Charles Leadbeater on Three Key Policy Reforms for Mass-based Innovation

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From a column in the Financial Times, proposals by Charles Leadbeater for the UK, but which should be applied in any country:


The full article is at

"First, we need an education system that gives everyone the chance to be a creator. An inflexible, top-down, standardised curriculum may be a good answer to the industrial economy’s demand for punctual, literate, diligent workers capable of following the rules. An innovation economy is no less committed to the challenges of basic skills and literacy but also requires an education system that is curiosity-led, creates self-motivation and promotes collaborative problem-solving.

Current British debates about education are all about means: standards and testing, trusts and academies, the role of local education authorities and inspection. We need to open up a debate about what education is for in a world in which tens of millions of Chinese and Indians gain a sound education in the basics. Schools are often factories for learning in an age when we need agility, collaboration and self-motivation. Imagine an education system for the generation growing up making music with Garage Band, posting videos on YouTube, drawing information from Wikipedia and creating their own characters in Second Life.

Second, we must mobilise consumer innovators. Sectors such as mountain biking were first opened up by avid consumer innovators. Consumers not technologists discovered the potential for SMS messaging. Too often consumers are left out of innovation policy, which focuses on boffins creating technology that is then pumped down a pipeline. We need markets regulated and shaped to promote innovation that is driven and created by consumers.

Third, we need a wave of citizen innovation because many of the challenges we face are social. We must banish the nonsense that innovation comes only from youth. If we want more for our old age than to be warehoused in a residential home then we need a new wave of social innovations – playgrounds for the elderly and home-based services, supported by technology for monitoring health and staying connected. Ageing should be at the cutting edge of innovation as much as social networking and pop music. Social entrepreneurs around the world, in the mould of Mohammed Yunnus of the Grameen Bank, are mobilising citizen innovators. We need more of that spirit of mass social innovation in Britain." (