Teach For All: Designing a Global Network

Series: Yale-Design Observer Design and Social Enterprise
Format: Raw, online case
Topics: Organizational Behavior, Operations, Public Policy, Education, Design, Innovation,  Social Enterprise,
Initial date of publication: June 2013
Geographic setting of case: United States, India
Access:  Available free online at http://nexus.som.yale.edu/design-tfall.

Overview: By their November 2011 annual conference in Mumbai India, Teach For All’s network consisted of 23 national partner organizations. Network members came from all over the globe and represented an eclectic group of countries. The one thing uniting the network was a commitment to building an organization similar to Teach For America in their respective countries.

Teach For America was the brainchild of Wendy Kopp. In her 1989 senior thesis at Princeton, she outlined a plan to attack educational inequality in the United States by recruiting top college graduates to teach for two years in poorly performing schools. Within a decade, a spot in the Teach For America corps had become one of the most sought-after positions for bright college graduates from the nation’s top universities. In its two decades of operation, Teach For America had placed over 30,000 teachers in underperforming schools around the country and built an alumni group that influenced the nation’s educational policy.

The concept also proved to work in contexts outside the United States. In 2002, Brett Wigdortz, a former McKinsey consultant, founded Teach First in the United Kingdom. Teach First had the strong support of the British government and by 2011 was one of England's largest employers of the country's best college graduates, having placed over 2500 teachers in schools across England.

With the success of their respective organizations, Kopp and Wigdortz became magnets for social entrepreneurs from around the globe who wanted to import the model to their own countries. Wanting to be responsive, Kopp and Wigdortz believed a global group could be founded to help others interested in the model. They also imagined that a global organization which enabled everyone to learn from each other could be of value to each participant.

Kopp and Wigdortz were able to secure funding for building a global network and announced the formation of Teach For All at the Clinton Global Summit in 2007. Teach For All was to be a coordinating organization, giving each national organization the autonomy to order its own affairs. As these participating national organizations (other than Teach For America and Teach First) were just beginning, Teach For All was a start-up supporting other start-ups on a global scale. It was a situation for which there were few precedents.

In the four packed years since its founding, Teach For All had gained valuable experience and built a solid team. But as the partners and the staff gathered in Mumbai, there was much reflection on where the organization was going to go next. The experience in the field had demonstrated how attractive the underlying strategic framework could be. However, the legal, cultural, and economic variation among the countries meant the educational terrain was different for each partner, often resulting in “local adaptations” of the framework. But how much adaption was too much? How should these local idiosyncrasies influence the selection of national partners?

The staff and the partner organizations also had to consider the future. Once national organizations had established themselves, how would their needs change? How would Teach For All adapt to meet the demands of a maturing and growing network? Could Teach For All establish centralized services that it could provide to partner organizations? Should Teach For All charge for these services? Would network partners contribute to the knowledge and experience-sharing required to accelerate partner impact across the network in spite of the pressing demands on their time?