Don’t Confuse Innosight Institute with Profit-Making Cousins

Reaction to a recent Education Town Hall post suggests clarification of the phrase “financial interest in the findings.” Here is the original statement:

Research on blended learning is even more scarce. The most often cited materials — “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning”, e.g. — are produced by organizations with a financial interest in the findings [link is to Innosight Institute, publishers of the May 2011 blended learning study]
Cafe Tables as Education Reform?

The chairwoman of Innosight Insitute’s board of directors objected, as follows:

Your claim that the study “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning” published by Innosight Institute was produced by an organization with “a financial interest in the findings” is totally false. Innosight Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank that was founded to apply Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation to the educational challenges this country faces. Professor Christensen is the co-author, with Michael Horn and Curtis Johnson, of the seminal book that launched the digital revolution, “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.” Of the two models you mention, Rocketship is a public charter school and is funded by the State of California; there is no financial interest at stake here. Flex Academy is run by K-12, Inc. which is a for-profit company but so are Pearson and McGraw-Hill who have been making handsome profits providing text books to our schools for decades.
comment (verbatim) from Gisele Huff


Three Companies and Independent Institute Share Co-Founder, Phillosophy

Innosight Institute is, as Huff points out, a non-profit founded by Clayton M. Christensen. The Institute’s website tells us that Christensen’s three for-profit companies — Rose Park Advisors, Innosight Ventures and Innosight, LLC — are “independent entities from Innosight Institute.” These for-profit companies consult and invest, according to Christensen’s theories; the nonprofit applies Christensen’s theory “to the most vexing problems in the social sector.”

Money_Contract Innosight Institute promotes Christensen’s theory of “disruptive innovation” in education and other areas. Innosight LLC, Innosight Ventures, and Rose Park Advisors advise and invest in “disruptive innovation,” like the blended learning the Institute promotes. Recent investments and consultations include, e.g., New Oriental Education, a Chinese education venture with an on-line component, and Guaranteach, U.S.-based on-line education.

Innosight Institute is marketed, on the basis of its blended learning research, as the “go-to resource” on the topic. Ann Christensen, Clayton’s daughter, earned $75,000 as the Institute’s board president in 2011 (see 990), while Clayton Christensen’s website reports that “Innosight Institute’s researchers have become some of the most well-regarded and sought-after speakers in their respective fields.”

“Financial Interest” “Totally False”?

Huff notes that Innosight Institute has no financial interest in Rocketship or K12. The Education Town Hall, based on current information, does not dispute this. The original post, Cafe Tables as Education Reform?, does not suggest this. Instead, it links Innosight Institute with a “financial interest in the [blended learning] findings.” Is this “totally false”?

Innosight, LLC consults on “disruptive innovation,” like blended learning, and

Innosight Ventures and Rose Park Advisors invest in “disruptive innovation,” like blended learning.

Innosight Institute promotes “disruptive innovation,” like blended learning,

The four entities share a co-founder and a philosophy.

They offer “sought-after speakers,” consultants and investments in the field of Institute research.

However, for the record:

The nonprofit Institute and the for-profit companies are “independent entities.”


Reminders About the Profit Motive and Privatization of Education

Huff mentions that Rocketship is “funded by the State of California.” The Education Town Hall thanks her for reminding readers that taxes in many states and the District of Columbia are routinely directed to private — for- and nonprofit — organizations through charter school laws.

Huff concludes by noting that print publishers, along with education management companies and purveyors of on-line learning programs, earn “handsome profits” through contracts with our schools. Another good reminder.