This piece was co-authored by Christimara Garcia, a volunteer at the Christensen Institute and founder of Catalyze Innovations Initiative, a Brazilian market-creating innovation action tank.
What is the value of schooling in a country where many who are educated are unemployed and struggle to make a living? That is the question that troubled Valmir Pereira, the CEO of Mind Lab.
Since 2012, unemployment in Brazil, Pereira’s home country, has more than doubled from about six percent to 14%. Worse, is the fact that, almost six million people gave up looking for work because they didn’t believe they could find one. This is beginning to have an effect on the next generation as 36% of Brazilians aged 18 to 24 are neither in school nor employed. These numbers are unsustainable as the country continues to deal with the economic and social fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mind Lab is designed to reverse this trend.
Arriving in Brazil in 2006, Mind Lab researches and develops innovative educational technologies for the development of cognitive, social, emotional, and ethical skills, and competencies. But the organization doesn’t stop there. Anchoring the mission of the organization in the aforementioned question—what is the value of schooling when many of the educated are unemployed?—Pereira has built Mind Lab to focus not only on educating people, but also on connecting them with work. It does this through its eduK platform.
The Mind Lab eduK platform can be broken into two categories: eduK Courses and eduK Income Generation Solution. eduK Courses is an online teaching platform that offers professional courses using a unique methodology that helps people learn fast. Learning “fast” is important because a majority of people who sign up for eduK’s courses don’t have the luxury of spending years of their lives in expensive universities to get a degree that may not land them a job. The platform currently hosts 3,200 courses, 1,100 experts, and more than 8 million subscribers.
The secret sauce for helping people find work is eduK’s Income Generation Solution. The tech-enabled platform which connects people to income generation opportunities. On the surface it seems simple, but in a country where the government spends more annually on the average inmate in federal prison than on the average student in higher education, this is a much needed solution to tackle learning and employment.
To date, more than 60,000 people have gone through eduK’s Income Generation Solution program, with over 10,000 getting access to new sources of income. To make this work, Mind Lab is signing up companies to be a part of the platform as well.
Our research calls this mismatch of education and employment in Brazil, nonconsumption. Nonconsumption represents a phenomenon whereby millions of people can’t consume a product or service that would help them make progress. The barriers to consumption are typically money, time, skill, availability, and, in some cases, culture. This nonconsumption leads to poverty and can be devastating for a country.
What Mind Lab is building is called a market-creating innovation.
Market-creating innovations transform complicated and expensive products into simple and affordable ones so many more people in society can afford them. They are unique in their ability to create jobs for many people because so many more people benefit from the new market created, not just the wealthy. In turn, organizations will need people to provide the service.
Market-creating innovations also provide taxes. Governments need taxes to run countries and by creating new markets that serve many more people, market-creating innovations provide governments with the much-needed revenues.
Finally, these innovations are unique for changing the culture of a nation, and this is important for Brazil. When a new innovation makes a product simple and affordable, many other people try and copy it. This process causes people to believe that change and progress are possible through innovation.
In a country like Brazil where millions of people seem to be losing hope because of the difficult employment and income generation prospects, organizations like Mind Lab are infusing a healthy dose of hope into the country. As this innovation continues to spread, many more Brazilians will not only get the opportunity to learn fast, but also get a chance at generating income to help them make progress in their lives.
Education is an incredibly difficult problem to tackle largely because, unlike most other services, it is both a means to an end and an end in itself. We celebrate when people graduate from school even though they haven’t learned much or don’t have jobs. No one celebrates someone who visits a hospital, pays the bill, and leaves the hospital sick. Mind Lab’s innovations are solving the theory problem of education in Brazil. The future is bright.