If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know I’ve been thinking about this product for thirty years. Somewhere about 25 years ago, a former student of mine (and really great man), Vichit Ith, approached me about helping a newly democratizing Cambodia become a successful country. He introduced me to another great guy, Chanthol Sun – currently Minister of Public Works and Transportation, and the three of us worked directly with the first democratically elected Prime Minister. We literally wrote laws (based on best practice in other countries) for the new government in our t-shirts, shorts and flip flops in the middle of the night, and those laws were often adopted by Parliament the very next morning. It was a heady time.
My love for the country has never abated and, finally, a decade after a bloody coup in which people I knew died, I returned to do some more work with ministers I respect in the government. What I learned in the last several years is that middlemen – usually in surrounding Asian countries – get the bulk of the profits from Cambodian goods partly because Cambodian manufacturers and, particularly, farmers are not very smart about international business. What if we could help them catch up in a quick and engaging way?
Well, that’s my goal with I-L-Xs.
Early on in developing this new way of thinking about education I worked with or approached companies and schools on this idea. There were a lot of “takers” … and I mean that literally …
I’ve never been so disheartened in my life.
I would give them my vision of making everyone in the world with an old smartphone much more profitable and better at doing business; and they – all of them! – countered with “let’s put it into high-priced executive education,” or “let’s sell textbooks with this included,” or “let’s put it only on our devices so we can push more hardware,” or “let’s sell advertising,” or “let’s track students’ decision-making patterns so we can make them buy more stuff,” or “let’s create in-app purchases.”
Now, I’ve taught business strategy my whole life, so I know this is what companies and shareholders are all about; I shouldn’t have expected anything different. But in this case, I had to reject every “offer” of acquisition or partnership. I just kept thinking: wouldn’t it be great if we could work together to make poor people a little less poor? Wouldn’t that be an obvious goal for any new system of education?
Well that’s our goal in building I-L-Xs anyway …
image: flickr/Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade