Omidyar Network in Brazil
When I was a naive, new activist, I watched documentaries like Laura Poitras’s Citizenfour about Edward Snowden. I believed what was portrayed without really questioning it. I thought I’d found a few “good guys” in a rotten system. Snowden gathered intelligence as a Dell Corporation contract employee to the NSA. Watching the footage where Snowden tosses his Dell ID on the hotel bed to show he was legit, was a revelation that helped me see the educational technology pouring into Philadelphia’s classrooms wasn’t merely about selling computers or software or cloud storage; it was about state surveillance and signals intelligence.
The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation had been giving grants to the Philadelphia School District to remake policies that favored privatization. Those films expanded my awareness of what was happening. It would take a few more years before I recognized there was even more going on below the surface. Once I had more experience following money, I realized the Snowden leaks themselves had been intercepted by Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, former owner of PayPal, and promoter of digital identity. Greenwald was co-founding editor of The Intercept and worked for Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media between 2014 and October 2020. Omidyar has been one of the principal architects in the social impact investing space both globally and in Brazil specifically. Omidyar Network, launched in 2004, helped lay the groundwork for today’s data surveillance society. Online auctions and digital payments will be linchpins of the tokenized data economy.
Omidyar Network also helped scale adoption of digital education and microfinance. The organization began investing in education in Brazil in 2015, around the time they partnered with Stanford’s Lemann Center to develop the equivalent of the Common Core Standards for Brazil. If there are no standards there can be no game. Therefore, the standards, the rules, must come first or nothing can be engineered; no profiling can take place; no risks can be weighed – no rules, no bets, no hedge-fund profit. You can read my posts about Omidyar Network’s involvement with predatory ed-tech, home visits, and the Vatican here, here, and here.
Adoption of national education standards in Brazil, as in the United States, came with some measure of pushback on a draft that came out in 2015. Two years later voluntary standards were adopted. Secondary school standards adopted in 2018 were even more controversial removing all requirements other than math and Portuguese, eliminating physical education, and setting up five subject area tracks for which not all schools may have funding. That same year Brookings put out an article pushing for efficiency in social spending in relation to public education, which will undoubtedly lead to digital vouchers and gamified online modular content and skills logged with out of school time partners like recreation centers. In his podcast with Andray Domise Greenwald mentioned how well their two adopted children were doing with their studies after difficult early years at an orphanage. It’s hard to imagine a journalist with school age children whose employer was backing the creation national education standards would not be aware of this controversy or education-related impact investing.
These are some of the investments Omidyar has made in Brazil as of 2019: Geekie, an online adaptive learning program; Nova Escola, a digital content provider aligned with national standards; AgendaEdu, school communication app; Guiabolso, a personal finance management app; Colab, a civic tech app for government communications; Nossas, civic tech for community organizing; a study in alternative insurance products; a study about educational technology and the needs of low income families; and a study on educational attainment and opportunity gaps.
In September 2021, the University of Oxford Government Outcomes Lab issued a report on the prospects of developing a culture amenable to social impact bond programs in Brazil. The country’s first education impact bond was attempted in 2016 with backing from the Interamerican Development Bank and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, which coordinates with the Impact Management Project and is a member of the Consultative Group To Assist The Poor. Another partner was Social Finance UK, Ronald Cohen’s incubator for catalyzing widespread adoption of outcomes-based, data-driven, public-private partnerships and the total weaponization of social services around the world. The first SIB effort fell apart due to lack of political support. Another deal was put together between 2018 and 2020, however, Covid disrupted this second attempt. The Oxford policy wonks concluded the report on a hopeful note stating a new cohort of innovators was being groomed, and they anticipated Brazil would be able to overcome its disinterest in outcomes-based culture and put the necessary legislation in place to smooth the way for a future of disruptive innovation.
In the United States high-speed internet access in schools has been emphasized for the past decade, advanced by e-rate government subsidies, begun in 1996, combined with infrastructure grants from Silicon Valley philanthro-capitalists. The goal is to close, as the World Economic Forum would say, “the digital divide.” Once that task was largely accomplished, the focus became extending broadband to all low-income homes so children would be able to do online school – “anytime anywhere learning.” The lockdowns for the past eighteen months were the disaster that brought the demand for home-based “learning” infrastructure to the fore. With xAPI technologies learning on phones, tablets, and wearables can now be captured and fed into blockchain ID linked learning lockers. Few pause to contemplate what is means that this infrastructure was developed for military use so the state could track knowledge acquisition everywhere. Cue Foucault’s panopticon.
Scan The Education Superhighway’s homepage, to see how the messaging is being spun. That organization, which has been funded since 2012 by the likes of the Gates and Ford Foundations and Chan Zuckerberg, has now moved from K12 connectivity to “Apartment wifi” and “Broadband Adoption Centers.” Their slogan is “No Home Left Offline.” With 99.3% of US schools now connected, the next frontier is homes. What most are unable to fully comprehend is that these digital enclosures, touted as progress, are at the end of the day, tools of empire. They are meant for programming, surveillance, signals intelligence, and social control. Look at the ubiquitous HP chrome book. How many families with these devices in their homes realize Hewlett Packard’s other activities? This company manages biometric border control; advances franken-food bio-printing; remade the non-profit sector for data-driven service delivery; and devised a “free” global Open Education Resource apparatus that will soon track “learning meta data” for entire populations for the purposes of human capital finance. Everyone is only looking at one part of the elephant. We’re not yet putting the pieces together, and we MUST do that soon.
A similar internet connectivity effort is underway in Brazil organized by the Brazilian Network Information Center and the Brazilian Internet Streeting Committee, that has been collaborating with UNICEF. It is important to note that the headquarters of the UNICEF Innovation fund is on the Bay Area campus of Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity University. UNICEF innovation, with support from Disney who is their primary funder, has been working on artificial intelligence, drones, Internet of Things and blockchain. In 2019 they made investments in 13 new start-ups, including ventures in Mexico, Argentina, and Guatemala. A major emphasis has been in educational technology, including extended reality utilizing VR headsets. In Chile, UNICEF innovation has backed Utopic Studio’s subscription VR “educational” games for toddlers through grade 12! This is total programming of the children of Latin America by California’s defense-entertainment-psychological warfare division. Picture the Mission School model delivered in coded nudges, tweaking the neurons of children so they will remain captives of these technological systems of domination.
In 2020 UNICEF’s Giga program allied with ITU (International Telecommunications Union), began to evaluate the country’s schools using SIMNET, an internet traffic measurement system. Giga has done this in over a million schools in 41 countries since it launched in 2019. Once you look at the Giga partner page, you realize they aren’t going to the effort for nothing: Ericsson (Swedish Fourth Industrial Revolution automation and robotics), SoftBank (Japanese AI and robotics innovation fund), Arm Holdings (semiconductor chip technology research acquired by NVIDIA), Actual (ESG software platform with digital twinning capabilities), Boston Consulting Group, and Elon Musk’s foundation.
Stanford, MIT, and the Christensen Institute – Blended Learning
Stanford University will likely be paying close attention to developments in this space. Since 2009 their Graduate School of Education has hosted the Lemann Center for Educational Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Brazil underwritten by Jorge Paulo Lemann, a Swiss-Brazilian Harvard alumnus who made his first fortune in investment banking and another in beer, fast food, and condiments. Lemann is the Chairman of the Latin American Advisory to the New York Stock Exchange.
Over the past dozen years Stanford has trained 120+ education entrepreneurs to shape the schooling of disadvantaged youth in Brazil’s public schools and alternative programs, such as recreation centers. In the spring of 2018, I wrote an extensive piece about impact investing and out-of-school time learning providers in Philadelphia. These facilities were being pressured to adopt blended digital learning solutions that would collect data on students to fulfill the requirements of pay for success contracting. Philadelphia was part of a statewide program to build next-generation afterschool programs with the support of the Wallace Foundation. A major focus was setting up a robust data dashboard platform called PhillyBOOST created by Steve Ballmer’s Social Solutions.
Experts from the Lemann Center advised the Brazilian Government in their development of the equivalent of the US Common Core State Standards. While adoption of a national set of standards was recommended in the mid 1990s no serious effort was put into developing them until 2013 when outside partners, including Lemann and Omidyar Network, arrived on the scene with financial and administrative support. The draft Base Nacional Comun Curricular (BNCC) was put forward in 2015 and after considerable controversy was adopted in 2017.
In 2019, the Lemann Foundation joined MIT Media Lab in sponsoring a “Creative Learning Conference” with the education department of the City of Sao Bernardo do Campo in Sao Paulo. It was part of an ongoing effort to introduce project-based learning through the Brazilian Creative Learning Network. Since Brazil is late to the game with national standards, let me share with you that in the United States many educators and families are falling for this linguistic wizardry. They see “projects” and think how much better that approach will be after being put through the ringer by drill-and-kill assessments for a decade. Well, it would be except for one big catch. These programs are all being led by universities with a vested stake in advancing mastery badge / micro-credential programs that will be enable Globalization 4.0 – jobs assigned by AI and carried out through remote robotics and other online platforms.
These programs sound so nice, but they will have skills rubrics, including “prosocial behaviors,” embedded in them with proficiency or master data is aggregated from video demonstrations, photographs, wearable sensors, and Virtual Reality simulation biometrics. All that data tied to people being “education” will then be inverted and used to “educate” the AI. That is why the xAPI system, “we can track it,” was developed by the US military. Hewlett Packard is a primary funder of this transition and helped develop Open Education Resources for meta-data. They call this new type of education deeper learning, and it is embedded in the American School of Sao Paulo where they have been piloting Stanford’s d.school curriculum, which is underwritten by Hasso Plattner – SAP money. Once you know this, you will see embedded clues that reveal the plan is to pull kids into the Internet of Everything – the Metaverse. For a deeper dive, so to speak, you can read my blog posts on the topic here, here, and here.
Lemann has enough money that he can spread it around. Jorge, a Harvard alumnus, also endowed a research fund at his alma mater. Between five and ten fellowships valued at $150,000 are awarded annually to Harvard-based scholars investigating issues relating to Brazil. The Lemann Brazil Research Fund operates out of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. A scan of awards indicates ongoing grants made to projects aligned with early childhood impact investing, specifically in the social-emotional learning arena, as well as data-driven municipal policy. Of the thirty-three grants awarded by Harvard’s Lemann Brazil Fund between 2016 and 2020, a majority had ties to the Graduate School of education. Nineteen research projects could be seen as market-shaping for impact investing in human capital finance. See as follows:
Dana Charles McCoy, graduate school of education, “Assessing the Impact of Socio-Emotional Learning Programming in Brazil” 2016; follow up study in 2017; third study 2019 “Testing the Impact of a Low Cost, Evidence-Based and Scalable Approach to Social and Emotional Learning in Brazilian Early Childhood Settings
Gautam Rao, behavioral economist, “From Research to Policy: Improving Municipal Policymaking in Brazil” 2016 and “Overcoming Barriers to Adoption of Effective Municipal Policies” 2018.
Paola Uccelli, graduate school of education, “Learning for All” 2016; and “Aprender A Estudar: Supporting Fourth-Grade Teachers to Prepare Lifelong Readers and Learners 2019
Emmerich Davis, graduate school of education, “Teacher Incentives and Socialization” 2017
Gigi Luk, graduate school of education, “Early Literacy Prediction and Reading Intervention for Preschoolers from Low-Income Families in Natal, Rio Grande Do Norte, Brazil,” 2017
Katherine Merseth, graduate school of education, “Teaching Teachers to Teach: Investigating Pedagogies and Practices to Improve Teacher Education in Brazil,” 2017
Stephanie Jones, graduate school of education, “SEL Kernels for Brazil ECE: A Low-Cost Evidence-Based Approach to Social Emotional Learning in Brazilian Early Childhood Settings,” 2018
Meredith Rowe, graduate school of education, “Parent-Child Interaction and Child Language Development in Low-Income Families in Brazil,” 2018; and 2020 “The Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of an Early Language Development Parenting Program for Social Assistance Community Centers in Brazil”
Catherine Snow, graduate school of education, “Improving Literacy Outcomes in Brazil by Expanding Teachers’ Instructional Repertories,” 2018
Elizabeth Spelke, professor of psychology, “A Preschool Intervention in Brazil to Enhance Poor Children’s School Readiness,” 2018
Flavio Calmon, professor of engineering, “Preparing Brazilian Engineering Students for The Data-Driven Economy,” 2018
Michela Carlana, Kennedy School of Public Policy, “Tackling Stereotypes to Encourage Brazilian Math Talent,” 2018
Jesse Snedeker, professor of psychology, “An Evidence Game-Based Intervention to Enhance Social-Emotional Skills in Context of Adversity in Brazil: A Comprehensive Approach for Typical Children and Children with Autism 2020
Dana Charles McCoy received three back-to-back fellowships with a concentration on “evidence-based” solutions for social emotional learning. Those setting up these impact markets, which includes global banker Mr. Lemann, former Chair of the Latin American Advisory Committee to the New York Stock Exchange, are very much aware of James Heckman’s and Clive Belfield’s equations to manage young children as data. McCoy managed the SEED Lab, Settings for Early Childhood and Development, that aims to shape children through their home, school, and community environments. It coordinates with Harvard’s EASEL Lab, Ecological Approaches To Social Emotional Learning, research on social transactions. SEED touts five “influencing projects,” two of which are in Brazil – Kernel, incorporating small activities into Brazil’s national standards, and Programa Compasso, a study of the impact of weekly SEL curriculum on elementary students. The focus is on targeted interventions that promote brain games and emotional self-regulation. To understand concerns around the collection of social emotional data you can read more about the Heckman Equation here and how gutting the student data privacy act in the US opened the door for widespread behavioral data-mining of children here.
But wait there’s more! Leman also established an Interschool Fellowship at Columbia University to accelerate social change through exchange programs between Columbia University graduate students and institutions in Brazil with a focus on education and public health. Fellowship recipients receive full tuition and become part of an elite network funded by Lemann through related programs at UCLA, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Yale. Teachers College Columbia, home of David Snedden’s social efficiency movement in the early 20th century, hosted a special presentation on the adoption of Brazil’s national education standards, the equivalent of US Common Core, just days after they were formally adopted in 2017.
The presentation was given by alumna Leticia Guimaraes Lyle who is affiliated with at least a half-dozen NGOs in Brazil that focus on social-emotional learning. While serving as a Lemann Fellow in Sao Paulo, Lyle set up Afterschool Educacao and Hiboo, an out-of-school time program targeting ages 3-12 for SEL interventions. Clive Belfield, a professor at Teacher’s College, prepared the 2015 report, “The Economic Value of Social Emotional Learning,” that established an 11% return on investment in “evidence-based” SEL curriculum, which has essentially opened up vast markets of at-risk youth around the world to have their minds engineered for impact.
It’s not just Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, and MIT Media Lab with intentions to shape the creative minds of Brazil’s children. When I first started researching education policy I came across Clayton Christensen, now deceased, who was a Harvard business professor lauded for his support of disruption and also a prominent figure in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This matters, because at the time Christensen was at Harvard, Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, and the state was rolling out all sorts of neoliberal, data-driven techno-finance solutions advanced by his former employers at Bain.
With over a million members, Brazil’s LDS community ranks third in the world in terms of size after the US and Mexico. As I’ve written previously, Salt Lake City is home to many well-connected players in ed-tech, internet of things, virtual world building, synthetic biology, social impact finance, and state intelligence. In the era of the cloud, the world of movers and shakers is super tight knit. In 2015 when I first came across the Christensen Institute website the two primary areas of disruption were education and healthcare. My concentration was on the latter. I had no clue at the time how problematic the digital takeover of the healthcare space would become. Today the website has expanded to include six distinct focus areas K12, higher education, and healthcare; plus, private sector, emerging research, and global prosperity whose thumbnail image is a photo of Brazil’s favelas.
The creative project-based learning mentioned above is generally combined with a blended model where children spend a great deal of time doing self-directed activities on devices using curated playlists of HP-supported Open Education Resource (OER) digital consumables. The Christensen Institute maintains a relationship with the Lemann Foundation and was invited study and document education in Brazil through partnerships with Peninsula Institute, Porvir, Nova Escola, and Todos Pela Educacao.
Other disruptive social impact programs the Christensen is supporting in Brazil:
Blended learning – online education in schools towards mastery-based badges
Vivenda – microfinance in affordable housing renovations in favelas
Mind Lab – continuing online education and income generation platform for young adults
Kurande – low-cost cosmetics targeting favela residents, “non-consumers”
Catalyze Innovations Initiative – Brazilian affiliate Christensen Institute social impact venture