Cognate AI

Helping an EdTech organisation reorient around purpose.

Project overview

EdTech can be a force for positive change, but it can also contribute to growing inequality in terms of access to learning content. 

Similarly, assessment in the world of education can be a useful and powerful tool, but applied in its most common format, assessment is used at the end of courses and learning experiences to grade learners. This can then restrict access to other opportunities. Along the way, assessments cause huge amounts of stress and wasted energy for learners, teachers and parents. 

The team at Cognate AI had developed some powerful technology and applied it into a number of different contexts related to assessment, including to make teachers’ jobs easier as they marked learner assignments, and to help learning institutions assess the level of incoming learners. These projects were progressing well, but the team wanted to explore other uses for their skills and technology. They also wanted to look at ways that assessment could be a force for positive change in the worlds of education and work. 

LearnJam were engaged to help Cognate AI team members to explore their own sense of purpose, and identify an aspiration for the organisation that was grounded in the changes that those individuals wanted to see in the world. Once this ‘North star’ was defined, we would be able to explore exciting new product concepts that were in line with this purpose, and help to positively impact the systems of education and work. 

Through this project, LearnJam’s intention was to: 

  • Help Cognate AI define its purpose and reorient towards it 
  • Connect individual and organisational purpose
  • Explore ways that assessment can be a force for positive change
  • Support the development of compelling product concepts that shift the systems of education and work for the good of humanity

Alignment with LearnJam’s purpose

LearnJam exists to:

  • Remove barriers of access to education and work
  • Support learners who are currently underserved
  • Develop skills that we need for the future of humanity, such as more effective communication, empathy and understanding

Individual purpose within the team:

“I’ve been interested in assessment and its impact since the days of my teacher training and working to prepare learners for high-stakes exams. I felt my role back then was to help learners ‘win’ against the exam. More recently, I’ve started to understand how damaging a force assessment can be. And I’ve become excited by the opportunities that exist to use assessment to empower learners and provide agency, rather than to restrict access and cause unnecessary stress. This project was a great opportunity to help explore those ideas with a team who were also excited by the potential of orienting their organisation around purpose and positive change.” Jo Sayers, project consultant 

“We are an early-stage startup questioning our business plan and seeking renewed energy and motivation. We turned to LearnJam, initially for help with productisation and market prospection for our AI-driven language tech.
LearnJam helped us to step back from our current product plan and to make braver, bolder decisions, supported and inspired by their orientation around purpose. LearnJam’s frameworks and thinking enabled us to think holistically and creatively in areas of inclusivity that had seemed out of reach. In a world where much tech does real harm and so many systems are ripe for positive change, they helped us believe and conceive of applications of technology to help people progress towards a better future.”

Paul Ricketts, co-founder of Cognate AI

Process highlights

For this project, we worked through the following stages:

What is: We gathered information from the team about their current situation, their reflections and responses to where they were as an organisation and in their projects.

What if: In this phase, we looked at individual sense of purpose and worked to collate and combine those individual intentions to create an organisational ‘North star’ that could guide decision-making. We came up with possible areas to explore by asking ourselves what changes we wanted to see, and what might inspire us in terms of assessment and edtech. This gave us a range of ideas to explore further. 

What now: Through ongoing conversations with the team, we narrowed down the product concepts to arrive at the one we felt would have the most impact. We also felt it had the best fit with the North star and the current state of the organisation. We then defined next steps to move this idea forwards and test assumptions and hypotheses.


Through our work with the Cognate AI team, the team now have a compelling vision for an AI-driven self-assessment tool that helps people create their own emergent curriculum, supported by powerful learning experiences and connections to their peers.

Watch this space as the team evolves this idea, and we are able to share more details.