LEARN to Scale Toolkit: Invent

Imagine a Solution

Now take time and space to imagine a solution that meets your validated need and could lead to meeting the indicators of success. Solving complex problems of practice in education requires creative courage. Do not be afraid to imagine “what if …” and bring a spirit of innovation to the process. This process is also an opportunity to include diverse members of the education community, including potential end users, to unlock ideas that might be difficult for a narrower design team to envision.

Value propositions to communicate with end users and serve as a Northern star.

After brainstorming a wide array of features, articulate a theory of change that describes how these features could lead to the measurable outcomes you identified as KPIs. Then, refine your solution to its core components—only the components that you think are necessary to produce the intended outcomes.

When articulating a theory of change and refining the solution to its core components, prioritize the needs of the most impacted and historically marginalized end users. This approach is called “designing from the margins.” Doing so from the start will help you ultimately design an educational product that is most beneficial for the most end users.

Example of Designing from the Margins
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is one example of designing from the margins. UDL grew out of a movement to support the inclusion of students with learning disabilities in classrooms. The resulting framework supports improving and optimizing teaching and learning for all people.

The core components will inform your minimum viable product, or MVP. The MVP incorporates the smallest number of features of the final product needed to validate that it meets the needs of the end users and your theory of change early in the development cycle. An MVP is probably not sufficiently robust to test the effectiveness of your solution, rather it is your starting point for developing a prototype and iterating to build your product.

Starting with an MVP rather than moving straight into a fully featured solution is important! This approach enables you to make small investments, experiment (for example, using rapid cycle experiments to test components of your solution), fail fast, learn fast, and iterate.

Why design to the margins?

Consider these questions when envisioning the MVP:

  • What are the components of the product? How do these components lead to your intended outcomes (theory of change)?
  • What is the smallest number of features needed to produce the intended effect (your core components)? Can you eliminate any components?
  • What components, if any, can be adapted to fit local context? Which components must remain true to the model?
  • How do the components fit with existing practices and systems (data systems, assessments, curricula, and learning platforms)?
  • Who are the primary end users of the solution?

Once you envision an MVP, start formulating your customer value proposition. The customer value proposition is a brief, one- to two-sentence statement that conveys how end users (schools, districts, teachers, students) will benefit from your educational product. Be sure to highlight how the product is both different and the same: different in how it will benefit the end users in unique ways compared with existing solutions, and same in how it will fit within the context of the existing education ecosystem.

You may consider having different value propositions for different end-user types or contexts. For example, your proposition may look different for a small rural district than for a mid-size urban district.

Example value proposition template
The [product name] can benefit [specific population] to achieve [outcomes]. The innovation will enable [users] to use [new/innovative components of your product] and allow for continued [components that will fit in current ecosystem] to create a feasible solution to [identified need or problem].

Spotlight Resource Icon

Spotlight Resource

Defining MVP and Value Proposition Worksheet. This resource walks you through determining your core components by considering key questions and through drafting a value proposition by using a template.

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Lost by Design: Designing From the Margins Toolkit. This toolkit from Bellwether Education Partners shares more information on how designing from the margins supports equity and provides strategies for developing solutions that benefit the most serious and concentrated needs.

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Notice and Reflect

While imagining an educational product, take time to pause to notice and reflect.

  • Who is most impacted by the problem of practice or need? How are they impacted by the need? Who will benefit most from the solution?
  • What assumptions have I made about the values of different end-user groups or stakeholders in defining the MVP and value proposition? How will I engage different end-user groups to validate my assumptions?

» Next: Test a Prototype