Tell us a little about yourself
Having originally set out to become a music teacher in my country of birth of Ireland, the chance to participate in the Erasmus Programme in Munich, Germany provided me with international opportunities that have shaped my personal and professional life in ways I never expected. After a brief stint in teaching in my former secondary school, St. Mark’s Community School Tallaght, I moved my studies into International Management and followed my wife Marie to Lausanne, Switzerland where I worked for a number of international organizations including the World Economic Forum.
Over the past ten years of my professional career I’ve become increasingly preoccupied with the challenge of helping mission driven organizations develop and grow the resources required to deliver their ambitious plans and drive positive change.
Today you’ll still find me based in Lausanne, on holiday in Ireland or commuting between our HundrED offices in Helsinki and Geneva. Most of my free time is spent on the golf courses of Ireland, amidst the vineyards of my beloved soccer team FC Vignoble, Cully and increasingly in a sauna somewhere in Finland.
Why do you work for HundrED?
I work for HundrED because I believe that K-12 education has a resourcing challenge that I can play a small part in solving.
My time at the World Economic Forum has taught me that the challenges our society faces are increasingly interconnected and incredibly complex to solve. Across all areas of human progress, be they geopolitical, macroeconomic, societal, technological or environmental, I believe that education has the greatest potential to act as the enabling solution.
However, education, and foundational K-12 education in particular has become increasingly neglected in both high and low resource contexts. Government investment per student in real terms is falling, learning outcomes are declining, philanthropic capital flows have decreased post-covid, and where given are increasingly directed to third-level. As a sector, we have not succeeded in making a compelling business case beyond vocational or third level training in future skills that will inspire the private sector to make long term investments in today's children for tomorrow's workforce.
Why should we change our schools?
Through our work at HundrED I believe that we can make a significant difference to our societies future through transforming schools.
Our education systems today often remain rooted in a 19th century interpretation of the Prussian model, delivered in spaces that were built in the 20th century, and yet we speak about the needs for 21st century skills. In order to equip our societies with the required tools to realise the potential our future promises, radical change is required in our schools, change that can only first be catalyzed through a shift in mindsets from all stakeholders within the sector; from education leaders to policy makers, academics or practitioners, teachers, parents and even students.
Wholesale systems change is incredibly difficult. At HundrED we understand that the barriers to change in education are particularly steadfast, that the incentives for maintaining status quo, particularly for those in positions of power, are strong.
But we believe that there are examples of success that should be celebrated and used as a template to inspire others. The solutions to many of the problems faced by individual teachers in the classroom already exist. Our sector does not necessarily need new ideas, but rather committed support to implementing innovations that have been proven to work at scale.
Why is innovation in education crucial today?
The term Innovation can carry a loaded meaning depending on the context. For many within the education sector it is understandably perceived as a byword for doing less with more, a PR term used to spin resourcing cuts and to shift the burden of responsibility for education outcomes to those with the least franchise. But when seen as a driver of competitive advantage, where invested in, promoted and stimulated, innovation has always been the primary driver of human progress.
Could we imagine a “Silicon Valley” effect in education? An appetite for risk and trying new approaches, a thriving ecosystem of new ideas and solutions, stimulated and supported by the public sector, nourished to grow through private sector investment. A vibrant ecosystem of education innovations that deliver infinite possibilities of improved learning outcomes.
The exciting news is that the world is full of hard working educators who are already driving innovative, impactful, and scalable approaches that are changing education. Our mission at HundrED is to give them the recognition and visibility they deserve and I encourage you to join us on this adventure today!
Three HundrED innovations you love and why
1) Daydream Believers - Daydream Believers is a free, ready to use, online resource bank for educators that utilise creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving techniques applicable across the curriculum and beyond.
Placing creativity at the heart of education resonates greatly with me and I’m inspired by the energy of Helen and her team, their passion is contagious!
2) Generation Global - Generation Global is the Tony Blair Institute’s education programme for young people ages 13 to 17 that enables them to embrace the future, equipped with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to become active, global, and open-minded citizens. Since 2009, the programme has supported over 570,000 young people and trained over 15,000 teachers from more than 30 countries.
I’m excited by an approach that sees the potential of students as rounded future citizens and takes a holistic view to developing the skills required. I believe we must take care not to become too narrow in our focus, forming students that are equipped with the skills necessary to join the future workforce but more importantly can engage with society as fulfilled adults across all parts of their lives.
3) Composers enter the Classroom - The Composers enter the Classroom project is a joint collaboration between L’Auditori’s Servei Educatiu (Educational Service) and the UAB’s (Autonomous University of Barcelona) Institute of Educational Sciences that seeks to bring contemporary music to pupils in their primary-school classrooms by getting them to listen to works and create their own pieces, in the company of current composers.
Remaining entirely objective, as a former music teacher, there can never be too much music in the classroom.
Linkedin: David Connolly