Skip to content

From Survive to Thrive: Business Model Innovation within the Educational Service Agency

By Dr. Jo Ann Marie Steinbauer
Consultant and researcher

This study explored how and to what degree Education Service Agency (ESA) leaders apply business model innovation to promote organizational sustainability and growth. More specifically, this research aimed to unearth the successes, challenges, and outcomes ESA leaders have experienced in applying business model innovation. A qualitative approach, rooted in the theoretical framework of complexity theory, provided the versatility needed to address the research questions. This approach drew on the successes, challenges, and outcomes of business model innovation as examples from which ESA leaders could explore and experiment with practices that best fit their context and strategic priorities to promote agency sustainability and growth. The sample consisted of 13 ESA leaders of business model innovation representing 11 educational service agencies nationwide. Participants came from the Midwest, Northeast, Northwest, and South, and represented a continuum of experience in applying a business model
innovation practices within the ESA context.

This study provides readers with descriptions of ESA leader perceptions of applying business model innovation, along with the related successes, challenges, and outcomes. The study revealed six themes in response to the three research questions that guided this inquiry. The six themes were:

1. ESA leaders apply business model innovation in product and service design.
2. ESA leaders apply business model innovation in structure and process.
3. Successes ignite momentum.
4. Challenges are opportunities.
5. Business model innovation increases organizational excellence.
6. Business model innovation increases sustainability and viability.

The insights from these themes are intended to support the transformation efforts of ESA leaders in addressing the complexity of sustainability and growth amid continuous uncertainty and change.

About the author:
Jo Ann has dedicated her professional work to serving K-12 education from a classroom teacher to an instructional coach to an education administrator. Her interest in ESA Entrepreneurship and Innovation began within a Wisconsin CESA, working with Dr. Susan Leddick and Dr. Joan Wade. Since then, she has gained vast experience in both public and private sector business model innovation, bringing forth a unique dimension to supporting ESAs in applying business model innovation to increase sustainability and organizational performance amid a growing competitive education landscape laden with uncertainty. Dr. Steinbauer can be reached by phone at 920.728.7076 and by email at

Read Dr. Steinbauer”s full research paper here.

Scroll To Top