Youth, Skills, & the Workforce of the Future


Open Learning Exchange

Helping disadvantaged youth learn the skills they need to build and maintain a fulfilling life

Team Lead

Richard R. Rowe

Basic Information

Our Solution

Open Learning Exchange

Our solution's stage of development:


Our solution:

Community Learning Centers, organized and maintained by their local communities, provide disadvantaged youth free, personalized opportunities to acquire the continuously changing knowledge and skills needed to build and maintain a meaningful living for themselves and their families. This proven, innovative, multi-media low-cost approach, can be effective anywhere in the world.

Our pitch:

The problem:

As never before, we must adapt to frequent life-changing conditions.   Old work disappears, new work appears, without warning.  Therefore education cannot involve preparation for a fixed body of tasks.   To meet this challenge, OLE’s Planet Learning provides a dynamic wealth of multimedia resources that enables learners to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to fulfill their changing needs within their changing environment. Planet Learning gives learners meaningful opportunities to craft their futures.   We draw upon the diverse talents within every community to enable learning to become lifelong, continuously adapting to new realities.

Why our solution will solve the problem:

OLE works with nation-based organizations that are irrationally committed to scaling highly effective learning for all of their people, especially the disadvantaged.  We work closely with our partners to ensure that the improvements in learning that are demonstrated and documented to be highly effective are scaled to everyone throughout their country.  Over the past decade OLE and its partners have served 50,000 learners in more than 100 communities in Nepal, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, and with Syrian and Somali refugees in Jordan and Kenya. We hope, by 2027, to be supporting a powerful network of 100 such nation-based public-private partnerships.

Target Outcomes

Our target outcomes:

Our goal is to create a personalized, community-centered approach to learning that provides disadvantaged youth the opportunity to acquire the values, knowledge and skills they need to create a meaningful living for themselves and their families while adapting to the rapid changes that are occurring in work over their lifetime.  We seek to provide these opportunities to youth, and especially to girls and young women, whose work and lives have been disrupted because of poverty, violence, climate chaos or technology.  OLE’s Planet Learning system is inexpensive and can be effective anywhere, even in the most remote parts of the world. 

How we will measure our progress:

  • Outcome: Stronger Enthusiasm. Clearer career goals and more active hope for the future
    Measurement Plan: Pre and Post Opinion Surveys to observe changes
  • Outcome: Obtain Certificate of Career Qualifications
    Measurement Plan: Frequency in which learners obtain a Career Qualification Certificate
  • Outcome: Development of meaningful work individually and for the community
    Measurement Plan: At the community level, frequency in which learners create meaningful, self-supporting work

The populations we will benefit initially:

  • Adolescent
  • Lower middle income economies (between $1006 and $3975 GNI)
  • Low-income economies (< $1005 GNI)
  • Secondary
  • Short-cycle tertiary

The regions we will benefit initially:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Middle East and North Africa

The technologies we employ:

  • Consumer-facing software (mobile applications, cloud services)
  • Digital systems (machine learning, control systems, big data)
  • Something so new it doesn’t have a name

Why our solution is unique:

OLE’s Planet Learning is personalized, scalable, and deployable at low cost. Used in our Community Learning Centers, it offers disadvantaged youth large quantities of multi-media resources and self-paced career pathways in education, healthcare, entrepreneurship, ICT, food and agriculture, and public safety, that easily combine with local content and needs. Periodically, linked to the Internet, the system offers updates and connection responsive to changing circumstances. It works primarily off the internet on any device that can open a browser. The system can be contained in a small wheeled suitcase, or backpack, and be up and running in less than a minute.

Why our solution is human-centered:

OLE’s technology is designed to promote human-centered values perfectly.  We are transitioning from a conventional “one size fits all” education model to an active, personalized “learner-centered” model.  Everyone is in charge of their own learning. Using Planet Learning, everyone, with any device that can open a browser, has a personal dashboard with the things they are reading or watching, the courses they are taking, the learning teams in which they are participating and a record of their ongoing learning achievements.  Furthermore, all learners are strongly encouraged to create and share their own resources, including their essays, stories, artwork and music.   

How people will access our solution:

Planet Learning is designed as a community-centered service, managed and supported by members for their entire community. The software and contents are open and free. Raspberry Pi, the commonly used server, costs less than $100, 10” tablets cost $60. Learners access their personal dashboard offline, with any device that can open a browser. Periodically, the system is connected to the “Nation” on the Internet, to download resources and upload data. The URL below is the Manager's experience at the "Nation" level; learners work on tablets. Their experience can currently be seen only at the "Community" level, or on a tablet.

Technology-Readiness Level:

6-8 (Demonstration)
Business Plan

Our organization:


How we will sustain our team financially:

OLE’s organizational strategy is to help build strong Exchange Partners in the one hundred nations whose people are suffering the most from poverty, violence, climate chaos and technology that has disrupted their livelihoods.  We do this by providing advice and powerful tools, such as Planet Learning, that they can use to create customized learning systems that their governments in turn can scale to all of their people.  Thus our financial requirements are modest, an estimated $2 million annually. We plan to cover 50% of our costs from modest fees paid by 100 nation-based Exchange Partners, averaging an annual $10,000 per Partner.  The balance will come from ongoing investments by individuals, foundations, governments and corporations. This will provide OLE with $2 million/year, $1 million of which will be invested in supporting existing and expanding new Partners, with $500k for continued software development and $500k for communications, development and administration.

The factors limiting our success:

OLE is experiencing increasing demand for assistance in improving national education systems. There are two factors limiting our ability to respond effectively: people and money.  We need more highly qualified people working here in the U.S., and in our Exchange Partner nations, to accelerate the development of universal, quality personalized learning.  This includes ongoing software development needed for the Planet Learning system as well as work required to customize the approach and learning resources for each country. To support these ongoing efforts in the U.S. and in an increasing number of nations, we need ongoing sources of financial investments. 

How long we have been working on our solution:

5+ years

How long it will take to develop a pilot:

We have already developed a pilot.

How long it will take to scale beyond our pilot:

12-18 months

Our expected annual budget:


How much of our budget we've secured to date:


Partnership Needs

We're looking for partners in these fields:

  • Technology Access
  • Financial Inclusion
  • Income Generation
  • Future of Work
  • Lifelong Learning

Why we're applying to Solve:

There are at least three good reasons for us to be a Solver. First, we believe being a Solver @ MIT will assist us in recruiting people for our work, here in Cambridge and in our Exchange Partner nations. These include faculty at MIT and other universities who can contribute substantively to OLE’s technology and business strategy, including possibly serving on OLE’s Board of Directors. Second, it increases our credibility among investors and potential partners to have the endorsement of our work that MIT provides.  Finally, we believe Solve will help us connect to promising new sources of funding. 

Our current partners:

OLE works with these nation-based partners:  OLE Nepal, OLE Ghana, OLE Kenya, OLE Somalia, Mogadishu University (Somalia), OLE Turkey, Massachusetts General Hospital(Uganda), Ministry of Education and Association OLE (Madagascar), International Education Association (Lebanon) UNHCR (Kenya), UNHCR (Jordan), INNOVA (Peru), Inoma (Mexico),  Solve at MIT (USA), Cambridge Innovation Center (USA)

Solution Team

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