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15.9.2023 | Karin Metsäpelto

Navigating the 'Messy Middle' - HundrED's latest Position Paper

HundrED has published its second position paper "The Messy Middle: Implementing Education Innovations at Scale." The paper delves into innovation implementation, examining the challenges and triumphs when innovative solutions intersect with complex education systems.

Education innovation plays a pivotal role in shaping future generations, and it is crucial to understand the dynamics at play when innovations that have shown promise transition towards scale and institutional integration. 

"Our latest report explores the nuances of this complex process, with a particular focus on the often-overlooked phase referred to as the "messy middle" which signifies the period after an innovation has been developed and validated by its creator but has not yet become an integral part of standard educational practices," says Lasse Leponiemi, co-founder of HundrED.

The report outlines the motivations behind HundrED's study of implementation and provides essential definitions to create a solid foundation for readers. Building on frameworks used in the first position paper "Implement at Scale" the report offers insights into what occurs during the implementation phase.

To illustrate these concepts in action, HundrED presents real-world examples based on insights gained by innovators and implementers who are navigating the "messy middle.” These include:

  • Helsinki Education Division (HED): The experiences of introducing wellbeing innovations, Slam Out Loud and imoves, into the primary school curriculum in Finland. (Helsinki Education Division Spotlight Page)
  • Parents as Allies (PAA) Project: Scaling out innovative solutions for family engagement in Western Pennsylvania, USA. (Parental Engagement Spotlight Page).
  • Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) Africa: Implementing and scaling a holistic approach to improving foundational skills in sub-Saharan Africa. (Teaching at the Right Level Africa). 
  • Speed School and Second Chance: Two accelerated learning programs offering students the opportunity to complete multiple years of schooling in one year, with a specific examination of their impact in Ethiopia. (Speed School Innovation page)
  • Sapieduca: A gamified application that supports teachers and students in Brazil. (Sapieduca innovation page)

The report also emphasizes the diversity of contexts and actors involved in education innovation, from low to high-income countries and collaborations between governments, non-profits, and the private sector. It underscores the importance of sharing experiences and learnings across these diverse scenarios.

“The paper skillfully synthesizes diverse contexts, actors, and innovations, bringing to light a range of perspectives from around the globe. As a beacon of guidance, the paper charts a course through the challenges that arise during the implementation of innovations," writes Dr. Asmaa Al-Fadala, Director of Research & Content Development at WISE.

"While we acknowledge that the entire journey from innovation pilot to institutionalization is complex, it's often the 'messy middle' that proves most daunting," says Leponiemi. "Our report aims to shed light on this phase, offering simplified models that help implementers navigate these challenges. We believe that, despite the complexities, improving and transforming education systems is a journey worth embarking on."

The Messy Middle report will be presented at the UNGA 23 Knowledge Exchange organised by the Institute of International Education. HundrED hopes that this report will stimulate discussions, debates, and new collaborations among educators, policymakers, and innovators and invites all stakeholders to share their thoughts and comments by contacting implementation@hundred.org.

For more information, access the full report at http://www.hundred.org/messymiddle