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InterBoxes: A social innovation in education in rural China


Social innovation has increasingly become a hot topic in China, a process in which multiple sectors collaborate with each other, aiming to change the status quo through creative, effective, efficient and sustainable ways. InterBoxes is an innovative project in the form of a social enterprise that commits to improving physical school conditions by building libraries, classrooms, schools and dormitories with refurbished cargo shipping containers called “Boxes”. Within the scope of this project the word “Inter” signifies that each Box is equipped with an Internet connection to the outside world. Conceptually, as a social enterprise, the for-profit, business arm of InterBoxes is projected to operate within metropolitan areas, building structures such as cafés, gyms, bookstores, etc., all which will generate revenue to support the nonprofit operation in rural areas. This descriptive case study examines the implementation and use of InterBoxes as a library in a rural primary school and addresses the promises and challenges facing the project. The findings indicate that InterBoxes demonstrates much potential as a social innovation to improve physical school conditions and other rural education issues through the creative use of space and place. Recommendations for scaling up its operation in connection with a larger global network of innovation using shipping containers are discussed.

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