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Elyse Burden
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EdCorps
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It's time to dissolve the walls of the classroom and unleash students as economic drivers of their community.

Real World Scholars

United States
We think something special happens when educators integrate entrepreneurship in their classrooms for students to develop relevant skills and apply them to the communities that they live in. So, we built EdCorps, an e-commerce platform that allows any class to run a student-run business under our nonprofit umbrella and embrace the learning that comes from real-world work.
Introduction

EdCorps by Real World Scholars: Using Business as a Force for Learning

Elyse Burden, Co-Founder
“We built a platform to support classroom access to the world of commerce through an authentic, relevant educational experience.”

Elyse Burden, Co-Founder

The EdCorps Platform

In an educational landscape that aims to prepare students for meaningful experiences one day, we propose a different strategy, one where they have the opportunity to do important work today. Our platform allows any classroom (kindergarten through high school) to explore the entrepreneurial process through a student-run business. We take care of the scary stuff – banking, taxes, and startup funds – so students can engage in work that matters. We do this by providing seed funding for business expenses, an e-commerce dashboard to build an online store, resources to guide their business development, support through a dedicated account manager, community connections, and events. 

The experience of running an Education Corporation, EdCorp for short, combines two critical learning experiences: (1) the opportunity to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset and employability skills, and (2) the chance to develop and practice the technical skills needed to run a business. We believe that learning is best when it’s relevant and experiential, and this experience of running a business is a way for students to build their employability skills for career readiness. 

EdCorps within the Classroom

Through the course of building the EdCorp, students can complete a series of toolkits designed to activate their learning for each area of the business. The toolkits involve resources and activities that encourage independent thinking, small group discussion, and whole team involvement. Students do everything from project management and collaborative problem solving to customer service and social media marketing. While building an EdCorp looks different in every classroom, students regularly engage in ideation and iterative design, project management and leadership, and professional communication and networking. Each of these necessary components of running a business serves as powerful learning opportunities for students, allowing them to engage in strategic risk-taking, initiative, critical thinking, collaboration, and decision-making.

Because students are tasked with making the business work, they often break into teams or departments to handle the various needs of the business. This allows the conversation of skills and strengths to not only occur but to prove that passion and talent mean something. For example, the students interested in art and design may be in the marketing department, using tools like Canva and Photoshop to create promotional materials. This process gives students the opportunity to develop professional communication skills, conversational confidence, and customer service skills with people who can help them improve individually and grow their business. At its most basic, running the business gives students the opportunities to purposefully connect their work to people beyond the classroom, be they customers, partners, or mentors. 

EdCorps Outside of the Classroom

The EdCorps experience as a learning opportunity is different than others because it allows students to create purposeful collaborations with people outside of the classroom that can help them grow as individuals and professionals. Students learn the ropes from each other, community mentors, and professionals who can help them gain a tactical and actionable understanding of the tasks at hand. This could mean students spending time on the phone with suppliers, troubleshooting or finding ways to overcome their production snags. Other times, it means recruiting a board of advisors consisting of parents, community members, local businesses, to guide the business building process. Not only are students developing the technical skills that they need for the task at hand but also they’re cultivating the resourcefulness and growth mindset they need to get the job -- and future jobs -- done. 

EdCorps Impact

What began in 2015 with ten classrooms, grew to more than 250 classrooms with over 10,000 students nationwide in 34 states. The rapid rate of adoption made it clear that K-12 teachers saw the experience as one that would be highly beneficial for their students to gain the skills they needed. In 2018, 96% of teachers reported that their students gained more confidence over the course of the year, while 95% of teachers reported an overall improvement in students’ communication skills. 68% of students reported having some meaningful connection with a community mentor as part of building their EdCorp. These skills have been reinforced by teamwork, professional relationships, and an emphasis on storytelling about their successful collaborations. 

To be clear, sales are not the primary goal of the learning experience, however, they do show a certain level of engagement and success. By September 2018, overall EdCorps revenue passed a quarter million dollars, with over $100K of that revenue coming from students’ in-person selling events. Additionally, more than 3,469 e-commerce orders have been fulfilled by student-run businesses since the fall of 2015. Each order represents a student-made product/service and the required organizational and logistical management to ensure that the product was shipped to a real customer. The fact that young students are managing the flow of real products to real people and at a reasonable scale speaks both to the viability and learning potential of the EdCorps experience. 

As much as the EdCorps experience positively impacts students, we often hear from educators about the effect on their teaching. Through the process of seeing students build a business, using their voices to speak up about business decisions, using their choices to decide the path of the business developing, the educators experience the passion and the can-do engagement of the students. Educators let go of the control and let students show what they are capable of, guiding from the side to provide wisdom in those teachable moments. 

Scaling Our Mission

Though we started Real World Scholars with an eye on student entrepreneurship, our work has offered a plethora of learnings about what is possible for student learning and for education innovation. While we would like every classroom to build an EdCorp, we know that isn’t possible. It takes the right combination of partnerships, rock star educators, empowered students, and a community of support to make an EdCorp grow, and we are on a mission to find those to increase our impact nationwide, while also working to build stronger community partnerships that will allow us to grow and add depth to our impact for students in the classrooms. 


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Innovation Overview
5 - 18
Age Group
-
Children/Users
1
Country
2015
Established
-
Organisation
286
Views
Tips for implementation
Supportive Administrators, Innovative Educators, Creative Ideas, Community Connections, Empowered Students, Access to Technology, Open Minds, Curious Learners, Time and Space to fit into the curriculum
Connect with innovator
Elyse Burden
R
EdCorps
A
Media

See this innovation in action

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Comment
The connections I have made are amazing and I owe much of my success in my classroom and my recent professional career to all of you! J.R. Pilyih, Center Elementary
C
Transforming Students Into Entrepreneurs [Video]
Matt's Story #ItTakesATeacher

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Steps

Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

01
Start It Up
Some classrooms begin with a product in mind, and some don’t know where to start! It’s a good idea for the students to get on the same page with the business mission and goals. From there, they can dig deeper into what they want to sell.
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02
Move on to Prototype and Production
Dive into prototyping your product ideas and collect feedback throughout the process. At this point, it can be helpful to define Team Roles and Departments that are necessary to make the business run smoothly.
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03
Tell the World You Exist
The good news is that student entrepreneurs have an awesome story to tell, so get it out there! Design your website and promote it on social media, write a press release, connect with your chamber of commerce, hand out business cards and/or post flyers all around school/town!
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04
Sell Outside the Box (or School)
We know that students will sell their product within their school community, to friends, parents, and family, but we believe that more learning comes from reaching beyond the school community to gain an authentic audience.
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05
Develop an Impact Strategy and Giving Campaign
Thinking like an entrepreneur means looking for problems to solve and opportunities to make a positive impact. With so many local and global challenges, it is more important than ever to think about how students can contribute.
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06
Partner With Us
If this sounds like something you’re interested in and don’t know where to start, then EdCorps may be right for you.
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