How do you lift up the middle class in a developing country?

That was the challenge facing Peruvian entrepreneur Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor, who hired IDEO to build an entire network of schools powered by a progressive new learning model. IDEO’s mandate: to redesign Innova’s entire K–12 learning experience, from the curriculum to the teacher training to the school buildings, with an eye toward expansion and a goal to provide international-quality education at an affordable price—about $100 a month.

Innova is a part of InterGroup, a family of 25 businesses that span everything from banks to retail stores and added schools to its portfolio. In 2010, the company had built five schools under the Innova brand but realized that its existing education model could not grow. The shortage of well-trained, high-quality teachers in Peru, combined with rising land costs, meant that Innova would need to radically change course to succeed.

A blended learning approach combines self-directed and group time.

To learn about scalable school models around the world, IDEO researchers visited inspirational schools and learning programs, and looked to analogous systems like retail, hospitality, and health care to understand their approaches to scale. Throughout the project, they collaborated with teachers, students, and the client team in co-designing the work itself.

Alongside the Innova team, IDEO developed the curriculum, teaching strategies, buildings, operational plans, and underlying financial model to run the network of schools.

"I was blown away by Innova," said Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy. "Inspiring to see such an affordable school deliver a quality of education that would rival schools in the richest countries."

Early sketches of the classroom experience.

The new Innova Schools combine teacher-led, project-based learning in small groups with self-directed time using digital learning tools. Teachers monitor students’ work online and offer personalized guidance. Parents can view their children’s progress online as well.

Dynamic learning environments include community spaces, media labs, rooftop study areas, amphitheaters, and cafés that are optimized for flexibility: furniture on wheels, movable walls, and efficient uses of space to allow for different modes of learning.

The future of our country rests on our ability to successfully educate the next generation. IDEO helped Innova design a school model that brings international quality education to Peru.

Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor, CEO, Intercorp

An online Teacher Resource Center includes a database of more than 18,000 custom lesson plans based on a progressive new teaching approach. The center helps teachers learn their craft and gives them a chance to connect across the network.

The business model of Innova was developed at the same time as the school experience. Designers leveraged the economies of scale that come from building a network of schools and centralized tools, such as data systems that allow all the schools to learn together.

The project has allowed Innova to open more schools at an affordable cost to families, ultimately giving more of Peru’s youth the chance to compete in the global economy. This comprehensive approach to system design ranks as one of Latin America’s most ambitious privately funded educational projects, and is on track to become the largest private school network in the region by 2018. To date, Innova has opened 35 schools, with more than 26,000 students enrolled.

A good system design doesn’t end with strategy. The work on Innova Schools also had a huge influence on the $3 billion company, according to Rodriguez-Pastor. Through the creation of new roles and an aligned set of values, Innova’s central office has become a much more nimble and creative organization. They’re constantly scanning the world for inspiration in how to best educate their students, while building out the new innovations. They realize that design thinking can become an integrated part of their daily management of this growing network of schools.

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