Breaking New Ground: Four Key Lessons from Launching Education Innovations in Post-Conflict Environments

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Educate!'s article "Breaking New Ground: Four Key Lessons from Launching Education Innovations in Post-Conflict Environments" was published in the journal Childhood Education: Innovations. We wrote this article to share the challenges we faced and most valuable lessons we learned in scaling our model to the complex, post-conflict region of Northern Uganda.

Launching in Northern Uganda meant delivering our program to the youth who need it most, but we had never before implemented our model in this type of environment. To make sure our launch in this region was a success, we had to innovate within our model to adapt it for this unique context.

Now, with a year operating there under our belt and thousands of students from the region successfully graduating from our program, we have learned a few valuable lessons that have strengthened our operations and impact across our organization. We believe sharing these lessons can help other organizations looking to expand their reach into challenging environments.

Our four top lessons learned were:  

1. Do your homework and invest in laying a solid groundwork before launching

We spent a full year learning the local context, studying other organizations, and building relationships with key stakeholders in the region prior to our launch.

2. Invest in local knowledge and leadership

We invested heavily in building a strong team of people who deeply understood the region’s history and were passionate about driving change within their own communities.

3. Don’t be afraid of challenges

Difficulties will arise and plans will go off-track. Our culture of welcoming feedback and encouraging staff to be candid about challenges was absolutely key to our success in the North.

4. Adapt quickly: If you fail, make sure you only fail once and learn from it

We kept a laser focus on our mission and rigorously monitored our impact so that we would notice quickly when things weren’t going according to plan. When we fell short of our targets, we were able to adapt quickly and meet the challenges with creative solutions.

To solve the most pressing problems facing youth today, we consider it crucially important for education organizations to learn how to innovate and adapt their models to serve the most difficult—and rewarding—contexts.

Have you or your organization learned similar lessons? We would love to hear about your experience adapting to a new environment.