“It’s like internet dating for educational innovations…”

By Inside | Out

You can’t find a good match if you don’t know where to look. And that’s what the Center for Education Innovations (CEI) is.A place to look. A meeting, greeting, profiling and potential partnership point.

“It’s like internet dating for education organisations,” says IkamvaYouth founder, Joy Olivier. Here’s how CEI might help Olivier and others find mutually beneficial matches…


“Cradle to Career – a display of Transformative Projects that Work.” That was the theme of the 14th annual Education Management Association of South Africa (EMASA) conference, held in September 2013 in partnership with the University of the Free State. “This theme was chosen to express the need for a collaborative approach to overcoming educational barriers,” says Camilla Swart, who helped curate the content for the conference. “The traditional, isolationist approach just doesn’t work,” she continues. “We need to ensure educational development by working together and viewing the wider system as a whole.”

Swart is now a key member of the Center for Education Innovations (CEI) South Africa team. CEI is a global initiative for the system-wide educational approach. It’s backed by the Results for Development Institute (R4D) with funding from the UK government, and has hubs in India, Kenya and South Africa (housed at the Bertha Centre, UCT Graduate School of Business).

Each hub works hard to profile, quantify and understand local non-state educational innovations. “Programmes implemented by NGOs, social enterprises, government, partnerships and private companies,” Swart explains. They are like water droplets that need to be coalesced to make an ocean. The aim is to connect these droplets – businesses, organisations and other partners around the world – in order to scale up effective models that are already working. The result will be an ocean of currents moving towards increased access and quality of education where it’s needed most.

Perfect matches and online profiles

“We need to profile these organisations because there are so many of them,” says Swart. “In a complex system, where government, non-state and sometimes business intersect, it makes sense for organisations to be more aware of each other, identify synergies and work together.” It’s like introducing people on a dating site. First you need to draw up clear profiles of each person, to see if the match is really going to work.

The CEI profiles outline the size, scope and quality of various non-state educational services. They’re detailed and in-depth. In fact, the profiling follows a three-pronged approach:

1. Identify: Do the landscaping; identify non-state programmes with the potential to improve the way education systems operate for the poor. Then profile them and gather up-todate information on how they work.
2. Analyse: Assess what works and makes these programmes successful. Draw up good practices, country profiles and thematic studies. Start to identify trends.
3. Connect: Link similar organisations locally and internationally. Connect them to funders to help facilitate the scale-up of successful models.

That’s where the real dating part comes in – lots of connections are made, even if they don’t all lead to love. Being showcased on the CEI platform allows organisations to connect with investors, stakeholders and also other organisations doing similar or complementary work. These connections increase the opportunity for partnerships and funding, but also for collaboration and mutual learning. The aim, of course, is to find ways to scale effective interventions – to make even more of what’s already there.

“When we have an initiative like the CEI that helps interventions and innovation, telling stories of success and showcasing them, linking them to others and creating a platform, then we create traction and movement from which positive outcomes can flow,” says education activist and founder of the LEAP schools, John Gilmour.

Case Studies

Click here to learn about selected education innovations

 → Innovation #1: LEAP Science and Maths Schools

 → Innovation #2: SAILI scholarship programme

 → Innovation #3: IkamvaYouth


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