Inclusive Innovation: Designing for Equity - Digital Promise

Inclusive Innovation: Designing for Equity

October 22, 2018 | By

The word “equity” inspires good feelings. Who doesn’t want all students to access and participate in powerful learning opportunities? The challenge is equity efforts in public education often fall short of their intentions.

The world is inequitable by design—therefore, so is our education ecosystem. To quote Caroline Hill, founder of 228 Accelerator and co-author of the EquityXDesign framework, “Racism and inequity are products of design—and they can be redesigned.” The disadvantages that low-income students and students of color face are known and can be addressed. With an intentional focus on students at the margins, it is possible to create equitable access, participation, and outcomes.

It is particularly interesting to examine why the ubiquity of innovation and technology has not managed to level the playing field. Thirty years after the World Wide Web provided a gateway for the world to access information, connect, and learn, we are still facing a digital divide that has contributed to a continually expanding digital learning gap. Why hasn’t innovation in teaching and learning cascaded to underserved populations? What are the systems, structures, and cultures that are barriers to creating and implementing powerful learning opportunities for all?

At Digital Promise our mission is to accelerate innovation in education to improve opportunities to learn with the goal of closing the Digital Learning Gap. We have launched an effort to critically examine our work organizationally and within the League of Innovative Schools to target the barriers to participation in the education innovation ecosystem, with the goal of creating and catalyzing equitable opportunities for underrepresented individuals and groups to lead, participate in, and benefit from innovation.

The focus of our effort—Inclusive Innovation—is supported by research summarized in the report, Making Innovation Benefit All: Policies for Inclusive Growth from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The report examines how inclusive innovation policies can compliment “education policies aimed at ensuring equal access to high-quality education (from early childhood to tertiary education) and promoting high educational attainment by all segments of society.” This report defines inclusive innovation policies and practices that aim to “remove barriers to the participation of individuals, social groups, firms, sectors, and regions underrepresented in innovation activities.”

Our work is purposeful in broadening three dimensions of innovation towards inclusivity:

  • The Definition of Innovation: Expanding the criteria for identifying and describing innovation beyond technology, form and function
  • The Creators of Innovation: Expanding who is an innovator beyond academic achievement, professional attainment and leadership or authority
  • The Participants in Innovation: Expanding access to innovation beyond the user who traditionally has direct, unrestricted access

As school leaders whose districts reach close to three million students, with 50 percent or more including students of color and students who qualify for free-and-reduced lunch rate as well as 28 percent in rural areas, equity is a high priority challenge (see the Challenge Map). Through our Inclusive Innovation initiative, Digital Promise and the League are committed to critically examine our own work and double-down on purposeful design to advance equitable opportunities and outcomes for students.

You can keep updated on our research, the progress of our work, and the stories we are cataloging by following #DPLIS.

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