Series 2 | India

Series 2 took us international. In New Delhi, India, we collaborated with the university's International Innovation Corps (IIC) to work with the Centre for Civil Society--an Indian think-tank--as our client.

Challenge

When people think of education challenges their opinions about root cause and potential solutions rely on their personal experience. That approach works pretty well if the contexts are mostly similar, but those assumptions gets treacherous if different rules are operating. In India, the service graph of the education system is radically different than in the U.S.

There are essentially two education systems in India. The public school system operates much as it does in the West and is state funded. The Budget Private School system serves the poorest children and are privately owned. Think of it more as “Affordable Private School.”

The Centre for Civilized Society (a leading think tank in India) partnering with the International Innovation Corps at the university asked CivX to help BPS schools improve educational quality. This was a huge scope for a 5-day sprint and required that our first step was to dive deep and select a more targeted problem.

Sprint

The team of 24 visited three different BPS schools around New Delhi. They interviewed teachers, students, parents, principals and school owners. From these observations and interviews two key problem areas emerged: teacher attendance and parental involvement.

The teams spent a day consolidating insights and generating over 240 ways to address the respective challenges. Through an intense 24-hours, the loose ideas became early versions of potential solutions. The first team created an interactive newsletter for engaging parents who had different literacy levels. The second team, inspired by behavioral economic interventions, designed a system for reducing teacher absenteeism by making teacher performance information publicly available. On the last day, the teams took their prototypes back into the field to conduct a validation study and gauge the impact.

Recommendations

The CivX team presented their findings to an audience that included the Centre for Civil Society, Uchicago staff, and India's Deputy-Minister of Education. The final user study revealed that these new solutions resonated with key stakeholders, but needed refinement to be effective. Education advocates are now using the CivX research and prototypes to advance education efforts in local Indian communities and give BPS schools a stronger political platform.

One education advocate who attended the presentation said, "This is exactly what we need: more innovative approaches to education."