Disruptive Innovation: A Sustainability Model for Transforming Education

Are you focusing on disruptive innovation?


While receiving his master’s degree from Eastern University, Adam Gould founded the Kenya Childrens Project, after seeing first-hand the poverty facing children and families in the Mathare slums in Nairobi, Africa. 

The Project was the foundation for the nonprofit organization, eduKenya, where Adam serves as the U.S. executive director. In this video, Adam discusses the disruptive innovation of eduKenya's sustainability model—bringing together business, investment properties and a transformational education mission. Adam says that asking yourself questions that focus on true transformation can drive new, disruptive innovation for people, processes and outcomes.

Watch the video to discover how you can inspire disruptive innovation within your organization.

When I think about it from a leadership perspective, sometimes innovation is simply trying two normal things and bringing them together, just aspects of everyday life that you just bring together that haven't been associated before.

When I first started my work in Mathare, in the slum, I guess I didn't know what I didn't know. And so I wasn't coming from a development background or dealing with poverty or anything like that, so I didn't necessarily have a specific idea of what I had to do. I didn't have to follow a certain model, and so it was more processing and thinking, "Okay, well, what do we need to do? We need to provide education. So how do we do that?" So we came up with a school.

Well, we have to think about these kids outside of the school, too, because of the situation they're living in. So take it a step further and how do we impact the home and the community? Okay, well, now we have those things set up but the school has to run and I'm going to have to go to people to ask for resources but how can we do it so I don't have to ask for as many resources for that particular place and not kind of create a black hole of giving, so to speak. What came out of that was thinking about the sustainability model of investment properties. And so essentially we were just taking two basic things of dealing with poverty and addressing education and the business world, and bringing those two things together.

Each step of the way, there's been some level of innovation involved. There's been growth, because we're always asking ourselves, we use the words opportunity and transformation quite a bit, particularly focusing on transformation. We always ask ourselves, "Okay, we're providing education. What is transformational education? What is transformational about our skill training programs? What's transformational about these investments that we're making?" So each step we have to be slightly innovative, just thinking, "Okay, well, how do we get to that next step and what does that require?"

I think the other way we've been slightly innovative is that we've tried to eliminate a hierarchy until we absolutely have to have it. And so, for instance, the principal at our school, he grew up and was sponsored by Compassion International, grew up in a slum. Some of the kids he grew up with are now part of terrorist cells and have been on wanted posters and things of that nature. But he was given that opportunity. He was very self-motivated and got his teaching certification and then he came back and we were his first job that he got after getting his certification. Well, he is incredible in terms of his passion for education, passion for the children, because of where he grew up. But because of where he grew up, he brings a perspective that I don't have and even our Kenya director doesn't have, and so we go to him when we're talking about what are the next steps we need to take in terms of the schooling.

Well, now we have a boarding school and initially that was going to be just a high school, but when we talked to him he said, "When the kids are hitting 11, 12, 13 years old, they're getting recruited into the gangs, they're getting forced into prostitution, the girls are getting pregnant early." And so there's all these issues that they're facing, and while we want to have an impact on that community and where they're coming from, at a certain point for that education truly to take hold, we have to take them out of that scenario.

So one of the innovative ideas is not having this structural hierarchy. I mean, when it comes down to, "Am I accountable," we have the hierarchy in place, and when certain decisions have to be made we have that hierarchy. But one of the things that Bob, our Kenya Director and I have sat down with our staff and said is that their points are very valid. We want them to share. We want to hear their experiences. They're the ones with the kids day in and day out. They have a different perspective. And so it's very important that when we come into a meeting that there isn't a hierarchy of someone can't speak or someone's ideas aren't valid, but that everybody as a team come together and we share those things, we process them together, and then we come up with a solution.
Adam gould

Adam Gould

Adam Gould is the U.S. executive director and co-founder of eduKenya, a Christian nonprofit organization that provides transformational opportunities to the children and families of the Mathare Slum in Nairobi, Kenya, using a self-sus...

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