617 million children worldwide are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics, and nearly all of these children are in low-income countries. In response to this, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) committed resources to design a knowledge and innovation fund to support the development, testing and application of new solutions for national education systems and policy makers. The fund represents a radical shift in how to find, fund and scale innovations to education systems in emerging markets. Our team was hired in partnership with Second Muse to design the fund, KIX (Knowledge and Innovation Exchange), as well as to vet and select a strategic implementation partner and grant agent.
GPE is an innovator through its approach to deliver funding to national learning systems and policy. However, figuring out how to encourage, develop, share and scale innovations within and between regions presented a new challenge that GPE felt would benefit from fresh thinking.
A shift in thinking
Work completed by the Brookings Institute prior to our engagement with GPE identified over 3,000 current activities that could be defined as "innovations in education, but found that very few of these were leading to significant and sustained change. Working closely with the GPE team we designed an approach to help them move away from traditional grant-based funding, to a risk-sharing structure spread across different types of innovation funding. Our hypothesis was that traditional grant financing does not produce the expected results because of the lack of diverse ideas and applicants applying for funding and that introducing risk-sharing would allow for ideas that might ordinarily not get funded to benefit from the fund. While grants were still a part of the new structure we proposed, they were complemented by innovation challenges, accelerators and a Learning Exchange.
Building networks, not silos
Knowledge sharing is a core component to the success of KIX. Learning and knowledge needed not only to be captured and carefully archived, but shared within and between countries and regions to ensure future efforts to innovate are informed by past experiences. We designed an approach defining, capturing and sharing key information, known as global public goods (GPGs).
Digital knowledge sharing
GPGs are resources, learnings and/or evidence that is deemed important enough to be captured, shared and applied across regions and generations. To facilitate this process, we designed a digital Learning Exchange to allow for the organization and sharing of GPGs online, as well as a place to capture ongoing knowledge and learnings as policy makers and experts used the GPGs in their own work. We also proposed ways the platform could and should interact with other GPE activities.
Sharing the vision
Together with our primary client, the GPE Secretariat, we presented the KIX blueprint at two two Strategy and Impact Committee (a subgroup of the GPE Board) Meetings, to answer key strategic questions around implementation, risks, and opportunities, and approve the creation and funding of KIX.
Clear communication and vision
Policy and in particular education policy is complex. We learned that education policy makers in low-income countries were not always education experts, so we had to design KIX to be easy to understand and more importantly, actionable. We demystified the process by creating workflows and explained concepts in short, concise terms to be consumed by policy makers and innovators alike.
Our blueprint was formally approved by the GPE Strategy and Impact Committee in October 2018, and IDRC took over the task of finalizing and implementing the blueprint thereafter. In April 2019, the final KIX implementation strategy was adopted, and the first round of funding closed January 2020.