Charles Leadbeater

Innovation and Education Guru and Author of The Frugal Innovator and We-Think

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Innovation and Education Guru and Author of
The Frugal Innovator and We-Think

Charles Leadbeater is a renowned author, thinker and strategic adviser on innovation whose advice is sought by governments, cities and corporations across the world. Charlie’s expertise is about how these organizations respond to and make the most of the current upheaval, the tensions and the opportunities it creates. We are living in a time of stagnovation – stagnation combined with relentless innovation and rising inequality.

Pro-Am Revolution

The New York Times anointed Charlie’s idea, The Pro-Am Revolution, referenced extensively by Chris Anderson in his landmark book The Long Tail, as one of the biggest global ideas of the last decade. Charlie’s TED talks on innovation have been watched by well over a million people.

Mass Innovation

The Spectator Magazine described him as “the wizard of the web” after the publication of his bestseller We Think: Mass Innovation Not Mass Production which forecast the rise of more collaborative, open forms of innovation made possible by the web. The YouTube animation based on the book has been watched by more than 300,000 people.

The Financial Times

The Financial Times described Charlie as the outstanding innovation expert in the UK. A past winner of the prestigious David Watt Prize for journalism, Charlie was assistant editor at the Independent newspaper after a distinguished career at the Financial Times, where he was Labour Editor, Industrial Editor and Tokyo Bureau Chief.

Keynote Speaker

Governments in Europe, North America, Australia and Latin America have turned to him for advice on policy issues ranging from health and education to culture and cities. Charlie speaks regularly at high profile conferences on every continent, from the Gates Foundation in Seattle to the Qatar Foundation in Doha, for the Economist magazine in London to the Government of Mexico, from Microsoft to the Tate Art Museum.


Charlie is a long standing senior research associate with Demos, the influential London think tank; a co-founder of Participle, the leading public services innovation agency, which is working with public sector agencies to create next generation public services and a visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts, where he has championed ideas of open and user driven innovation. Charlie is co-chairman of the social enterprise Apps 4 Good, one of the first charities to be granted a license to make Facebook apps which has recently caught the attention of the White House.

The Frugal Innovator

Charlie’s latest book, The Frugal Innovator, analyses the spread of super low cost, simple, robust and shared solutions to pressing social challenges. The Frugal Innovator looks at how the global dynamics of innovation are shifting during the downturn with more new products being devised for and with relatively poor consumers of the developing world.


His recent work, Learning from the Extremes, in conjunction with Cisco, looks at the demand for innovative approaches to low cost, mass forms of education in the developing world. Learning from the Extremes profiles the work of educational innovators and social entrepreneurs around the world who are devising new approaches to make education available, at scale, at the bottom of the pyramid. Charles Leadbeater is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading innovative thinkers on the future of education, in the developed and the developing world.

From this research Charles has developed a set of tools, an Education Innovation Grid, now being adopted by policy makers in several countries, which clarify the different types of innovation that education systems need, from improving and reinventing schools, to combining schools with community programmes and transformational innovation to find entirely new ways to make education possible, often using technology.

Mass Collaboration

His education work also draws on his highly regarded work on the impact of the web on organisation and culture, in his two bestselling books Living on Thin Air and We Think: The Power of Mass Collaboration. Charles is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on the way the collaborative and open culture of the web is changing how children learn and how education systems will operate. He has been called upon to advise companies and governments around the world on innovation strategy.

Charles Leadbeater is one of the world’s most sought after speakers on  innovation and one of the few who can apply innovation thinking and practice to the challenges of education systems. Charles is available to provide keynote speeches as well as leading workshops and seminars which has a proven track record for stimulating new ideas and provoking innovation in action in education.

For, With, By and To

For, With, By and To, argues there are only four main ways in which we organize most social activities or address social changes. For solutions are delivered to us. With solutions we devise cooperatively with other. By solutions depend on self motivation and DIY. To solutions depend on instruction, command and coercion, to get things done. Crudely speaking the 20th century was shaped by the rise of more complex, powerful and sophisticated For and To solutions in virtually every walk of life, at the expense of With and By solutions, cooperation and self help. This dependence on For and To solutions has come at great costs, not least the ability of those delivering to abuse their power. We need to redress this imbalance and develop more effective With and By solutions in virtually every area of life, from learning and health, to ageing and dying, to politics and the environment.

What’s Next? 21 Ideas for 21st Century Education

What’s Next is based on case studies of six innovative schools and sets of schools and interviews with local authorities around the country. This talk links two policy agendas which are deeply interconnected but have often been treated as if they are separate: personalizing learning and school collaboration. The argument here is that if our aspiration is personalization for all learners, schools will need to work together to achieve it. Personalizing learning relies on getting young people to ‘invest’ in their education. The term is used metaphorically, pointing to the need for learners to be much more profoundly engaged in the process of learning. To achieve this, schools need to use resources flexibly and creatively, especially in partnership, and reach beyond the boundaries of the classroom and the school. The best way to handle the increased complexity this entails is through school networks and collaborators with other stakeholders.

Frugal Innovation

It is widely believed that the world needs a different approach to innovation – Frugal Innovation – to achieve better outcomes for more people while using fewer resources. This workshop from Charles Leadbeater is designed to help organizations adopt Frugal Innovation as a mindset and a core value. In a highly interactive, problem-solving style, Charles will take groups through the stages of Frugal Innovation to prepare them to apply its principles within their own organizations.

Knowledge Economy

Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Public Services and Civil Renewal

All Charles Leadbeater Books

The Frugal Innovator: Creating Change on a Shoestring Budget
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Innovation in Education: Lessons from Pioneers Around the World
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We-Think: Mass innovation, not mass production
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Up the Down Escalator
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Living on Thin Air: The New Economy
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Recent Books

The Frugal Innovator: Creating Change on a Shoestring Budget
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Innovation in Education: Lessons from Pioneers Around the World
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