Steve Jobs and Social Entrepreneurship

Eric Schwarz - Citizen Schools Co-Founder and CEO

I’ve got an iPhone in my pocket and an iPad in my bag. Chances are our most of our Teaching Fellows have an iPod of one kind or another. But Steve Jobs’ influence goes beyond the products we love. He was someone in the for-profit sector who also inspired people working for social change.

Before I co-founded Citizen Schools, I’d been at City Year. I joined them about halfway through their first

full year, and grew with them for about four years. The Mac was a relatively new computer at the time; Apple controlled maybe three or four percent of the market. But even though most people had IBMs, we at City Year studied Apple Computers a ton.

We read about how he founded Apple, was kicked out, and came back—a valuable lesson in determination.

We read about how he and his engineers came up with new ways to make the computer beautiful, intuitive and fun to use—technology working in service of the human imagination, instead of the reverse. This taught us a lot about innovation.

But Steve Jobs did more. He changed the vector of the computer industry. He got Windows and the rest of the industry to fundamentally transform—even as his company initially only had a fairly small share of the market.

At City Year—and at Citizen Schools today—social entrepreneurs are most inspired by this aspect of Steve Jobs’ legacy. How can we change the vector of our fields?

Even if Citizen Schools works directly with only a couple percent of the turnaround schools that need us, how can we do something that’s so imaginative, so inspirational, and so effective for children and adults that it changes the way others do things? How can our work not only inspire students, but inspire communities, school districts, and the whole educational establishment—whether or not they work with us directly—to think differently?

Jobs is gone, but he leaves us more than great gadgets, and more than a great company. He leaves us a road map for how to make the world think differently.

Here at Citizen Schools, we want to inspire Americans to rethink how they do learning and how they do teaching—to create an education system that’s as beautifully designed as the iPhone in my pocket.