Diversity as a Criteria
This month I had the opportunity to attend #SXSWEdu16 for the first time. It was an exciting experience that helped me reflect on our work at Camelback and the importance of diversifying leadership and innovation in education. When someone hears the words “education entrepreneur” the first images that come to mind may not be Mirta Desir, founder of SmartCoosor Kofi Kankam, co-founder of Admit.me, both of whom competed at this year’s SXSWEdu Launch venture competition. The visualization archetype of leadership and entrepreneurship in education must change, and that was highlighted by speakers and attendees at several SXSWEdu events.
The need for diversity in culture, perspective and innovation within the education sector was one major theme that resonated throughout #SXSWEdu. There were several events and sessions throughout the conference focused on diversity. Current education leaders must identify own their diversity and serve as mentors and coaches to sponsor the next group of diverse leaders. Jeff Livingston stated, “I decided early to the be a black executive and not an executive that happens to be black”, delineating the importance of owning one’s diversity and exercising the responsibilities that come with that to help others. As Michael Magee writes in Why is Education Leadership So White?, “Leaders must identify and mentor potential superintendents and commissioners (people of color)." The need is immediate, and the gaps are large.
Leaders such as Henry Hipps from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Frances Messano from NSVF and Shamis Abdi from Noodle, and more attended #SXSWEdu16 and were seen repeatedly supporting new and burgeoning leaders within education such as, Marcus Noel founder of Heart of Man and Sage Salvo co-founder of WordsLiive. Their example is the type of mentorship and leadership that is necessary to change the face of innovation. #SXSWEdu left me energized to continue the important work striving towards Camelback's mission.
In that vein, diversity must be a criterion for investment. At the LaunchEDU competition one thing that I found particularly important was the need for more diversity in teams selected to compete. As the composition of the students we seek to serve becomes more diverse so must our solutions and the leaders who create those solutions. There are a variety of partners doing this work, and are an integral component of pushing our industry to be its best self. We all remain humble and hungry to diversify education. Thank you to the #SXSWEdu team for providing platforms for this issue and all of the organizations working towards change.
Brtini Stinson, Camelback's Director of Strategy and Partnerships