I am a devout believer in the power of innovation. Innovation has the power to completely shift existing realities both in incremental ways and on immense scales. I strongly believe that one of the most important areas to be harnessing the power of innovation is in our education systems. Our educational systems are simply not built to support the current state of our world. Lack of access to education or using antiquated models means that we are not preparing students to flourish in our rapidly changing world. We are individually and as a planet facing overwhelming issues threatening our very existence, and I believe that the foundation of addressing these issues is through education.
It was as a student at The University of Edinburgh that I developed a deep and intense love affair with innovation. From my first year at university, I was swept up into a movement of students who were passionate about creating social change through innovation and entrepreneurship. We saw innovation as a tool of rebellion, a mindset to accept nothing as ‘just the way it is’ and to use methodology to rethink and redesign almost anything.
In my studies I was incredibly frustrated with how little I felt I was truly learning in the classroom, but saw how much I was learning and growing through my involvement in the university ecosystem itself. I became passionate, to the point of obsession, with how the university ecosystem needs to be redesigned and adapted to the 21st Century. I didn’t (and still don’t) feel that the current university model adequately prepares students for the world we live in now. I spent my four years at university building and leading initiatives, projects, campaigns, giving talks, and taking up every role I could within the university system to try to create change internally, as well as writing my final dissertation promoting innovative approaches to education.
I stayed in Edinburgh post-graduation to continue the work I had begun there, however I quickly realised that I needed to make a change, and go do similar work but in a new context. Having heard of the culture of innovation in the startup scene in Bangalore I decided to go explore the scene, and applied for a social innovation fellowship in Bangalore called the IDEX Fellowship.
After being accepted into the programme, they began a work placement process through understanding my background and interests. The first placement option they gave me was for an organisation called Quest Alliance. Through looking at their website I was immediately intrigued. The fact that everything they do is driven by equipping students with 21st Century skills hooked me. Then reading through the programmes Quest runs it was immediately clear that the work they do is highly innovative and impactful. However, it was when I found The Learner publication that I was sold. It was through seeing the ideas behind the work at Quest that I knew I needed to be around the people who put out this publication.
There were several themes in The Learner that jumped off the page to me– from an emphasis on the student as an unique individual, to building unique pathways for individuals, as well as creating environments for active learning. I was also thrilled to read about their use of online communities and EdTech to facilitate learning, the way they promote lifelong learners (including educators!), their emphasis on continuous innovation, and use of design thinking. The overall clear focus on educating for the needs of the 21st Century aligned directly with my beliefs and passions.
In the month I have now spent at Quest my love affair with innovation has found a new place to bloom. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to have stepped out of the university bubble and to now look at other aspects of education through an innovative lens. I’ve spent the past five years or so pushing to create spaces to do exactly what I am being encouraged to do at Quest.
Quest is currently focusing very closely on how it can work to instil a culture of innovation within the organisation and ecosystem at large, which is allowing me to sink my teeth into looking at building systems of innovation. Through this work I have the chance to focus on promoting innovation in an organisation with a culture and mission that directly aligns with my beliefs and passions. I have the opportunity to help design tools to assist people in thinking innovatively about education and then take their ideas to execute approaches to education to fit the needs of the 21st Century.
My journey to Quest has been one of many twists and turns, but I have found a place where my love for innovation, specifically being used to promote 21st Century education, can flourish. Over the next few months I am excited to dig deeper in my research of where and how innovation is happening at and around Quest, and how innovation in the organisation and the ecosystem can be supported and promoted. Watch this space!
Chloe Edmundson, IDEX Fellow, Quest Alliance