On June 1, a team of three of us from Santiago, Chile found ourselves at the University of Oxford, representing Enseña Chile in the Global Final of the Skoll Centre’s Map The System competition. Who would have thought we would be presenting our research about an issue we are passionate about addressing—gender inequality in STEM teaching and careers in Chile—at one of the most prestigious universities in the world?
Map the System markets itself as the “anti-business plan” competition and encourages applicants to submit thorough research about a social issue and its root causes—not a new idea for a social enterprise. This methodology incentivises and supports aspiring social innovators like ourselves to step out of the solutions they have already envisioned and rethink how to address the problem they are passionate about by considering the whole system.
Our passion about gender and education drove us to start our own initiative, Elige tu Rol (Choose Your Role), in 2017 to promote awareness of and provide training on gender stereotypes in teaching for teachers in Chile. We were supported by Enseña Chile’s local Alumni Incubator, which provided us with seed funding and mentoring as we developed our idea. It was also through Enseña Chile that we learned that Teach For All had partnered with the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship to enable network participants and alumni to take part in the competition.
The timing was perfect as we were still in the early stages of developing our initiative. One of the most valuable things about the competition is that rather than focusing on the solution, it encourages you to step back and more thoroughly understand the problem you’re addressing. We considered the historical, cultural, and societal factors that have led to the lack of gender diversity in STEM careers in Chile, which we then examined at the household, societal, school, university, and private sector levels, to give us a much deeper, more nuanced understanding of the issue. This process led to us making some significant changes to our original idea for Elige Tu Rol.
This year, 470 teams from 27 institutions applied to Map the System. Across the Teach For All network, seven teams competed to represent Teach For All in the Global Final in Oxford, and our team was selected. During the three days in Oxford, we competed against 15 other finalists from around the world. Though it was a competition, we learned so much from the other teams about the issues they are seeking to solve in their countries, and we were amazed by their research and insights. Topics they presented included damaging air pollution in Utah, mental health issues impacting the children of immigrants in Vancouver, gender inequality in the Mormon Church, the opioid crisis in North America, food waste in British Columbia, and how to support babies born prematurely in Australia, among many others.
We were surprised (and excited) to learn that we made it to the final round of six finalists, which meant we had the opportunity to present our research to a public audience on the last day of the competition. Ultimately, we weren’t ranked among the top three teams, but we’re very proud of what we accomplished. We are the first team representing a Latin American country that’s ever taken part in Map the System—and we made it to the final six!
Participating in Map the System was a great experience, and the opportunity to visit Oxford University was the icing on the cake. We strongly encourage other Teach For All network participants and alumni who are in the early stages of considering social entrepreneurship to submit their ideas to future competitions. Participation doesn’t require being an expert, having a PhD., or even being a native English speaker—teams just need to be motivated and passionate about a social issue, and be eager to deeply explore its root causes, effects, solutions, and spaces for action and change. With support from Teach For All and Enseña Chile, we not only made it further than we expected in the competition, we developed a valuable piece of research to keep our venture growing.
For more information about social innovation across the Teach For All network, visit the Teach For All Global Innovation Hub and the Social Innovation Directory, and sign up for Teach For All's monthly Social Innovation Newsletter!