Now in our 10th year, 2Rev is a national education design lab that supports the design, launch and implementation of Future of Learning models and systems. We build schools, build systems and we help build the field. Last year, we led transformation efforts in 30 states. As many of you know, we are a mission-driven for-profit entity (LLC). From an organizational standpoint, we’re also 100% self-funded, meaning we don’t have any private equity or other profit-seeking investors. At least not yet. We have grown organically and opportunistically. So far, so good. It’s not the steepest growth path, but it’s enabled us to stay tightly tethered to our core values and work on projects that we’re genuinely committed to. This makes us better partners.
While we are far from the first to pursue this “double bottom line” approach, we still regularly field questions from ed sector friends and partners about our model, much like the title of this post. “But wait...isn’t 2Rev for-profit?” and “So, how does that work?” or “Isn’t that in conflict with your social impact objectives?” Because we just launched a new national initiative to make available free/open content to build educator capacity and accelerate the transition toward personalized learning, this is a good time to share a bit more about how we think about our for-profit status.
First, it’s useful to note that all those years back, 2Rev was founded upon – and remains firmly anchored to — three bedrock goals: 1) Social impact (to help transform how our country educates its young people); 2) Financial viability (directly in service of #1, but pursuing neither scale nor profit for its own sake); and 3) The ability of 2Rev to provide a platform for ourselves and others to lead the lives we/they want, (which is really what the second of the “two revolutions” is about).
When we focus on what motivates people to act, we quickly see that doing well and doing good need not be such strange bedfellows.
We opted for a for-profit structure because it maximizes our flexibility to pursue our goals. Sure, if we were a not-for-profit, it may well be easier to raise long-term support from philanthropic funders, but this also comes with strings and other downsides. We like being entrepreneurs, and we appreciate that literally every dollar earned by 2Rev has come in exchange for an explicit expectation of value that our team is on the hook to deliver. It keeps us honest. And nimble. We are a for-profit (i.e., a structure) much more than we are for profit (i.e., a motive). We reserve the right to do whatever we choose whenever we like if it advances our goals. For example, when it meets our social impact objectives, we can provide our design services at low or no cost. We can also freely give away what might otherwise be coveted as proprietary assets or intellectual property.
Now, let’s look at how this new national free/open content initiative aligns with the 2Rev business model. If you’re reading this, you probably share our view that we need to radically rethink our learning models and systems if we’re going to successfully prepare today’s students for the future, and that the emerging field of personalized learning — and its cousins: future of learning, deeper learning, competency-based learning, next gen learning, etc. — holds significant promise. But it’s an uphill battle, we’re still in the early days and there are many barriers to adopt new practices that might be more effective. Not least is educators’ readiness and willingness to begin to learn and experiment with these new approaches around instruction and assessment.
Working with our partners across the country over the past couple of years, we have developed a scaffolded approach to support educators as they seek to grow the knowledge and skills they need to implement the new Future of Learning models and systems they’ve envisioned. We’re proud of this work and the assets we have developed, but the problem we face is operating at a scale that is much bigger than 2Rev. To capture the potential of this moment of opportunity and really make a big change for kids, we all need to move field-wide readiness from 2-3% to a minimum of 10-15% over the next few years. If we sought to maximize our profits, we might covet our shiny, new assets and determine how best to charge more people to access them. Profits: up. Social impact: not so much. Instead, because our goal is to maximize impact, we crafted a strategy in which we contribute our assets, work collaboratively with other partner experts to improve and add to them and make it all freely available to everyone. Check out this companion piece to learn more about this effort: Building Field Readiness & Capacity to Personalize.
The reality (we think) is that content is, and will become increasingly, commoditized, so it’s better if we all work together to ensure broad availability of consistent, high-quality resources. We are excited to have this opportunity — working collaboratively with others — to help drive the field forward. But let’s be clear: this is not charity work. It’s consistent with our business model. Helping to lead this strategy will only enhance 2Rev’s knowledge, relationships and brand across the field. Some of this content will require facilitation and/or certification (e.g., upper level course modules to earn credentials or graduate credit), which creates revenue-generating opportunities for 2Rev and our partners. We also intend to remain a leading provider of high-quality design services to a growing market.
This strategy might boost our bottom-line, which we would welcome, but the real win is a collaborative approach that simultaneously creates new opportunities for 2Rev while being part of a solution the field needs. We’re convinced we need more successful double bottom-line organizations in the ed sector to address the entrenched challenges we all face. When we focus on what motivates people to act, we quickly see that doing well and doing good need not be such strange bedfellows. It’s an important trend to keep an eye on. It’s also part of what motivates us to be as transparent as we are about our model.