The Kauffman Foundation’s Thoughtbook 2009

Science Commons is one of the projects in the Thoughtbook

Annual reports are boring. All those graphs and charts and “fiscal quarter analytics” are enough to put you to sleep.

That’s why the Kauffman Foundation, in lieu of a formal annual report, releases an annual “Thoughtbook” — a collection of essays by thought leaders in the field of entrepreneurship education, describing the Foundation’s projects to date.

The Kauffman Foundation is based in Kansas City and has a mandate to foster “a society of economically independent individuals who are engaged citizens, contributing to the improvement of their communities.” The 2009 Thoughtbook is full of success stories from the past year of investing in quality entrepreneurship programs.

Merrilea Mayo, the Director of Future of Learning Initiatives at Kauffman, describes some pilot projects funded by Kauffman to investigate the use of video games in the classroom. They found it easy to engage kids through platforms like the Science of Sports quiz game delivered through mobile phones. Other interactive games such as Geography Explorer, River City and Virtual Cell showed significant increases in learning outcomes over the traditional method.

Open Innovation, or open-sourced science, is another initiative Kauffman is supporting. John Wilbanks, Vice President of Science Commons, and Frank L. Douglas, Founder of the MIT Center for Biomedical Innovation, describe how opening up scientific research to the wisdom of the crowds has resulted in new and better drug delivery and health care systems.

The Kauffman Foundation has also been working closely with university campuses to fund entrepreneurship programs including InnovationSpace at Arizona State University and Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy at Purdue.  “Entrepreneurship yields improvement of our goods, services and institutions that affects large numbers of people… therefore, entrepreneurship should be both a legitimate subject in… undergraduate education and a pervasive approach to learning,” says William Scott Green, Program Director of Kauffman Campuses Initiative.

This year there are some heavyweight names in the book. Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work with the Grameen Bank, begins his essay All Human Beings are Entrepreneurs by writing “poverty is not created by poor people.”  He describes how, with the right incentives, people’s natural ingenuity can be used to lift them out of poverty.

Gordon Brown, ex-Prime Minister of the UK, is on hand to describe how Global Entrepreneurship Week has grown out of a small event in the UK to a global force for encouraging kids to turn their ideas into businesses.  Sir Ronald Cohen, also from the UK, is the cofounder of Apax Partners, one of the largest VC firms in the world.  He describes the work the Kauffman Foundation has been doing to foster social entrepreneurship, the space in which companies have a double bottom-line: one financial and one devoted to social justice or environmental sustainability.

If you want a survey of some of the most exciting work being done in the field of entrepreneurship education, from the field of biotechnology to high school classrooms, pick up the Kauffman Thoughtbook. It doesn’t read like a traditional annual report. Promise.