Big QuestionsOur work related to complex challenges.

The Challenge

To help the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation create a new social enterprise at the center of a movement to transform learning from something young people do to something they live.


A new self-sustaining social enterprise that launched in October 2015 as LRNG, powered by Collective Shift.

In 2006, the MacArthur Foundation made what became a big bet about the future of education, shifting its attention away from the traditional school-based model of reform toward a more youth-centered approach.

By 2014, the bet was starting to pay off, but for it to really succeed, it needed an innovative path to scale and an entrepreneurial approach to sustainability. That’s when MacArthur came to IDEO for help in designing a new organization.

Together, IDEO and MacArthur set out to transform the foundation’s efforts into a self-sustaining enterprise that could balance the social responsibilities of a nonprofit with the lasting viability of a business—an opportunity that was as much about designing a new infrastructure as it was about creating a new culture.

Three illustrated scenarios paint different versions of LRNG’s possible future, each with an alternative view of purpose, vision, operating structure, product portfolio, and business model.

Using a novel prototyping process, IDEO created three illustrated scenarios to tell different versions of LRNG’s possible future, each with an alternative portraiture of its purpose, vision, operating structure, product portfolio, and business model. Through a playful, modular storytelling structure, the stakeholders considered the potential trade-offs of the different approaches and how to prioritize their organizational goals with clear definitions of success.

These different future-forward scenarios helped funders and partners grasp a radical organizational vision, as well as a clear operational model that was go-to-market-ready.

In October 2015, the MacArthur Foundation launched Collective Shift, the organization behind LRNG, with $25 million in seed funding and 30 partners, including Arizona State University, Gap Foundation, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Electronic Arts, and musical artist John Legend.

Based on the scenarios created by IDEO, LRNG is dedicated to creating a “learning as a lifestyle” movement that will transform the learning landscape and close the equity and opportunity gap for young people.

LRNG's approach combines in-school, out-of-school, work-based, and online learning opportunities that are accessible to all.

Archetypal comic book characters helped stakeholders understand the many possible roles the new enterprise could embody in the learning landscape.

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