Charles Leadbeater



Charles Leadbeater

Charles Leadbeater is a renowned author, thinker and strategic adviser on innovation whose advice is sought by governments, cities and corporations across the world. Charlie’s expertise is about how these organisations respond to and make the most of the current upheaval, the tensions and the opportunities it creates. We are living in a time of stagnovation – stagnation combined with relentless innovation and rising inequality.

The New York Times anointed Charlie’s idea, The Pro-Am Revolution, referenced extensively by Chris Anderson in his landmark book The Long Tail, as one of the biggest global ideas of the last decade. Charlie’s TED talks on innovation have been watched by well over a million people.

The Spectator Magazine described him as “the wizard of the web” after the publication of his bestseller “We Think: mass innovation not mass production” which forecast the rise of more collaborative, open forms of innovation made possible by the web. The YouTube animation based on the book has been watched by more than 300,000 people.

The Financial Times described Charlie as the outstanding innovation expert in the UK. A past winner of the prestigious David Watt Prize for journalism, Charlie was assistant editor at the Independent newspaper after a distinguished career at the Financial Times, where he was Labour Editor, Industrial Editor and Tokyo Bureau Chief.

Charlie went on to become a key adviser to Prime Minister Blair’s policy team (he was Tony Blair’s favourite global thinker) and the Department of Trade and Industry, specialising in the impact of the Internet and the knowledge driven economy. He drafted the UK Government’s White Paper – Our Competitive Future: Building the Knowledge Driven Economy which was one of the first policy papers in the world to argue that advanced economies would become increasingly dependent upon innovation for growth.

Charlie is a long standing senior research associate with Demos, the influential London think tank; a co-founder of Participle, the leading public services innovation agency, which is working with public sector agencies to create next generation public services and a visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts, where he has championed ideas of open and user driven innovation. Charlie is co-chairman of the social enterprise Apps 4 Good, one of the first charities to be granted a license to make Facebook apps which has recently caught the attention of the White House.

He has a track record for spotting ideas ahead of time. The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur, published in 1997, for example, was one of the first books to predict social enterprise solutions to public problems would become more compelling. Social entrepreneurship has since become a global movement. Charlie gave a keynote address at the inaugural Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford.

His work ranges widely over innovation in the private, public and social sectors. In Learning from the Extremes, a widely read report he published in 2009, Charlie looked at the way social entrepreneurs are using technology to create new low cost approaches to learning in the slums and favelas of the developing world. From a new position working on health innovation with Imperial College London he is looking at the way new, low cost and distributed models of health care are emerging in the developing world.

Charlie’s latest book, The Frugal Innovator, analyses the spread of super low cost, simple, robust and shared solutions to pressing social challenges. The Frugal Innovator looks at how the global dynamics of innovation are shifting during the downturn with more new products being devised for and with relatively poor consumers of the developing world.

Keynote:  Six Core Capabilities of Learning

Education is bedevilled by vicious false dichotomies, between: new, digital platforms for learning and old classroom based techniques; learning as instruction and learning as exploration; progressive and conservative; learning that develops transferable capabilities and learning that promotes deep knowledge of a subject; between learning for its own sake and learning that is shown in gaining qualifications.

Debates about education too quickly divide, simplistically, into these separate warring camps, when often the best approaches involve a blend of new and old, instruction and exploration. Deep capabilities cannot be acquired without also developing deep knowledge. Too often change in education is presented as a linear, one way process. Often the best approaches require a mix of the very old – Scoratic debate, outward bounds, learning your times tables – and the very new – collaborative, creative and self-directed learning using new technologies.

This keynote will develop an account of modern learning based of six core capabilities: knowing, questioning, communicating, collaborating, making and persisting, which span the divides between new and old, progressive and conservative and which are applicable to the challenges of the developed world as much as the developing. These capabilities will provide a new way to think about the goals of learning in both formal and informal settings, from school through to university. It will provide a new framework for thinking about what young people should be learning to do when they are at school.

These six capabilities are at the core of what a modern school system needs to provide young people with to ready for them for a world in which innovation and entrepreneurship, collaborative creativity and improvisation, will be essential.

Workshop: New and effective approaches to learning

In this interactive workshop Charles Leadbeater will use examples of schools practice from around the world that exemplify new and more effective approaches to learning, based on the framework he will have outlined in his plenary session. He will examine learning that builds knowledge (often conceptual, interdisciplinary and thematic) but also a sense of agency (learning by making, doing and serving) personal strengths (resilience, purpose, persistence) and social skills (especially collaboration, sharing and communication.) Leadbeater argues that these four ingredients define the kind of learning young people need to be entrepreneurial, innovative, non-routine, collaborative problem solvers. Really good places to learn  do all four well, combine them in interesting ways and know how to move students along these dimensions, sometimes building basic knowledge and personal attributes at other times encouraging learning through agency and collaboration, as well as critical thinking and intellectual synthesis.  He will look at the organisational and leadership characteristics of schools that work this way as well as touching on some of the wider enablers of this approach, especially new approaches to assessment.

Workshop resources: Nil