, is promoted worldwide as a game-changing ngo enabling graduates from Ivy League schools to become teachers for 2 years. The goal is to give these future leaders the opportunity to know what is broken in the educational system and to make them want contribute in something afterwards to make things better. But this vision comes with some downsides: these teachers only receive a 5 week training and that somehow discredits the 5 years of studies others go through to become teachers, these teachers are not prepare to interact with others and their Ivy experience doesn’t necessarily contributes to improving school cultures or peer to peer exchange of best practices, these teachers only experience very difficult schools and when they eventually get the possibility to change something they advocate policies based on this biased experience. So as we can see, even though schools, companies, ngos and parties should be talking the setting and aims of the conversations are extremely important.

These examples prove how important the ecosystem is when it comes to changing education. We cannot limit ourselves to the sole classrooms and need to develop a more systemic vision of the sector that will benefit schools’ leaders, teachers, students, parents, entrepreneurs, businesses, researchers, and investors.

I started the Mirror Network to provide all these stakeholders with an accurate big picture of the educational sector for them to make the most of the new opportunities and realize more and more every day now how important it is.

Research needs to nurture investments and strategic planning, investments need to support bold ventures and chances for schools to evolve, ventures need to facilitate online and offline change for educators and learners to get in the know and take part in the public debate as well as get access to interesting careers.

If we manage to set up this virtuous circle we will prove how education can be and must be everyone’s business.

I will keep in mind that:

-       investors, and not only the ones looking at impact investment, have a big role to play in the evolution of the sector;

-       companies have to move from human resources to human capital and must therefore develop agile and clever learning systems;

-       schools often know exactly what kind of tools and reforms they need so they should not only be studied but also listened to;

-       the West Coast was right to invest in new frontiers and the East Coast is right to look for the perfect power balance as for innovations to make it they need the right ecosystem.

Let’s all take a step back and realize that education isn’t only an issue, a sector, or a market but a global arena driven by many forces that actually need one another to exist and succeed. So whatever your starting point is, paying attention to the others will only reinforce your chances of reaching your goals.

And hopefully the last posts on will help you take that enlightening step back!

On my way to Brazil to “dive in scale” and find many occasions to toast with delicious caïpirinhias,

From not so far,



+ Acumen – when great social impact becomes the best learning experience you have had

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Acumen paved the way of venture philanthropy and created a worldwide community of fellows changing the way we tackle poverty. Acumen raises charitable donations to then invest in organizations, in people and in ideas. Acumen is about impact, about community and about leadership.

No wonder many many people around the world wanted to join the movement. They created chapters to promote Acumen’s work and results but they wanted more. Therefore, the team launched + Acumen, a division dedicated to transmitting best practices and ground work lessons from Acumen to a larger community of volunteers and professionals from the non-profit and for-profit sector.

+ Acumen isn’t a classic e-learning platform. It goes far beyond that and actually creates a powerful and vibrant learning community at an international scale. All courses are based on actual experience and entail a transformative process you have to go through. They blend state of the art online learning – readings, videos, discussion forums, etc. – with offline experiences and always relate to your real life context to make the apprenticeship useful. They even succeed in delivering an adaptive leadership class through the web! More courses are uploaded regularly and will give you critical insight on the most current issues in the space. Should you want to enhance your potential to change the world, you will be able to do it: alone with a personalized curriculum and with great peers are you will be part of teams to accompany you through the learning process.

+ Acumen offers a unique blend that matches exactly the type of learning experiences that really impact you.


Change you life in One Month – Code up!

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Time is everything in our fast-paced world.

One Month is simple, efficient, dynamic, interactive. One Month is lovable.

This online platform, its tutorials and really well-done material give you the possibility to get the tech skills you need to change careers, to create your product, or to work from home. One month to learn how to code and discover what freedom tastes like. You will get all the support you need and be able to earn a certificate to showcase your newly acquired competences.

See you next month?!

MIT Media Lab – exploring the future

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The Media Lab is an incredible but yet discrete place where great minds are envisioning the future of people, of media, of technology, of education, of energy, etc. They not only investigate this future but they design and contribute to build it while sharing their state of the art work and best practices with an international community.

The 25 research groups welcome students and amazing faculty and experts all collaborating in a very antidisciplinary and creative frame. Excellence is a requirement, tryouts and results a must and unconventional a rule.

If you are asking yourself questions you think no one else is thinking of, you might just find a team already exploring adjacent interrogations and testing innovative solutions there. A whole space to actively follow.

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