It’s staggering to even think about.
According to UNESCO
, 1.5 billion learners in 195 countries across early childhood, K-12 and postsecondary have been impacted by COVID-19.
How can we support learners in this time? What will the world look like as students, families, communities, and learning institutions are forever changed? How do we support learners to become stronger citizens who can thrive in our interdependent world?
At Imaginable Futures, our mission is to unlock human potential through learning. While we were not planning for a global pandemic, for the past decade, including as part of Omidyar Network, we have been dedicated to finding and nurturing entrepreneurs at the edge of innovation—both those working inside of school environments as well as outside of them. Supporting these changemakers and fostering their best ideas has always been central to our mission because we know that good ideas can come from anywhere. As a hybrid impact investor and grant-maker that invests in and supports nonprofits and for-profit companies as well as ecosystem builders, we have focused on emerging innovations in learning that can have exponential impact on learning outcomes – particularly for those historically excluded. This is needed now more than ever before.
In this two-part series, Managing Partner, Amy Klement, shares how she is looking at the education landscape and how Imaginable Futures might best help learners around the world against the current crisis.
Answer: I am in awe of our amazing partners who immediately sprang into action. Here are just a few examples of key moves and themes we saw. And just think, some of these pivots were made in days:
New multimodal learning meeting massive family demand
Supplementing content to deliver more holistic experiences
New platforms leveraging existing tools
Meeting immediate needs for community, sharing and inspiration
Offering of free and/or expanded services
A: What isn’t keeping me up? Our current situation is extreme, devastating and still nascent. I am first to recognize we, as Imaginable Futures, exist in a position of privilege. My team is able to work from home, care for our families, and still earn a salary. Most around the world do not have this luxury. But what weighs heaviest on my mind is the trauma that so many children and families are facing and will continue to face. I think of it as the trauma trio: the economic crisis, the health crisis and the human connection crisis – all creating a humanitarian crisis that is impacting learners across the age spectrum. So, we need to think deeply not about how we keep going with "learning as we knew it" but rather imagine and design new ways. This is not about continuity. This is about new experiences, connections, and learning environments that will enable learners, families, and educators to thrive – including a focus on healing and resilience. Enabling people to adapt to a world where physical distancing and learning disruption may be an on-again, off-again occurrence for many years.
Additionally, I am thinking about how systemic inequities are exponentially widening, including in education. In the United States, we see the stark reality of this widening such as the digital divide, where homeschooling “works” if you have access to technology and Wi-Fi, which so many families don’t. But the digital divide is just one divide we need to consider. Parental and caregiver literacy and educational attainment is another. And, perhaps most important is the social emotional environment at home which can lead to abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence. Mental health issues, already on the rise among children and adults, will increase.
We need to think deeply not about how we keep going with ‘learning as we knew it’ but rather imagine and design new ways. This is not about continuity. This is about new experiences, connections, and learning environments that will enable learners, families, and educators to thrive – including a focus on healing and resilience.
A: We quickly made values-based adaptations to how we support our investees and related adjustments to our operations. This includes partnering deeply with our portfolio on new plans and strategies, including, of course, assessing capital needs – as fluid as the world may be. For our nonprofit investees, it includes flexibility on grant terms and renewals where appropriate.
Our primary focus continues to be supporting our portfolio – particularly those who are able to create significant impact during this time for our most excluded learners. Additionally, we are making a few select, strategically aligned, rapid-response investments. I look forward to soon sharing some of these exciting new investments made across Africa, Latin America and the United States.
Perhaps most importantly, we are re-grounding in our values. Now is the time for compassion, for listening, for learning, for seeking justice, and for changemaking. And, now is the time to ask ourselves: How do we help students, families and communities develop the literacies, competencies and mindsets needed to thrive in the “next normal”?