OVERRIDE

Learning to Change the World

The Social Impact of One Laptop Per Child

Walter Bender, Charles Kane, Jody Cornish, Neal Donahue

Palgrave Macmillan Trade

UNESCO estimates that eleven percent of primary school–age children—seventy-two million worldwide—are not enrolled in or attending school. Children who do attend may find themselves in schools that lack adequate space, facilities, or resources—impossible situations for learning. It is against this backdrop of profound need that One Laptop per Child (OLPC) emerged in 2005. The mission of the organization is to “empower the children of developing countries to learn.” They created the first affordable netbook specifically built to withstand harsh climates and the handling of young children—the bright green and white XO. At the 2005 World Economic Forum, Nicholas Negroponte, the MIT researcher who co-founded the Media Lab and OLPC, introduced the XO laptop to the world and described a new approach to changing education in developing countries. First, children must have access to information (through low-cost data communications) and the tools to educate themselves (affordable computers and learning software).  Secondly, the fundamental approach to education must shift from passive knowledge acquisition to active construction of knowledge (learning how to learn).  Thirdly, OLPC planned to build an organization with the capability to deliver these computers and support these shifts globally. It was an audacious vision of how to bring about a massive educational change.

 

Learning to Change the World is the story of One Laptop per Child—a story that will resonate with entrepreneurs and social innovators in any field. OLPC is an example of a non-profit organization with aspirations for systemic change on a global scale, yet wrestling with tough questions that will be familiar to any social entrepreneur: how to ensure market forces support the scale up of a social program; how to balance the need to repeat past successes but still leave room for innovation; how to leverage a network to expand impact beyond your original capabilities; and how to help people without creating dependence.

 

The authors set out to tell the real story of their journey—both successes and failures. For both ardent supporters and critics alike, this book presents both an invitation and a challenge: to set aside preconceived notions about OLPC and read the inside story of the origins and evolution of the organization.

REVIEWS

Praise for Learning to Change the World

"Both the greatest opportunity for social entrepreneurs and the greatest obstacles to be overcome lie in the field of education. Learning to Change the World describes the challenges OLPC faced in working in countries where the educational system is most ineffective and entrenched. If our goal is to change the rules to ensure that the poor have a place in this world, the surest way to do so is by giving them the tools they need to help pave their own way. OLPC has been a pioneer in this attempt, and this book is a must read for those who would follow." - Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank

"This book is a must read for entrepreneurs who want to learn the complexities of bringing technology to poor children to improve their lives in real and sustainable ways. Bender, Kane and their colleagues tell the brilliantly crafted story of the innovations they realized and the setbacks they faced in creating, manufacturing and distributing the 'little green laptop' and developing its Sugar learning software. This book will inspire readers by illustrating how OLPC has successfully transformed the lives of young learners throughout the world." - Evangeline Harris Stefanakis, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Development, Boston University

"Learning to Change the World is a fascinating story of technology, social impact and entrepreneurship. The breathtaking ambition of the project is almost overwhelming. But it is in the details of the implementation and the lessons learned where great wisdom lies for the reader. The interaction between the bold vision and the operational reality of realizing impact was the best educational take away of all, and clearly highlights the daunting challenge of carrying on the revolution in education." - Bill Aulet, Managing Director, Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship, MIT

"Learning to Change the World honestly chronicles the remarkable story of One Laptop per Child. It shares in equal measure the triumphs and challenges along the OLPC journey and provides invaluable lessons learned for what it truly takes to impact the world. This is an important and must read book for social entrepreneurs, leaders in the public and private sectors and most of all citizens who want to use their energy and talent to make a difference in the lives of others. Read it, become inspired and pass the message along." - Alan Khazei, Co-Founder City Year, Founder Be The Change, Inc.

"The challenges associated with trying to scale the impact of a social entrepreneurial venture have never been described so clearly and compellingly. The One Laptop per Child team had audacious ambitions and have made significant progress toward their goals by building the capabilities needed for collaboration (with governments, high tech manufacturers, and financial institutions), cost reduction, and stimulating market forces. There are numerous lessons here for others eager to change the world." - Paul Bloom, Faculty Director at the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

"Learning to Change the World documents a project at the intersection of educational reform, learning theory, technology and business innovation, and personal creativity. As such, this book might be as important for technology managers, heads of non-profit organizations, students in MBA programs, and government policy-makers as it is for teachers, instructional designers, or educational psychologists. Whatever your discipline, you will likely resonate with more than a few anecdotes and ideas in this book." - Dr. Curtis J. Bonk, Educational Technology magazine

"Both the greatest opportunity for social entrepreneurs and the greatest obstacles to be overcome lie in the field of education. Learning to Change the World describes the challenges OLPC faced in working in countries where the educational system is most ineffective and entrenched. If our goal is to change the rules to ensure that the poor have a place in this world, the surest way to do so is by giving them the tools they need to help pave their own way. OLPC has been a pioneer in this attempt, and this book is a must read for those who would follow." - Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank

"This book is a must read for entrepreneurs who want to learn the complexities of bringing technology to poor children to improve their lives in real and sustainable ways. Bender, Kane and their colleagues tell the brilliantly crafted story of the innovations they realized and the setbacks they faced in creating, manufacturing and distributing the 'little green laptop' and developing its Sugar learning software. This book will inspire readers by illustrating how OLPC has successfully transformed the lives of young learners throughout the world." - Evangeline Harris Stefanakis, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Development, Boston University

"Learning to Change the World is a fascinating story of technology, social impact and entrepreneurship. The breathtaking ambition of the project is almost overwhelming. But it is in the details of the implementation and the lessons learned where great wisdom lies for the reader. The interaction between the bold vision and the operational reality of realizing impact was the best educational take away of all, and clearly highlights the daunting challenge of carrying on the revolution in education." - Bill Aulet, Managing Director, Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship, MIT

"Learning to Change the World honestly chronicles the remarkable story of One Laptop per Child. It shares in equal measure the triumphs and challenges along the OLPC journey and provides invaluable lessons learned for what it truly takes to impact the world. This is an important and must read book for social entrepreneurs, leaders in the public and private sectors and most of all citizens who want to use their energy and talent to make a difference in the lives of others. Read it, become inspired and pass the message along." - Alan Khazei, Co-Founder City Year, Founder Be The Change, Inc.

"The challenges associated with trying to scale the impact of a social entrepreneurial venture have never been described so clearly and compellingly. The One Laptop per Child team had audacious ambitions and have made significant progress toward their goals by building the capabilities needed for collaboration (with governments, high tech manufacturers, and financial institutions), cost reduction, and stimulating market forces. There are numerous lessons here for others eager to change the world." - Paul Bloom, Faculty Director at the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

"Learning to Change the World documents a project at the intersection of educational reform, learning theory, technology and business innovation, and personal creativity. As such, this book might be as important for technology managers, heads of non-profit organizations, students in MBA programs, and government policy-makers as it is for teachers, instructional designers, or educational psychologists. Whatever your discipline, you will likely resonate with more than a few anecdotes and ideas in this book." - Dr. Curtis J. Bonk, Educational Technology magazine

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Walter Bender, Charles Kane, Jody Cornish, Neal Donahue

  • Walter Bender is the co-founder of One Laptop per Child as well as founder and executive director of Sugar Labs, a non-profit project that creates and distributes software learning products for children. In his tenure at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he founded the News in the Future Consortium and was the director of the MIT Media Laboratory.

    Charles Kane is on the board of directors of the One Laptop per Child Association, where he previously served as chief financial officer in 2007 and president from 2008–2010. He is a senior lecturer in International Finance and Social Entrepreneurship at the MIT-Sloan Graduate School of Management and serves on the boards of numerous publicly traded technology companies.

    Jody Cornish is a social change consultant and strategist with expertise in cross-sector collaboration to drive social change. She is a partner at New Profit, Inc., a venture philanthropy firm focused on supporting social innovation. Previously, she co-founded Lodestar International, a social and economic development consulting firm focused on emerging markets.

    Neal Donahue is an expert in private-sector led international development. He is Director of projects for Egypt, North Africa and Yemen at Chemonics International, an international development organization. Along with Cornish, he co-founded Lodestar International.

  • Walter Bender
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Available Formats and Book Details

Learning to Change the World

The Social Impact of One Laptop Per Child

Walter Bender, Charles Kane, Jody Cornish, Neal Donahue

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