Long before the outbreak of COVID-19, a sense of urgency was often needed to accelerate change and improvement in education. The coronavirus disease showed us the need to prepare students to manage their uncertainty, their emotions and build resilience to adapt to new challenges, to be flexible, creative, curious, and eager to adapt and learn again every day. The pandemic did not create urgency; rather, it emerged when new actors and innovators started modifying educational approaches to better prepare students for the 21st century. Now, this improvement is a regional, universal, and collective commitment.
We live in the 21st-century economy, but our schools are still based on twentieth-century methodologies and expectations. Rethinking education needs to take a radical turn in a world of rapid transformation. It is not enough to recognize the need, and it is critical to find solutions to tackle educational challenges and build systems that are inclusive, equitable and relevant to all learners. We need to set new ways of developing a set of skills that help students grow, and with that, we need to set new quality standards in education and encourage inspirational models for our children and youth to follow.
There is much to be done to improve our educational systems, and it is a shared responsibility that involves governments, businesses, academia, citizens, and an entire ecosystem. We recognized that many actors have a special role to play in our educational economy and knew that we were not able to do it alone. Since 2019, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has led a regional initiative on 21st Century Skills and joined forces with 40 public and private sector actors to support a new generation of education and training policies and programs that can provide quality and inclusive education. Why? Because there is an urgent need to boost and accelerate the development of relevant skills, those soft skills that can impact people’s personal and professional lives. Skills such as resilience, critical thinking, problem solving, adaptability, creativity, empathy, digital skills, among many others. We called them 21st Century Skills – not because they are new, but because of the importance they have today given the rapid progress and the profound changes we are experiencing.
“It takes a village to raise a child”, says the African proverb. When this ethos of collaboration and care is applied to the learning process, we believe it takes an entire ecosystem to educate a child. That is why the IDB partnered with HundrED to identify effective models for cultivating 21st-century skills in children and youth by looking for innovations from Latin America and the Caribbean. HundrED is a global non-profit based in Finland that identifies impactful and scalable education innovations and helps them spread, and it is also part of the IDB’s Coalition for 21st Century Skills. Its mission is to improve education through impactful innovations in order to help every child flourish in life, no matter what happens.
Since 2016, HundrED has selected over 350 highly impactful and scalable education innovations to Global Collections and Spotlights. The Global Collection is the world-renowned “HundrED” which features 100 leading innovations that are highly impactful and scalable. HundrED Spotlights are customized projects that discover and select innovations within a specific region and/or theme in education in more than 100 countries.
HundrED Collections have attracted almost 2,000 innovators to share their work on hundred.org and apply to be selected and featured. While innovators have submitted their work from over 150 countries, generally, more are from regions with higher English proficiency and better internet connectivity. As a result, HundrED has a much better understanding of the breadth of amazing education innovations in some regions than in others. Latin America and the Caribbean was one of the regions where HundrED had been deeply interested in but unable to get significant submissions out of.
Since 2019, the IDB, together with HundrED, began exploring how to accelerate the pace of improvement in education in Latin America and the Caribbean – a diverse and culturally rich region that accounts for over 200 million of the world’s school-age children, or over 30% of the total population regionally. That presents an incredible opportunity, but at the same time, it also a significant mandate to provide quality education for all children with skills relevant for their future lives and careers. HundrED had already worked with regional foundations like the Grable Foundation, Governments like Helsinki Education Division, and global funders like the LEGO Foundation.
Over the last year, the IDB and HundrED together conducted a Spotlight to identify effective models for cultivating 21st-century skills in students by looking for innovations within and outside of formal education through digital, music, sports, citizenship, and entrepreneurship programs from Latin America and the Caribbean. This Spotlight aims to discover the leading innovations developing transversal skills; understand how schools and organizations can implement these innovations; gain insight into any required social or economic conditions for these innovations to be effectively introduced into a learning context, and celebrate and broadcast these innovations to help them spread to new countries.
The Spotlight was launched on July 15, 2020, within the framework of the United Nations World Youth Skills Day, which last year focuses on the theme “Skills for a resilient youth in the era of COVID-19 and beyond”. It was published in English, Spanish, and Portuguese with a lot of excitement from around the region and high hopes for the number of innovators that would submit their work. HundrED works closely with its global community to help spread the word and drive submissions. In particular, a group of HundrED Country Leads, 4 of which live in Latin American countries, produced and hosted webinars in Brazil, Chile, Mexico & Venezuela, and Colombia that was key to drive local interest in the Spotlight.
These types of webinars were new at HundrED and became crucial to a successful submission period. All of this amazing work resulted in submissions that exceeded our greatest expectations. More than 380 from 16 countries innovators responded to the 21st Century Spotlight call for proposals, making it the most successful HundrED call for proposals to date. These innovators teach different areas of 21st Century Skills education, ranging from Problem Solving to Global Citizenship to Collaboration. The IDB and HundrED are humbled by the interest and greatly encouraged by the footprint and recognition we now have in the region.
After the submission period closed in November, the HundrED selection process began. HundrED’s research team carefully reviewed each application based on its impact and scalability scoring rubric to create a shortlist which was sent to a specialized advisory board. The advisory board also broke a record for HundrED, with 68 bilingual experts from 28 countries submitting nearly 1,400 reviews of the shortlisted innovations. To inform the final decisions, the selection committee read every single review, including their numerical scores for impact and scalability, to arrive at the final 15 selected innovators that will be revealed at the virtual announcement event on June 23, 2021.
These 15 amazing innovators are from 7 countries across Latin America & the Caribbean and operate in 37 countries on all continents; 5 deliver innovative curriculums, 5 have extra-curricular or intervention programs, and the other 5 range from whole school models to teacher development. 13 are not-for-profit while 2 are for-profit programs. They have been operating for as little as 1 year and as many as 24, with 5 under 5 years since their founding; another 5 with 5 to ten years of experience; and the remaining 5 have been working for over 10 years. It is wonderful to recognize innovations that have years of impact and those that are just getting started and integrating them to the HundrED community.
While these changemakers have already made a huge impact locally and grown impressively outside their context, we hope to accelerate their growth rate by supporting them as HundrED innovators.
The support for the selected innovators focuses on 3 core areas: credibility, visibility, and connections. The credibility of being selected by such a rigorous global review process is perceived as highly valuable to our innovators, with most of them featuring their selection badge on their website and mentioning it in the news or press releases. Through the Spotlight announcement, report, and videos released at a final event, the IDB and HundrED provide instant and ongoing visibility through promotion efforts tailored to both our global community and education stakeholders. Finally, we will make valuable connections for our innovators to leverage partnership opportunities, education funders, or education stakeholders.
HundrED Spotlights goal is to collaborate with partners to help innovators spread within their region and globally. We are at a historical juncture in Latin America and the Caribbean that requires deep reflection on our options and our possibilities. We were amazed by the overwhelming response to build a responsive, evolving system that keeps pace with today’s changing world and equips young people with the new skills, knowledge, values, and competencies they need to succeed.
The IDB and HundrED will work to promote these innovators within Latin America & The Caribbean and provide them with connections that allow them to spread to more countries and impact more children by giving them the 21st Century Skills crucial to thriving in life today and for the rest of their lives.
About Danny Gilliland
Danny Gilliland is the Head of Growth at HundrED, managing partnerships and leading strategic growth initiatives. He has launched and produced Spotlights ranging from creativity with the LEGO Foundation to Teachers Professional Development with the World Bank. HundrED Connect, its Country Lead program, and Funders Collection were all developed with his leadership. Danny has a passion for improving education in order to provide more equitable opportunities for all children, no matter their background. He sees education as the only global social good with the means to reduce inequality, and as the highest return on investment in any society. Prior to HundrED, Danny founded a predictive hiring company that reduced bias to provide more equal opportunity in the recruiting process. He has also worked in sales strategy and operations at high-growth tech companies such as Square and Salesforce as well as several startups. Danny has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University.
About Liliana Serrano Pájaro
Liliana Serrano Pájaro is a communication specialist consultant for the 21st Century Skills Initiative at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). She supports the implementation of education projects in Colombia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Liliana is passionate about providing opportunities for youth to create positive social change via sustainable development and committed to shape impactful partnerships that contribute to increasing the socio-economic development of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Her experience includes partnerships, strategic communications, and project management solutions across varying development programs. She also has experience supporting regional innovation initiatives that promote the use of ICTs in education and human development with governments, universities, and higher education institutions. Liliana is a Social Communicator and Journalist from Universidad de La Sabana in Colombia and holds a certification in Social Impact Partnership Design from Georgetown University.
The Future is Now: Transversal Skills in Latin America and the Caribbean in the 21st century
The 21st century is not in the future: it is happening now. Accelerated changes in technology, migration, demographics, and climate are reshaping the social, economic, and political order. This new configuration creates new demands for education. How individuals are trained in this dynamic environment will determine whether these changes become opportunities, which can be effectively capitalized on, to positively transform countries and the region. This report presents some answers and many questions that -although still unresolved- are essential to help people involved in human development to articulate the agenda for the coming years. These aspects are relevant to public policy design, solution providers in the private sector, and civil society organizations.