The Future of Education: Creating Communities of Innovation

On Sunday 27th January the TELLAL Institute will host a book launch for the Creating Communities of Innovation Handbook at the GEMS X Space in Emirates Towers.  It will mark a major milestone in this exciting project and a huge step forward in collaborative methods of advancing education in the region. 

What is Creating Communities of Innovation?

2015 was the Year of Innovation in the United Arab Emirates and as such a range of public and private sector entities engaged in a range of activities and programs to spark new ways of understanding and methods to address pedagogical challenges.  This also coincided with a growing global interest in innovation in education with many schools opening makerspaces, defining innovation competencies, or grappling with what new technologies could do to improve teaching and learning. 

In April 2015, GEMS Education group’s Head of Innovation Strategy, Christine Nasserghodsi met with Daniel Wilson, Head of Project Zero (PZ), a lauded initiative, hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which focuses on finding best practices to implement in teaching and learning and shares these through numerous resources as well as professional development events and courses.  It was through this connection that Christine discovered a way to give purpose to a bubbling grass-roots movement within UAE schools that was motivated to create a network of people with a passion for innovation and learning across a wide range of curricula and from schools with varying levels of resources.  Thus the multi-year Project Zero research project, Creating Communities of Innovation was born. 

The main aim of the initiative is to invite and equip teachers and leaders to design, implement, study and scale high-impact, unique approaches to teaching, learning and leadership.  Having been established by GEMS Innovation, Research and Development, the CCI Project is now run by the TELLAL Institute and focuses on studying creativity and fostering inquiry-based practice and collaboration through structured professional learning communities.

The project launched in January 2016, engaging a group of over 50 educators and administrators from seven GEMS Education schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Each participant contributed to a cross-pollination of ideas, strategies, and practices amongst a greater network of educational professionals coming together to support one another in the pursuit of positive change. 

As Christine explains, “The Creating Communities of Innovation project helped teachers and school leaders develop intentional frameworks for designing, prototyping, and testing school- and classroom-based innovations that drew upon the diversity and strengths of a particular school community situated within a broader network of schools. It also helped teachers and school leaders develop an evidence base to clearly articulate the need for—and impact of—their innovations.”

The study has highlighted that different competencies are required for generating an innovation, than for embedding the spread of an innovation in practice.  Leaders who wish to succeed must develop a degree of pedagogical and administrative ambidexterity.  The Creating Communities of Innovation model for inquiry-driven innovation puts this work in the hands of those closest to what happens in school. Every teacher is a leader—and there are no leaders more equipped to make meaningful, high-impact changes to education than teachers.

The Creating Communities of Innovation Handbook is the result of many years of hard work, from many individuals, and details an exciting journey full of stops and starts.  As a resource, it will enable teachers and leaders to find courageous ways to embrace positive change within your institution.  Whether you feel some aspects need to be incorporated slowly or speedily, there are clear methods to help you navigate the complexities and nuances of change within the UAE educational sector.  Most importantly, this book will help you understand that you are not alone and that there is wide, and active, community who have a passion for innovation, improvement and the future of education. 

If you would like to find out more about Creating Communities of Innovation, how to get involved or are interested in attending the launch of the handbook, please email

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