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Seth Weinberger of ‘Innovations for Learning’: “Leadership is staying focused and centered while the world around you crumbles”

Leadership is staying focused and centered while the world around you crumbles. The pandemic was a major crisis in education. Schools closed globally. Our nonprofit’s business model was torn apart. But I saw this as an opportunity, and I rallied our staff to seize the opportunity by crafting a pitching a new service adapted to […]

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Leadership is staying focused and centered while the world around you crumbles. The pandemic was a major crisis in education. Schools closed globally. Our nonprofit’s business model was torn apart. But I saw this as an opportunity, and I rallied our staff to seize the opportunity by crafting a pitching a new service adapted to remote learning.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Seth Weinberger.

Seth Weinberger is the founder and Executive Director of Innovations for Learning, a global nonprofit focused on improving reading instruction in primary grades.


Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

While working as a partner in an international law firm, my wife and I helped start a new preschool in our community. That got me thinking about how children learn. Some of my clients were video game producers and I thought it would be engaging for children to learn to read using video games.

Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start your non nonprofit?

I ended up teaching myself to program so that I could create reading games. When I found a publisher for the games I started a nonprofit to bring those games to schools around the country. Later these games would go global.

Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?

We are helping teachers teach students how to read. Reading scores of kindergarten and first grade students are rising substantially in schools we serve. We also have recruited an army of more than 6000 volunteer tutors in the US, Canada and the United Kingdom to read with out students over the Internet.

Without saying any names, can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far?

Thousands of stories over 25 years! One memorable one is a student who wasn’t speaking to anyone, including his parents and teachers. But our tutor, a volunteer from a global bank, somehow connected to him, and he started talking a mile a minute! The parents were amazed.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Increase teacher salaries. Fund inner city K-12 districts. Create a national “peace corp” for reading tutors.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is staying focused and centered while the world around you crumbles. The pandemic was a major crisis in education. Schools closed globally. Our nonprofit’s business model was torn apart. But I saw this as an opportunity, and I rallied our staff to seize the opportunity by crafting a pitching a new service adapted to remote learning.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a non profit”. Please share a story or example for each.

  • Have a funding source. In this case, me ( a very friendly funding source).
  • Know that it’s going to take years to get off the ground.
  • If you’re trying to penetrate K-12 market, know that the obstacles are incredibly challenging. Example: you need to overcome five or six different levels of bureaucracy.
  • Know that you will need a team of experts to fill out your missing skill sets.

Know that you will be thinking about it morning, noon and night, even while you are sleeping.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non profit? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Jamie Dimon. Chase is a large corporate partner of ours, with hundreds of volunteers. It would be great if Jamie could thank them for their service around the globe.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?

You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” ―C. S. Lewis

That is the fundamental truth in education. You can’t change what happened to the student before they come into your classroom, but once you have them you can change their trajectory very substantially, no matter what happened before.

How can our readers follow you online?

www.innovationsforlearning.org

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your mission.

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