Shared Communities to Solve Wicked Problems

The goalpost for development has moved to three unique and wicked problems – climate change, better healthcare and education. Education specifically, of the kind that enables creative thinking and helps shape every child to be a responsible citizen of our shared world. These problems are wicked for the following reasons:

  1. They have slow-burn i.e. they manifest themselves over multiple political and capital spending cycles.
  2. They require social change or collective action which is hard to make happen.
  3. They need us to be active citizens which is a hard act for populations used to rousing themselves to the ballot box once in a few years before hitting ‘snooze’ again.
Wicked Problems Graphic see

Figure 1: Wicked Problems (Transition Design Seminar, Carnegie Mellon University, 2017)

Of all the problems, education is the most pressing concern, not only because a child educated well today, could help address the challenges posed by the other two tomorrow!

In an age buffeted by automation and the shift in community formation to online networks, we are being pressed to raise creative beings who can still retain empathy as societies transform. As a former teacher and student of child development, I know creativity and empathy begin at an early age; as young as 0-6 years of a child’s life. Experts know this too and that is why early child education and pre-kindergarten are creeping up on policy and philanthropy agendas.

As we have seen from decades of work in climate change, enabling impact is a question of having multiple actors take seat at a table and find a way to move the ball forward collectively. As the world’s governments have solved access to education they have been left trying to address quality and learning that enables good citizenship. We need better thinking, collectively, for early childhood education.

I started, Early Insights, in the hope that such thinking should be online and be open and accessible to the world. Since my first job working in technology for telecom 11 years ago where I worked on major programs with British Telecom, I have known how bringing together different players on one platform enables sharing insights rapidly and leads to leaps in thinking. As an entrepreneur after, I always felt I missed a step, realizing later, it was the perspective – what is shaping the world outside my world view and how do I fit in? And finally, my years as a primary school teacher and later a student of Child Development made me realize how rapidly the change in the world outside needs to be incorporated into learning whilst knowing the imperatives of how people learn.

Early Insights brings policy makers, investors, entrepreneurs and people from the field together with their shared perspective and narrative.

Early Insights homepage capture - Tarun Varma Jan 2018

Figure 2: The Early Insights homepage (TM pending)

Issue one of this contributory community features:

  • Insights on policy in early childhood from Naomi Eisensdadt. Noami, a policy advisor to the Scottish government, talks about the need to invest in high quality workforce and lead from solutions that we know, work. Rachel, the Founder & CEO of Koru Kids, is trying to enable families to share high quality child care in London. Her ideas around pedagogy of childcare compliment Naomi’s macro outlook with an understanding of the variance across the city of London.
  • As an investor representing Omidyar Network, Ashley highlights the trends that make the ECD sector more investible. Coming from the other end, Ankit, an entrepreneur in India talks about how he is putting together the nuts and bolts of his startup, Saarthi, for scale.
  • Both Kate at TalesToolkit and Stephanie at EdDESTY are entrepreneurs focused on socio emotional learning via models that work with children in person and have a scalable online training component that is enabling their businesses to expand. This juxtaposed with David’s deep reflections on quality and learning at scale from his time in the field shed light on the fundamental things to get right in a scenario of learning and interaction.
  • Finally, an author, former early childhood teacher and current Director of the Preschool of the Arts, Ann’s perspective on the art of learning, play and early childhood is a great cover for why early educators need to focus on giving the child control of the learning process and push them to engage with the medium of learning, even if it is technology.

My hope? That this community will break silos to establish a collective voice and have a common north star. When the flows of capital turn in favour of early childhood, we and the larger community will know how to deploy it for effective change. Our second issue comes out end February 2018. I’d love to know what you think.

Author Bio

headshot of Tarun VarmaTarun Varma was a 2016 1+1 MBA, MSc Child Development and Education where he was a Pershing Square Scholar. He developed a focus on better early childhood education through a career in technology, entrepreneurship and as a teacher. Tarun is currently an Initiatives Manager at the Lego Foundation where he serves on the ‘Learning through Play in Early Childhood’ team, managing their grants in early childhood centres.