Educate!, a high-growth and award-winning non-profit social enterprise, is seeking a dynamic Chief Product Officer (CPO) to lead all product development and build our product org’s capacity for high-impact and data-driven product development.
Educate! applies product thinking and the product discipline, untied from necessarily using technology, to solve at scale the education and youth employment problems facing youth on the world’s youngest continent. The right person will be mission driven with an obsession for impacting their end users, and eager to use their product development experience to build highly disruptive products that drive social vs. financial value and meaningfully alter youth life-trajectory and life outcomes.
The right person will love team building, coaching and the product craft, bring in growth-stage experience, and will be passionate about building educational experiences that leverage both accessible technology (e.g. conference calls, feature phones) and in-person learning. This role can be virtual and does not need past education or international development experience.
Educate! grew 20x in the 6 years before COVID, and over the next 3 years plans to grow 3-5x more. As part of the top 4 executive team, the CPO be core to this growth.
What if there was a way to measurably change the trajectory of the lives of youth across Africa? Since its launch in 2009, Educate! has worked to do just this, delivering outsized impacts at scale and at disproportionately low cost, through a product-led approach to youth development. As a disruptive, not-for-profit, social enterprise, our team leverages an obsession with evidence and entrepreneurial drive to tackle one our planet’s greatest challenges – unlocking the potential of its youngest continent.
Educate!’s core model combines training in key skills with access to practical experience starting a business and mentorship, a formula that has been validated by several independent evaluations. This model is distributed through products targeting two lead channels. First, Educate! works with governments to help reform education systems at scale through policy change, teacher behavior change and tech-enabled products targeting systems-level sustainability, while also working directly with select schools. Second, Educate! builds employment-focused bootcamps and business support services targeting out-of-school youth left out of the education system. To date, more than 200,000 youth have been meaningfully impacted by this model across Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya and along the way Educate! has become the largest youth skills provider in East Africa.
Educate! is a team of over 160 largely African staff and 300 volunteer youth mentors. We prioritize building an engaging, fulfilling and growth oriented work environment. 50% of our top 30 leaders have been with us for over 5 years, 10+ alumni have started other organizations and 5 current or former team members were Acumen Fund East Africa fellows.
We have been backed by top foundations and product leaders such as Imaginable Futures, Big Bang Philanthropy, Echoing Green, the 1st Google Employee’s foundation, the head of Google Search and Rippleworks Foundation. Educate! won a 2018 Klaus J. Jacobs Prize and a 2015 WISE Award, and has been highlighted by Bill Gates, in the World Bank’s S4YE’s Impact Portfolio, an Al Jazeera documentary, BBC, and The Brookings Institution as one of 14 case studies in their global scaling education learning initiative. Educate! was also selected by the UN’s Generation Unlimited as 1 of 20 innovative youth solutions and by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a Goalkeepers Accelerator.
Educate!’s long-term vision is to design solutions that measurably impact millions of youth across Africa each year. We grew 20x in the 6 years before COVID, and over the next 3 years plan to grow 3-5x towards this vision.
How We Define Product
Educate! applies product thinking and the product discipline to solve the education and youth employment problems facing youth on the world’s youngest continent. In defining a product, we use Marty Cagan’s definition: a successful product has to solve for the customer, has to solve for our business, and has to solve for the technology. To us, product first and foremost has to solve youth needs and drive youth outcomes. Second, it has to solve for our org strategy and business needs. Lastly, it sometimes needs to solve for technology, as our solutions increasingly integrate simple tech such as conference call or USSD.
Product examples includes an in-person bootcamp for rural girls who haven’t completed high school, a conference-call based bootcamp for high school students to transition to employment, and a USSD-enabled system to help Rwanda’s education system capture student project work and integrate it into national exam scores.
Key 3 Year Performance Objectives
- In-person or blended in-person/conference call Bootcamp for rural girls validated and scaling up in Kenya and Uganda, delivers meaningful income boost (exact number TBD), and model built to serve 10-20k per year now, with potential for greater growth in future years.
- New product teams set up and experimenting with two new out-of-school youth bootcamps
- Education reform product suite simplified and team to fulfil design needs staffed to be able to serve needs in Rwanda, Kenya and two new countries
- VIP bootcamp, adapted as necessary, creates impact that is on par with direct to school model
- All product manager and product owner roles staffed and/or strategies to experiment to staff them
- Product team knows how to interact with delivery and functional teams in ways specific to each stage.
- Educate! “way we do product” established and adopted by the entire product org.
Own, build on, and manage a product strategy that will enable Educate! to measurably impact millions of youth each year.
- Lead development of innovative outcome-driven products for youth tailored to both direct delivery and government integration. Define product strategies and theories of change and support all product lines to create sustainable impact on youth.
- Build on and adapt Educate!’s product vision. Ensure the entire product organization is aligned on the product vision, strategy and goals. Facilitate strategic conversations with product and country leaders to co-create product strategies and growth plans. Support team prioritization in building the right things that drive impact for youth.
- Deeply understand the problems Educate! is trying to solve.
- Lead root cause analyses and guide others in the organization to think critically about root causes.
- Collaborate with executive team to define business priorities, resources, objectives, and market positioning. Identify key tensions and tradeoffs and bring to senior leadership team for resolution.
- Oversee product strategy implementation, including through the quality of product materials, such as curriculum, participant marketing and recruiting materials, and workshops.
- Define and evaluate appropriate product metrics and help determine the right time to apply each to help lead each product to achieve its impact goals.
- Identify areas of future development and ensure that continuous product improvement
- Map best pathways for tech to serve as growth enabler, blending in-person experiences with simple accessible technology to drive at impact at scale
Product Team Operations, Culture and Coaching:
- Empower and grow strong product teams to adopt and apply best-in-class product development standards and approach, contextualizing to Educate!’s work, target markets and youth participants. Promote application of product standards and strategy-aligned decision-making within product teams.
- Ensure procedures and clarity in place for conducting research, prototyping, design conceptualization, and product development across the entire product team.
- Build product culture: define and integrate into product team operations answers to questions such as how we product, what are our key processes, how we generate appropriate feedback loops, how we plan, what is the role of the product manager, how product interacts with other parts of the organization, which user-centric methodologies we use, and how we uplevel product team members.
- Mentor, coach, guide and grow product leaders
- Teach teams and build systems that manage products at different stages in their life cycle (from discovery all the way to scale), growing our internal muscle to recognize all the different ways a new product and the ways of work around it will be different from a mature product.
Customer/User Obsession, Insight and Data-Driven Decision Making:
- Build a team of product leaders who understand the problems, needs and desires of youth we serve, and engage with youth regularly
- Oversee both external research (best practices, existing evidence) and internal research and reporting to support evidence-based and data-driven decision-making. Ensure effective use of different product analyses.
- Identify behavioral change process for our product end-users (e.g. teachers and students)
- Establishes product development systems and standards for impact and optimal user experience across technology-enabled and in-person youth models.
- Ensure documentation and routine sharing of knowledge and experiences across teams and the organization
Ensure Product Experimentation Drives Learning
- Create systems and procedures for experimentation to validate new product ideas and innovations
- Provide oversight on the development of prototypes & pre-tests
- Support product teams to brainstorm and assess product design solutions
- Conduct reflection and learning workshops based on both internal and external reports and best practices
Qualifications and Requirements
5-8 years of product-related experience, with significant management experience
- Education or non-profit background NOT required
Passion for applying world-class product development to solving critical global challenges
- Passion and interest in youth
- Experience working with distributed teams
- Time spent at a smaller size startup or company (below 100 people) and experiencing growth
- Experience in product development – either product management, design, (user) experience, or user research.
- Knowledge and experience in designing and implementing behavioral change, ideally applied to more behavior transformative products
- Understanding and application of human-centered or iterative design approaches
Highly strategic thinker with passion for coaching team members
Collaborative, data-oriented approach to problem solving
A good fit with our Five Cultural Tenets (see “What is Educate! About?” Below; learn more by looking at Educate!’s culture deck here.
- Candidates of African nationality or descent strongly encouraged to apply.
- Meaningful time spent in the Global South and ideally East Africa is required.
Location and Time Zones
- This role can be virtual, with willingness to travel to meet with teams, youth and other key stakeholders.
- Requirement to work majority of the East Africa time zone work day
What Is Educate! About?
We’re ambitious. Are you? Educate! is growing fast, so new opportunities are opening up and expanding all the time. We’re inspired by people with drive, and we love to help them reach their full potential. We expect everyone at Educate! to contribute above and beyond their job description, grow their skills, and advance their careers, and we are committed to supporting our staff members on that journey.
- We Put Youth First – The youth we serve come first. Always. In everything. That means we wake up thinking of ways we can serve youth even better and get the highest impact out of every dollar that we spend. It means Educate! doesn’t own a single vehicle, because we’d rather take the bus if it means one more student can participate. It means making every decision like the future depends on it — because if we get our way, it does.
- We Are Always Learning – When you work at Educate!, educating yourself is part of your job too. We encourage every employee to find the best book on management; share the latest article on graphic design; bring in your favorite mentor; or meet the researcher pushing the edge of the field. We are always thirsty for knowledge and love to share.
- We Only Solve a Problem Once – We are allergic to band-aids so we love the person who brings the new system to solve the problem for good, even problems we haven’t recognized yet.
- We Are Flexible – We thrive on change — we’re driving it. We are growing every day, so we have to adapt quickly to meet new challenges, and our team keeps up.
- We Exceed Expectations – We assume we can achieve the impossible because we already have, year after year. We want our staff to create their own challenges, ask the toughest questions, and dream scary big!
Every person at Educate! — from interns to the CEO — is evaluated by how they live up to these five cultural tenets. They are at the core of how we achieve our mission and why we work as well as we do.
Educate is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all who interact in our community. In creating this environment, we encourage people from a variety of cultures, backgrounds and life experiences to join our diverse team.