Monthly Spotlight: Interview with Louise Brown, Founder of 1UP Collective

What is the 1UP Collective and what do you do?

We are a social enterprise, bridging gaps between young people, business and local communities. We close the attainment gap for disadvantaged young people using a design process that is bespoke for the different needs of schools and educational services and organisations we work for.

Where do you see the relevance of innovation in schools and education?

While I think innovation is a great word, when you bring it up with teachers it really boils down to a conversation about the practical implications. What does innovation mean for them? It’s basically extra work, a big price tag and no guarantee it’ll work because you’re running a pilot project.

All teachers like to be innovative, creative and to do things differently. But if it’s loads of extra work on top of what they’re doing then it can only work in an ideal world. In theory, a lot of people get excited about innovation in education but for many teachers, they’re often too busy to innovate.

We recognise that teachers are busy people, but they don’t have to do absolutely everything themselves. There are many organisations around them that could be the ones experimenting with innovation instead, demonstrating the value it can add by linking it to a school’s overall outcomes and performance.

Schools might be more inclined to innovate if they can be shown how to do something differently that gives them better outcomes on the same amount of resources they have or less.

Should all schools be actively looking for and supporting innovation in education?

All schools are different and they all have their own working culture. That’s why our process is bespoke because innovators need to understand and accommodate different school cultures. Innovation can’t be about a one size fits approach to education.

There is also a lot of uncertainty in UK schools at the moment. Funding is a huge issue, as well as not be able to predict what parts of the system will change next. Sometimes, the barriers involved in investing in innovation don’t always have to do with a lack of funds. There is a general reluctance to spend when schools don’t know what’s coming next politically.

I would say, however, that schools shouldn’t let current funding concerns stop them from commissioning. That could – and should – be what pushes them to do so, because innovations can address issues schools don’t have the resource or skillset more. In the current climate, more than ever, there’s a need to get the best outcome for your resource. Innovation can help do that.

But schools do also need to hold innovators to account and look for evidence and impact, so they know that the money they’re spending is contributing to long term goals.