The Education Innovation Lab project is funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada. It is being implemented in Saint Lucia and Haiti by a team from the Henry Christophe Campus of the State University of Haiti in Limonade, Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada) and Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia. The project period is May 2021 to October 2023.

The project focuses on building the capacity of local education system stakeholders to explore and unpack issues, to design, test and evaluation solutions and to introduce a culture of innovation into the management of education. Building capacity for social innovation will support the implementation of future national or regional reform initiatives while also giving teachers, principals and administrators skills to address identified policy challenges by testing, adapting and scaling promising solutions that meet the needs and priorities of their country.

Social innovation approaches have gained in popularity over the last twenty years and are widely recognized as a valuable tool for achieving social change. The term social innovation refers to “new solutions (products, services, models, markets, processes, etc) that simultaneously meet a social need (more effectively that existing solutions) and lead to new or improved capabilities and relationship and better use of assets and resources” (The Young Foundation, 2012). Social innovation in education can appear as new pedagogic theory, methodological approach, teaching technique, assessment method, instructional tool, learning process or institutional structure that, when implemented, produces a significant change in teaching and learning, which leads to better student outcomes (Serdyukov, 2017; Vincent-Lancrin, 2014).

Human-centred design (IDEO, 2014) is a prominent approach to social innovation. This approach focuses on building empathy for, and understanding of, the end user of the innovation, using tools and strategies for identifying creative solutions to identify the needs of users, then collecting data about promising solutions through no- or low-cost prototyping of ideas in real world settings. Training in Human-Centred Design approaches has been shown to help educators create more inclusive learning environments and improve student learning outcomes (Garreta-Domingo et al, 2018).

Through the Education Innovation Lab project, teachers will receive social innovation training and be asked to work in teams to complete short (3-5 month) innovation projects. Administrators in the education system will receive innovation training and be asked to consider teacher generated innovation ideas as a portfolio of options from which to select promising solutions for wider implementation. Local participants receive ongoing support from an innovation coach and a gender equity specialist. Ensuring gender equity and the inclusions of marginalized groups is a core component of the project. The research components will assess the contribution of teacher-led innovation activities to the education system and participants’ perceptions of the suggested innovative management structure.