Iris Lapinsky – A New Radical
In the autumn of 2009, I was lucky enough to work with Rodrigo Baggio on a global education programme that I was developing. For those who aren’t familiar with him, Rodrigo is one of the world’s most respected social entrepreneurs with a passion for using technology as a tool for positive social change. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Digital Inclusion (CDI), the first non-profit organisation to tackle the digital divide in Latin America.
I remember the glint in Rodrigo’s eye when I asked him about his plans to bring CDI’s vision and ingenuity to Europe. ‘Just wait’, he said, ‘it’s going to be great.’ Shortly afterwards, he introduced me to Iris Lapinsky and I knew that he was right: CDI Europe was going to be great.
There are three things that particularly strike you on meeting Iris. Firstly, she is a bold, imaginative and independent thinker. It would have been easy to import CDI’s approach to digital education but Iris knew instinctively that something different was needed for the European, and specifically British, context. Actually ‘instinctively’ isn’t quite right as in our first meeting, Iris shared with me her extensive research into the existing provision, the market needs and her gap analysis. This wasn’t someone who had a solution in search of a problem but a person committed to understanding how technology could address a specific social need.
The second thing that strikes you is Iris’ ability to keep her eyes on the horizon while her feet are firmly planted on the ground. When she showed me the outputs from the first Apps for Good workshop (www.appsforgood.org) , I went into overdrive. I wanted to get her in front of the Secretary of State, to find opportunities for her to present at head-teacher conferences across the country, to shout from the highest rooftop that here was a programme that could create huge opportunities for young people. Iris was adamant that Apps for Good needed to prove itself, to generate evidence that it made a positive difference. While innately confident in Apps for Good’s potential, Iris has a measured approach that underpins her commitment to achieving sustained and lasting positive change.
Thirdly, Iris exudes integrity and authenticity. I am lucky to have shared some of the Apps for Good journey and have seen times when there were opportunities to take a short-cut or to over-claim. There are huge pressures for social entrepreneurs to tell investors, promoters, prospective partners and clients what they want to hear. Iris recognised early on that Apps for Good would not succeed if it wasn’t rigorous; if it tried to underplay the commitment required by teachers, industry and young people; if it prioritised short-term gain over long-term impact.
Bold, imaginative, independent, measured and authentic are some of Iris’s many qualities. I nominated her as one of Britain’s New Radicals as it is exactly these attributes that we need in our society if we are to tackle some of the big social, economic and cultural challenges facing us today.
The full list of Britain's New Radicals can be found here.