I recently attended the NewSchools Summit, presented in partnership by the NewSchools Venture Fund and the Aspen Institute. NewSchools is a nonprofit venture philanthropy firm that raises capital from both individual and institutional investors, and then uses those funds to support education entrepreneurs who are transforming public education. The conference was the largest ever, with 800 policymakers, philanthropists, education reformers, scholars, journalists and others in attendance, including 300 first-time participants.
One of the most well-attended sessions was the keynote with John Doerr and Mark Zuckerberg (video). Curiosity in the crowd ran high — especially about whether Zuckerberg's on-stage persona would match up with how he was portrayed in The Social Network. As noted in the NewSchools blog about the event, he discussed "his first computer program (sixth grade), his feelings about his time in college ("awesome")...and his annual challenge for himself ("It turns out you cannot learn Chinese in one year")." He repeatedly emphasized the importance of relationships and building a strong team.
Another interesting session, Learning from Success and Failure, was focused on failure and risk. In it some "education entrepreneurs" talked about failures in their work and personal lives. The result was a very frank and personal discussion about opportunities lost, intuition ignored and work/life imbalances. Discussion at the individual tables continued long after the panel ended. Key lessons were the importance of acknowledging failure and quitting without waiting for 100 percent of the data to be in. (As a panelist suggested, "If you can see that 80 percent of what you'd hoped to accomplish isn't happening, don't wait another day to call it quits. Fire that person, stop that contract or end that program.") The first set of slides from this session unfortunately fail to capture the discussion but provides some interesting thoughts on failure. Read a summary of the session and view the slides.
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