Venture Capitalism in Education – surely not?

Having met
Rick Segal, a Canadian venture capitalist at the weekend I got to thinking about whether there might be a place for venture capitalist thinking in education?

Now before you think that I’m about to sell off East Lothian’s familiy silver, or seek to exploit the workers let me explain a little further.

If I’ve got this right
venture capitalism works like this – and feel free to correct me –

An investor, possibly a pension fund, wishes to invest some of it’s resources into a high risk but potentially high return venture. The job of the venture capitalist is to seek out ideas/businesses which would benefit from investment. For the pension fund it’s not a huge risk becasue the majority of its assets are tied up in reliable investments. The role of the venture capitalist is to use their expertise and experience to judge the potential of each idea and then support the venture with their expertise and finance.

So how might this relate to education? I wonder of there is a place for taking high risk but potentially high return action in education. This risk (and we are not talking about health and safety here – which can never be compromised) would be balanced by the bulk of the existing traditional practice. Perhaps
Extreme Learning is an example of venture capitalism in education?

The question is how to we encourage an entrepreneurial culture amongst practitioners without enabling them to take some risks? Or are we getting it so right at the moment in education that there can be no place for risk taking within the system?

Take a look at an
interesting site from California which I tracked down last night which uses the venture capital model in a philanthropic manner.

I suppose all this links back to the ideas I’ve been playing around with in relation to “
Lines of consequence” and “
Lines of aspiration