NEST 2011 – Networking Ed Entrepreneurs for Social Transformation
I attended the NEST 2011 Conference at the University of Pennsylvania last week. Sponsored by Penn’s Graduate School of Education (GSE) (of which I am a graduate), the conference attempts to match education entrepreneurs with investors, educators, and a policy maker or two. The two day event included a business plan competition sponsored by Penn GSE and the Milken Family Foundation as well as the Startl Prize for Open Educational Resources in partnership with the Hewlett Foundation. The latter award is for the “best business plan that leverages openly licensed content to change the paradigm around the production, delivery, sharing, and experience of learning.”
Penn GSE’s Vice Dean, Douglas Lynch, has built a NEST community of approximately 130 people who are committed to encouraging and/or supporting ed entrepreneurs. Members of the community volunteer as judges for the business plan competition and enjoy meeting like-minded individuals at the conference. Day one of the conference revolved around presentations by teams from the finalists for the business plan competition. Alexandre Scialom won a prize for his startup company, theCourseBook. TheCourseBook.com is a website that lists courses for adult learners and rates them, similar to Yelp. While the beta prototype for the company is currently limited to a few cities in California, its goal is to widen its span nationally. The second day of the conference was more interactive with the members of NEST. After a short talk from Andy Porter, Dean of Penn GSE, members of the group participated in discussions about research and its importance to the education entrepreneurs/business community as well as other topics such as national regulations, for-profit and non-profit ventures, etc.
I congratulate Andy Porter, Doug Lynch and the rest of the team at Penn GSE for sponsoring the NEST conference and initiative. When a graduate school at one of America’s great research universities can arrange a connection with entrepreneurs, investors, educators, and policy makers, hopefully better communications and understanding at a national level will be a result.