Social innovation @ HP

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Dec 10 2012, 07:30am hrs
Gaps in education can be closed with the help of technology, feels the American tech major. Its $1 million fund aims to advance education delivery and reach in India

Recently, Hewlett-Packard announced the $1 million Education Innovation Fund for India (EIFI) grant winners. The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, was awarded the top grant of R10 million. IIMAs ready-to-scale project titled Educational Innovation Bank (EI Bank) is designed to improve the quality of education in the public school system and is based on the work of innovative school teachers.

Additionally, 15 winners of the R1.5 million major grants and two winners of the R1 million special grants were awarded for projects being implemented at the grassroots that are results-oriented with strong educational outcomes. Also, as many as 40 smaller grants ranging from R10,000 to R140,000 were given under EIFI Young Learners and EIFI Young Innovators categories.

EIFI, which was launched last year, is a collaborative project between the HP Sustainability & Social Innovation group and the India Council for Integral Education (ICIE), an initiative of the Sri Aurobindo Society. Jeannette Weisschuh, director education strategy, HP Sustainability & Social Innovation Group, says that the $1 million fund is designed to promote education projects that use innovative learning approaches in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), pedagogy, curriculum development and holistic learning to advance education delivery and reach in India.

Taking us through EIFIs brief journey, Weisschuh says, When we first announced the EIFI grants in March 2011 at the HP Global Catalyst Summit in New Delhi, we were looking to reward true innovators in education who recognise the potential of technology to improve teaching and learning outcomes. After receiving the top grant of R10 million, we are hopeful that the EI Bank project at IIMA will be further scaled up, and grants under EIFI Young Learners and EIFI Young Innovators categories will help out respective beneficiaries.

Vijaya Sherry Chand of the Ravi J Matthai Centre for Educational Innovation, IIMA, says, The EI Bank builds on the strengths of those teachers who experiment and innovate on their own in order to solve educational challenges in their environment. As these challenges often need to be solved in isolation, teachers are now enabled to collaborate and exchange ideas with their peers.

Neelam Dhawan, vice-president and general manager, Enterprise Group, and country managing director, HP India, adds that sustainable innovation is fundamental to HP. She says, We recognise the importance of delivering holistic education in an application-oriented manner. Technology offers a compelling opportunity and advantage and this fund will help deliver the vision of inclusive education to remote parts of India.

Now the question arises whether these grants only form the financial support or is there much more to them Weisschuh clarifies that HPs aim for education is to empower millions of teachers and students around the globe with the skills required to succeed in the 21st century. EIFI squarely fits within this broader strategic vision, she says, adding, the focus of the efforts of ICIE and HP is on working with EIFI partners towards the successful implementation of projects to innovative teaching and learning practices. This support not only includes financial support. During the November 27 awards celebration in New Delhi, HP team had the opportunity to meet with many of the educators and grant-winners to explore how HP employees could support the initiatives through coming in as volunteers.

Weisschuh also tells us that HP believes technology offers a compelling opportunity and advantage to scale and expand education-related projects being executed at the grassroots. The EIFI initiative encourages the use of technology to deliver education using innovative learning methods. We are dedicated to provide technical expertise to the grant winners in their vision, she says.

But is EIFI a part of HPs CSR activities Weisschuh clarifies that EIFI builds on the HP Catalyst Initiative and comes under HPs Sustainability and Social Innovation umbrella. We consider social innovation to be more important than CSR or philanthropy. It is grounded in a shared value approach where we believe that by tapping our various resourcesfrom highly talented people to our technology portfoliowe can address both societal issues in the areas of education, entrepreneurship and health as well as do good for our business. We are interested in showcasing how gaps in education can be closed with the help of technology, Weisschuh says, adding, we look forward to collaborating with a committed and creative group of educators who will help transform education in India.