Monday, 15 June 2015

Lego: Entrepreneurship Education for Kids (Part 2)

Last weekend I detailed my experiences with sharing David Robertson's book "Brick by Brick" with my kids and suggested that LEGO could be used to teach Entrepreneurship Education to Kids.

Over the weekend I read about Cambridge University hiring a Professor of LEGO, to support a Research Centre on play in education, development and learning at the University's Faculty of Education. Along with The Secret World of LEGO on Channel 4, this got me thinking about last weeks post... and how you might go about putting a pilot in place.

In this post I consider two potential pilots - a UK education based one and a US pilot where various startup organisations collaborate. The premise of the idea would be

The Pitch
To develop an entrepreneurship education programme aimed at kids from age 5+ using LEGO’s history and approach to innovation. The hypothesis being that learning how product lines like Ninjago were conceived would be engaging and fun, while teaching kids about entreprenurship. The course could be developed as an after school or weekend club.

Concept and Kids From the LEGO Junior magazine all the way through to Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOL), people send pictures of their models to official LEGO publications and unofficial fan sites.

Fans also send their ideas for new sets to LEGO's ideas website in the hope their idea gets developed.

In The Secret World of Lego we heard from Thomas Poulsom, the creator of LEGO birds, about the process from pitch to getting the sets in the shops.

The infrastructure and expertise is there, so it may not take much to expand the development of new LEGO sets to incorporate young entreprenurs and any ideas they have for new toys. Any ideas that were worth exploring could go through the same stages.
Kids come up with new LEGO models,
Could they come up with new business models?
Entreprenurship Education for Kids: Cambridge
When establishing a new pilot proximity and relationships matter. LEGO already have a relationship with Cambridge University through this grant. The university may also be an ideal candidate given their access to experts, incubators and an accreditation body that has an active interest in enterprise.

Experts: Shailendra Vyakarnam is the former Director of Entrepreneurial Learning at the Judge Business School and author of a book designed to educate educators in entreprenurship "Unlocking the Enterpriser Inside," an ideal candidate to help with designing the activities/curriculum.

Space: Judge Business School have Accelerate Cambridge which includes training, mentoring and a shared workspace. Could some kids clubs be ran during quiet periods? Whether after school clubs or at the weekend? Maybe there could be CJBS Ideation weekends for kids?

Accrediatation: If any pilots were a success not only is Oxford Cambridge Review (OCR) one of UK's main awarding bodies, they also have an active interest in entreprenurship education. OCR have sponsored events like StartupEdu weekend and support Ed Invent, a service designed to help educators develop their ideas.

Everything that you would need to explore the merits of the idea in my initial Entreprenurship Education for kids with LEGO post can be found in Cambridge.

A Tale of Two Enterprise Programs
I don't think that it would be an unreasonable comment to wonder if any results for a Cambridge based pilot might be skewed due to issues around socio-economic factors. Conversely, it may be equally reasonable to have reservations around entreprenurship in UK education.

"Since seed funding began in 1995 our portfolio companies have raised over £800m in further investment and grant funding. They now employ over 1,700 people and generate an annual turnover of £170m. More information about current University of Cambridge start-up companies can be found on the Cambridge Cluster map" Cambridge university Enterprise Website

This is after 20 years at a university that is hugely selective, compare this with ESpark's first 2 years;

"[In the first 2 years] More than 1,000 jobs have now been created by firms through its support, almost double the 520 created in the first two years of the business incubator’s existence. The total turnover among firms supported by ESpark surged to more than £41 million at the end of 2014, almost trebling the £15.7m achieved during 2012 and 2013 combined. Investment secured by supported start-ups shot up by £10m, from a total of just over £8m at the end of 2013 to more than £18m at the close of 2014" Economic Impact of Entreprenurial Spark

If this rate of growth continues ESpak comapnies would generate £400 million over the same period. Therefore, it might make sense to have a pilot that is ran by business experts in an area that knows a thing or two about startups.

Entreprenurship Education for Kids: Silicon Valley
This pilot could be established through one of the things that makes Silicon Valley work so well: proximity and a willingness to collaborate.

Experts: This list is by no means exhaustive, but could include:
  • Stanford University: I'm sure I don't need to provide a rationale here, do I?
  • Incubators: It may make sense from a roll out/scaling perspective to include an incubator like WeWork, as they work in a number of cities.
  • Schools: I'm not sure what US schools are doing around entreprenurship education, but I'm sure there would be synergy with schools who are doing entreprenurial things and could provide some valuable input (ie KIPP Bay Area and AltSchool)
  • Circle the Schools: I'm sure that collaboration with companies who are involved with Circle the Schools can add a lot to a project like this.
  •  Online Learning Platforms: Through sheer bootstrapped (ie cash strapped) necessity, startups are massively collaborative.

    I have detailed the potential value that platforms who spark social knowledge have for educators, students and the potential for EdTech startups collaborating in this post about Declara.  
Space: Running an after school or weekend club at a Silicon Valley incubator could see the kids get advice from startup founders who are based at the incubator discussing their experiences.

This would have the added advantage of kids being able to scream excitedly "I know that guy!" when the student sees them on the TV when they are on the news for selling their company to Apple or Google for $XYZ Millions.

Accreditation: Learn by doing. You'll know if you've passed when a grown up startup says

"We'll help you develop this concept and you'll get a share of the profits"

Value Proposition
I can see there being advantages here for all stakeholders, some advantages may be obvious... others may be less obvious.

There is no point detailing these because few (if any) other organistion could engage kids in the way that LEGO could and, as The Secret World of LEGO highlights, the company gets sent thousands of ideas every year. Then there's the fact that achieving this level of collaboration with all stakeholders may be unlikely.

I'll take a leaf out of LEGO Ideas book, I'll include the value proposition in a "LEGO: Entrprenurship Education (Part 3)" post if the demand is there from any of the organisations who would be able to make this happen ;).

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