Redefining innovation in education
We spoke with Summer Howarth, Director of Learning at one of our founding B Corps Education Changemakers (EC). EC is dedicated towards building the capacity of teachers to become changemakers in classrooms across Australia and beyond. In addition to the transformational work EC does, Summer chats to us about EduChange - an unmissable event on the education calendar.
How is EC a force for good?
We are a force for good because we exist solely and entirely to unleash teacher-led innovation. Our business has many facets that enable us to do that. We are incredibly agile and firmly believe the best solutions to change the education system come from teachers. By supporting the great actions of our educators when they do brilliant work and then feel they’re different as a result of the change they’ve undergone to become leaders and changemakers, while raising advocacy of the profession, that is how we are a force for good.
What’s the purpose behind EduChange? You describe it as a catalyst for change instead of a conference.
We know magic happens when people get together and share air and headspace. It is a fundamental part of community. We have been running EduChange week for the past 4 years, in a completely provocative and rebellious way because we knew things had to be different. The evolution of it has really been pushed forward by great teachers identifying with making change. In that way it is a catalyst and it is the longest education event in the education calendar. We call our group of attendees the collective genius of the profession who have come together to share ideas that are changing the game and making sure others know about them too.
We often liken it to if there was a gathering of doctors, and someone found the gateway cure to cancer, they wouldn’t just keep it to themselves... They’d share it widely and openly and optimistically. It is the same thing where we come across practices that impact profoundly on young people. We have a deep professional responsibility to share it with people as widely as we can and that is why we put EduChange week on. It is also super fun, and people love coming along and the reason they do is that they feel like they’re hanging out with their tribe!
Encouraging innovative methods in delivering education has been EC's way of empowering social change. What have been some resounding examples of this?
We have Kristie in Queensland who is Deputy at a special school for example, who looked at how she could take the curriculum outside of the classroom. There were lots of specialist training around non-verbal communication devices but no one used it outside of the school in the community. So Kristie took it upon herself to empower the community by teaching them those devices. She went to a local cafe where they tested it and now it has scaled across Ipswich. It has changed lives of families who report that they can now have more of a family experience in a restaurant with their child as a result.. She had a parent say to her who said that not only did it change the literacy and learning outcomes for her child but also potentially saved her family. When you hear things like that you know we are on the right track.
We would never take credit for Kristie’s work or the 25,000 other teachers we have worked with. But those innovations are sometimes quite unexpected. People think we are working quite deliberately on innovations that are getting kids better at maths, reading and writing, but very often that is just the gateway - the journey is so much bigger than that.
How has belonging to the B Corp community increased collaboration with other B Corps?
What I love about being a part of the B Corp community is the understanding that we are all doing good, and not needing to convince the other about the case for change. In organising EduChange, we have other B Corps in the mix too - Maths Pathways a fellow Edupreneur. We have also reached out more broadly to Stone & Wood and Kooks, who said they’ll support us supporting a community of really cool people. We spoke to Chris from Kooks a few months ago, who is determined to enrich human communications and connections through wine. He believes as we do, in the power of great ideas happening when people come together and share a moment. That is why they are onboard as are Stone & Wood.
Being a part of the B Corp community in that way helps you to say we are not going down this radical pathway on our own. It goes back to being a force for good alongside a momentum of people, proving that we can all do better as businesses. To be able to turn around and prove the case for purpose driven businesses together outwardly facing, that can shift perceptions is phenomenal. That is how you start making change. That’s what being a part of the B Corp community is about. That’s the power of deliberately curating community and having them collide together. There is always this sense of belonging where high impact communities are concerned, which is what the B Corp and EC community have to offer - productive, supportive and nurturing relationships.
How do you fit in globally as a B Corp?
There are many opportunities to tap into those rich connections and networks available to B Corps both locally and overseas through the B Hive and just having interactions with one another. What I find when we do our work overseas, is that the B Corp conversation comes up a lot easier and far more people are more aware of the movement. When we hand over our business card, we get recognition for our B Corp status. The penny drops and they see why we do what we do. It slips into the fact that we are part of a global movement of people who are doing great work and are identifying themselves as operating with non-profit values, but as a for-profit business because of the sustainability aspect. Business should do good, it is a no brainer for us at least. It makes sense. Don’t put something into the world if it is not going to make the world a better place. Leave the world better than when you started it. B Corp certification helps you be very sure of that.
Why are you a for profit business instead of a non profit?
We can move and grow faster, and make more noise as a for-profit business. By making our own decisions, we are accountable now to all our stakeholders, purpose and values. Yes, you can grow as a non-profit but we have a clear product that we know is worthy and marketable. Something like Educhange week is free, and always will be. This was a commitment we made, as one of our values is that we’re fun, friendly and generous and it is our way of giving back to the profession. There are things that we certainly do make revenue on and some that we don’t, but it is all in the pursuit of unleashing teacher led innovation. We could do it as a non-profit but we would be smaller and at the peril of funders. For that reason, we couldn’t assure continuity of support to Changemakers. That accountability to the profession will be compromised in our belief.
‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ - Mahatma Gandhi
What are your own lived experiences of the values in your work and your everyday?
I think it is my lot in life to not only be change and lead change, but also to amplify the great work others are doing. Ever since I kicked off my career, I’ve always been wanting to connect people to one another. Twitter is a great way for me to make this happen. I share what the research is saying, what other people are doing, and helping make connections there. I was lucky enough to be named as one of the top 100 education tweeters in the world and be mentioned on the Educator Hot List 2016. Upon reflection, I figured it is always going to be less about what I am doing, and more about what others are and how I can help them get bigger by finding those invisible connections and helping people do good work. That is the change that I am living out. Just being in that realm of seeing good, being good and doing good is great.