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31.12.2019 | Pukhraj Ranjan & Katija Aladin |

Reflecting On 2019 With Saku Tuominen and Lasse Leponiemi

To reflect on the year gone by, we interviewed Saku Tuominen, Founder & Creative Director, and Lasse Leponiemi, Co-Founder & Executive Director at HundrED on how they see 2019 went and what they hope to achieve in 2020. Here is what they had to say!

To reflect on the year gone by, we interviewed Saku Tuominen, Founder & Creative Director, and Lasse Leponiemi, Co-Founder & Executive Director at HundrED on how they see 2019 went and what they hope to achieve in 2020. This is what they had to say!


How has the HundrED journey been so far? Was it planned or unexpected?

Saku: As it so often happens in life, many things that have happened so far were planned and at the same time a lot has been totally unexpected. Our goal 5 years ago was to be the world´s leading expert in education innovations by 2020 and I am really happy with where we are at the moment. However, at the same time, it is so easy to see, that we are only beginning. There is so much to do, which actually feels really inspiring and exciting. New decade, here we come!

Lasse: No journey can be completely planned, and that’s the best part of it. HundrED started as a celebration project for Finnish education innovators. Our aim was to highlight the great work they were doing. While doing it, we got a growing number of requests to do exactly the same for global education innovators. That’s how HundrED Global Collection was born. The last 5 years have been a lot of learning, several iterations, and implementations with our HundrED Community. The feeling of being on a common journey is the best part of the work we do, without continuous co-creating and co-working we could not be on the level where we are now.  


What are you most proud of about HundrED?

Saku: The thing that makes me happy and proud is our community which is full of wonderful people and feels truly global. When I say community I mean our own superb team, all our innovators coming from all continents, Ambassadors and Youth Ambassadors, Academy members, Funders and all our partners. Even though we are actively present in over 100 countries, at the same time it feels like a family being driven by the same values. I have a feeling that I can connect with all of them, get a positive response and the help I need. 

Lasse: And the best thing is that our community is becoming bigger and starting to accelerate change. I’m very proud of all the community members who have been building momentum together with us. It was an emotional moment for me when we hosted a Spotlight celebration event at Taipei in December and connected selected innovators to their counterparts from Pittsburgh - seeing that connection forming up is something truly amazing, and I hope something great will happen when passionate people are connected together. 


What are you grateful for in 2019?

Saku: I am grateful for every day, big and small successes and even for the inevitable challenges. It has been the best year in HundrED´s history and none of that would have happened without our partners - both at the global level and with all the Spotlights. I cannot thank you enough. 

Lasse: For me, HundrED is a platform that allows educational change to happen and supports individuals and organisations to spread educational innovations. This work would not be possible without our community, partners, and supporters who believe in our mission. It’s important that together we remember to be grateful and celebrate all big and small successes. 


Who are you inspired by in education?

Saku: The thing that inspires me the most is always at the grassroots level. Teachers and education professionals who work with the next generation each and every day in schools and classrooms all over the world. The world is full of people who do beautiful things and have been doing so for years, even for decades. Our mission is to give them the visibility they deserve, to put them in the spotlight. 

Lasse: Students inspire me the most. It’s wonderful to see how they can be involved to take ownership of their own learning and be actively engaged in decision making. Therefore I want to thank everyone involved in our HundrED Youth Ambassador program in 2019 and also all student-led education innovations. Every stakeholder needs to be included so that we can improve education together. 


What are you most excited about in education currently? 

Saku: I am really excited about all the positive things happening all over the world. Quite often people say that we need to change education. Well, change is already happening. There are beautiful things happening in every country in the world.  Instead of concentrating only on the negative, let's celebrate the positive. 

Lasse: Educational discussion has changed during the last 5 years quite a lot. I’m excited about the current direction where it is heading. We are not that much anymore hearing about implementing tech or digitizing education, but we have a growing amount of good quality discussion about future skills and how these skills should be implemented as a part of the learning process. The learning is always context-related, and we need to understand these important local nuances. Through HundrED we want to showcase these positive success stories about how educational practices and education systems can be improved through pedagogically sound innovations. 


What are the rising themes and trends in education for the upcoming decade?

Saku: We all know the obvious ones like mass personalization, 21st-century skills and clever use of AI but I would like to raise two crucial things. One thing to keep in mind is excellence and equity. Easy to say but crucial to remember when developing education - quality education should be for all.  And just as important will hopefully be holistic wellbeing. Results are meaningless if they happen at the expense of wellbeing. 

Lasse: Students entering the education system today will graduate in 2030. We are currently facing massive ecological and societal changes that will occur because of economic and climate change - which will just speed up within the coming years based on the latest surveys. 

In addition to providing good quality education to all, we need to iterate the idea of learning. Education systems need to become more flexible and adjustable to the rapidly changing world. This might mean micro-credentialing, hybrid learning environments combining AR/VR solutions and emphasis on active learning happening on demand. Simultaneously we need to make sure that face-to-face learning is not becoming a privilege only for students living in the Global North and urban areas. Human connection is an important part of learning -  it should not be forgotten although virtual learning environments will be crucial to solve the teacher demand in the Global South and rural areas. 


Which countries or cities would you like to throw a Spotlight on in the upcoming decade?

Saku:  Like mentioned earlier, I haven´t yet found a place that is not full of great examples of impactful change. But at the moment I am especially excited about the global south. For example, India and Africa are full of education innovations that have the potential to make a global change. They have the feel of urgency that is needed in all development. 

Lasse: As Saku mentioned, it would be great to put more emphasis on finding these frugal innovations which can also solve many issues in other contexts. In addition to this, I’m excited to break language barriers and connect innovators together. There are more things in common than what separates us. Therefore, I would like to get to know more innovations happening among Chinese and Spanish speaking education communities. 


What are you looking forward to in 2020?

Saku: To be honest, everything. I am really excited about all the things we have in the pipeline. For example, the Spotlight on Creativity with Lego Foundation and all the regional ones like Qatar. And a big thing for us will be HundrED Connect. It is still early days but I am really excited about making it work, creating valuable connections in every part of the world. 

Lasse: One of the biggest obstacles to improving education is the funding gap. We have planned several improvements for HundrED selected innovators and funders to be able to connect with each other in 2020. I’m eagerly waiting that we can implement and start testing each and every one of those. If we are able to make half of our selected innovations to grow at least 10% next year, as a result, millions of kids will get access to improved learning solutions and practices. 


If you can accomplish one thing in the next year, what would it be?

Our goal is “to help more than half of our innovations to grow at least 10% annually.” If we can accomplish that, we are really, really happy.  - Saku Tuominen & Lasse Leponiem, HundrED


We are thankful to our global main partner Supercell and our regional Spotlight partners namely, the Sayling Wen Cultural & Educational FoundationSwedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, LEGO FoundationTechnology Industries of FinlandThe Grable Foundation, City of Helsinki, Qatar FoundationWe Are Play Lab Foundation & the Swiss Coalition, and the OP Group; for their support and encouragement. We look forward to doing more for the education innovation community in 2020!