I originally started a business modeled as a for-profit company that gives back, coined “philanthropic capitalism” by TOMS Shoes (Zimmerman, 2009). The idea is to provide small business consulting services in a for-profit business with a built in margin that provides educational services to the least developed countries of the world.

In order to start moving with the ‘give-back’ half of the business, I pursued this MBA program and subsequently, the wicked problem project. After the first course, the problem was narrowed down to a specific geographic location as well as honing in on the issue of incentive programs. The goal is to improve the living conditions of populations that are without basic human needs through education. Education provides people the otherwise unavailable opportunity to improve their own situation and to create and grow programs of their own.

The very prominent and obvious roadblock is distance to the affected areas. As this is my first time taking this problem on, every step is a new endeavor. Global organizations have been researching and improving upon this education epidemic for decades, but are still at a loss with certain areas. The applicability of topics in operations seems immediately applicable. The topics covered here will immediately help narrow the focus of where the issues are greatest in the current system. We do not want to reinvent the wheel in another country, but we must first determine what wheels are usable, and which parts of those wheels are relevant.

Without knowing the education goals of individual communities, we would only be solving a problem without defining it first. This is the largest obstacle of the project. There are so many variables that are apparent but defining them will ultimately depend on the final solution. At this juncture, we cannot propose a solution to this problem without proper contact with the target market.

I have reached out and started contacting multiple people who grew up in various African countries, as well as a few who have spent time on mission trips working with small communities of sub-Saharan Africa. Harris and I will conduct interviews with these contacts and further obtain referrals to new contacts who are still living in the countries in which we desire to implement this project. The eventual goal is to gain contacts specifically in the education industry of these communities. Contacting and potentially working with representatives at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] is also part of the project. As this class was only seven weeks long, unfortunately sufficient interaction with the aforementioned people has proved difficult in such a small timeframe. Further methods of contact are currently being pursued, as are additional contacts who can provide answers to our initial research questions and interview needs. The lack of interviews with the proper contacts has lowered the time proposed for this section of the project as well at this point.

One initial issue is what education model to use. This education model will determine much of the operations and supply chain management topics we have learned in this course. I have narrowed the potential topics to consider to capacity and project management, planning and scheduling operations and lean production and supply chain. Until the problem has been clearly defined, these are simply projections, with research and preparation being theoretical at best.

Implementing other countries’ education models is a mistake for two reasons: a completely different standard of living and quality level does not match the education needs, and the global issues of education go beyond literacy rates and training. These least developed countries are starting with a gross disadvantage across every aspect of their living conditions. To simply implement an existing working-model from a predominantly developed country is tantamount to giving a light bulb to a person with no electricity. Further, if that person just wanted to cook their food, the light bulb would serve even less of a purpose.

We must first absolutely determine where these countries would like to go before we simply build them hundreds of school and train thousands of teachers. The United States’ education system is a perfect example of how some children are simply left behind in a system based on standards and principles. Dropout rates in eight states were above 5% among high school students in the 2009-2010 school year (Institute of Education Sciences, n.d.). Enrollment across the entire country in primary school has risen over the years 2006-2013, however it has begun to fall during that same period in secondary schools; this signifies a lack of continuation of education after primary school (National Center of Education Statistics, 2013).

Monique Fouilhoux, who holds several high positions with Educational International, an international organization of teachers and education employees, said, “Far too often, quality and equity are sacrificed in order to deliver some form of schooling. But there is no short-cut to quality education and learning” (UNESCO, n.d.a).

Without putting the cart before the horse, we will need to find out what academic level the populations want to reach, not what UNESCO wants them to reach, as UNESCO is working on models with much-needed resources from foreign aid, as opposed to internal sustainability on resources that can be relied on. Foreign donors who participated in the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000 have shown a 9% decrease in their financial aid commitments (Rose, 2014). In Figure 1, improvements over a seven-year period for the three countries shown has been remarkable and inspiring. However, reaching every child is dependent on outside resources, specifically this decreasing financial aid.

Importance of Education Quality in Relation to Incentive Programs

Of all the illiterate adults worldwide, 24% live in sub-Saharan Africa (UNESCO, 2014). This disconcerting amount is only second to a part of Asia. This representation of illiterate adults signifies a large number of improperly educated parents making decisions to have their children pulled from schools. Solving this problem must not require just an increase in the number of teachers, but also an increase in the sustainable training of those teachers.

Specific countries often lag significantly behind region averages creating a large gap that is not represented by those averages. For example, Niger has an adult literacy rate of 15% whereas in Equatorial Guinea it is 95% (UNESCO, 2014). Similarly, within these countries, it would be expected that larger cities, where there is a greater availability of resources, will raise the national average, leaving smaller cities vastly behind the curve. Across all of sub-Saharan Africa from 2008-2011, only 57% of the children who entered the first grade reached the end of primary school. (United Nations Children’s Fund, 2014) While this number is low in itself, the gap across specific countries will show disparities where resources are not being placed effectively.

UNESCO is largely involved in the Big Push education initiative, which is making great strides of progress but will fall short of four main goals: early childhood care and education, youth and adult skills, adult literacy and the issue of quality (UNESCO, 2012). These areas are where we will aim to focus some of our efforts.

Capacity and Project Management for Positive Growth/Expansion

Starting with a single school, we hope to gain eventual clarity on how to implement an education model that will determine the type of project management needed, whether it be matrix, functional or skunkworks-style. Each additional project will have to adjust to the new community or country, requiring a particular knowledge-base for the project. As stated, UNESCO is joining forces with other organizations and countries to instill education standards and decrease literacy rates. Our goal is to either improve upon these efforts or to pursue alternative avenues of improvement where they fit the defined problem.

The world’s need for teachers is nearly 3.5 million, with almost half of that in just Africa (UNESCO, 2013). The average class size in seventeen sub-Saharan countries falls between 25 at the low end, to over 80 at the high end (UNESCO, n.d.b). A lack of teachers is causing class sizes to rise to inappropriate levels for any quality teaching (see Figure 2). As teachers are a primary resource in this industry, the capacity at which each can provide their service must be improved upon to gain the greatest level output, a properly educated child. There is an apparent strain on this resource at a standard level (a normal size class for an undertrained teacher), while being compounded by overworking this resource (an overcrowded class).

Increasing the qualified teacher quantity involves creating proper training and programs that ensure future development. Expansion of education systems requires project management to reduce costs across the process in both building schools and training teachers. Further definition of the problem will help guide if and where expansion should occur.

Sales and Operations Planning for School Leaders

This is the first part of planning and scheduling operations wherein we will create assessments of school usage of current resources such as schools and textbooks. Additionally, we will need assessments of whether more qualified teachers can teach more advanced classes or simply teach more standard classes.

It will be imperative to develop a system to keep in-depth process metrics as the teacher training program grows. This includes student performance levels and enrollment and drop-out rates by grade and by school. These metrics, as displayed by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, provide incalculable value when assessing where focus should be placed. These process metrics should additionally include attendance rates, number of jobs held by children and categorized by age range, literacy rates among out-of-school children against in-school children, and test scoring at various intervals of time to maintain the current status of learning.

We must also determine the current order qualifiers of successful schools and education models, implement these into any new education programs, should that be the solution, and further determine new order winners. The order winners will become tomorrow’s order qualifiers for these and other countries, setting a standard for the education of global citizenship initiative.

Material Requirements Planning for Unknown Conditions

If a solution guides this project towards needing a better supply of materials, these supply chains will have to be assessed through material requirements planning. A full scope of understanding of how the current activity is being handled and what obstacles are consistently disrupting the system will help determine the next stages of planning.

We must take into consideration the potential disruptions that can and will occur that are unforeseen. In these regions, there is much strife between neighboring communities and violent factions seeking to gain territory and resources; however, aside from this, unpredictable natural disasters leave these countries in devastated conditions. A comprehensive plan to rebuild must include education in the operations planning when materials are already scarce.

Within the scope of this project, we aim to create self-sustaining solutions after grasping the project deeper. These solutions could include resources such as technology approaches that lower the need for print materials while increasing the access to educational resources.

As discussed previously, natural disasters and political unrest can cause pieces of the supply chain to break. Reallocation of materials when supply chains are delayed or broken must be part of the total model. Although these disruptions are unforeseen, they can be planned for when it comes to reallocation of existing inventories.

Lean Production and Supply Chain for Volatile Inventories

Once contact has been made with appropriate persons in the industry, we will need to determine the defects in current materials. One aspect has been discussed: the existing a shortage of properly trained teachers. The textbooks and/or technology needed for learning in the more remote locations will require an extremely lean production process, as budgets are already limited.

When these material inventories are subjected to potentially uncertain supply chains, a need is created for a budget that can match. According to the 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, “one-fifth of education budgets in low income countries” is provided by foreign aid (Rose, 2014). With limited budgets, lean production is needed more than ever.

Additionally, after determining in-school class demands, the production process will lend itself to a leaner model. We will be able to determine and provide better resources at a more efficient rate with the process metrics we will have in place. Removing unnecessary steps in the supply chain will be necessary in every location; removing necessary steps in the supply chain may be forced in some locations.

Final Thought

Ultimately determining what incentives will keep a child in school will depend on the quality of education that child will most likely receive and the parents’ understanding and enrollment in that plan. This project is a joint team effort between educators, parents and the resources provided to ensure longevity.

UPDATE 2/1/2017: My for-profit business has been closed down to pursue a career in education, taking this project on more fully.

Figure 1 (Rose, 2014)

Figure 2 (UNESCO, n.d.b)


Institute of Education Sciences. (n.d.). ELSI – Elementary and Secondary Information System. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/elsi/tableGenerator.aspx?savedTableID=16595

National Center of Education Statistics, 2013. (2013). Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/mobile/Enrollment_ES_Public_Schools.aspx

Rose, P. (2014, April 07). Over The Last Decade, 17 Million More Children are Learning in Sub-Saharan Africa. Retrieved April 24, 2016, from https://gemreportunesco.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/over-the-last-decade-17-million-more-children-are-learning-in-sub-saharan-africa/

United Nations Children’s Fund. (2014, January). Every Child Counts: Revealing Disparities, Advancing Children’s Rights [PDF]. United Nations Children’s Fund.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (n.d.a). Good Management of Teacher Education Keeps Children in. Retrieved April 24, 2016, from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/worldwide/single-view/news/good_management_of_teacher_education_keeps_children_in_school/

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (n.d.b). A View Inside Schools in Sub-Saharan Africa. Retrieved April 24, 2016, from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/worldwide/single-view/news/a_view_inside_schools_in_sub_saharan_africa/

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2012, November 21). Education in Africa: Best Progress So Far. Retrieved April 24, 2016, from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/dakar/about-this-office/single-view/news/africa_best_progress_ever_in_education/

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2013, November 28). Interview: The Challenge of Teachers in Africa. Retrieved April 24, 2016, from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/dakar/about-this-office/single-view/news/interview_the_challenge_of_teachers_in_africa/

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2014, September). Adult and Youth Literacy [PDF]. UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

Zimmerman, M. (2009, September 29). The Business of Giving: TOMS Shoes. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://www.success.com/article/the-business-of-giving-toms-shoes

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