Introducing the Center for Inclusive Innovation - Digital Promise

Introducing the Center for Inclusive Innovation

October 13, 2020 | By

As a Black woman working in the education sector, I sometimes wonder how I made it through the education system, considering the odds that are stacked so high against a Black child in the United States.

I have to look no farther than my ancestors, grandparents, and parents for the answer. My dad and his 11 siblings were raised in a three-room house with no running water in rural Ohio. Despite the incredible odds, all 12 graduated high school. That is true education innovation.

Every day in this country, Black, Brown, and Indigenous people are “making a way out of no way” by tapping into their innate fortitude and ingenuity. Communities of color are by definition brilliant, entrepreneurial and creative. We must listen to and honor the perspectives of Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities who have been most impacted by biased education systems.

Instead of “helping people” by creating solutions that do not fit, the question is: How do we effectively resource communities of color as leaders and collaborators with schools to create liberatory education innovations?

Over the past three years, in leading our school and community networks in parallel to advancing our commitment to equity, I have been on a personal journey to discover how I can use my platform to be an education freedom fighter for Black, Brown, Indigenous and low income kids.

At Digital Promise, we have been listening, learning, researching, and designing a model of Inclusive Innovation to recognize the talent of underserved communities as leaders, designers, and beneficiaries, working in collaboration with school districts, to redefine education innovation.

Today we are announcing the launch of The Center for Inclusive Innovation, focused on:

Resourcing the creative ingenuity of communities of color to co-create liberatory education innovations designed to enable self-determination for Black, Brown, and Indigenous students.

The Center builds on the foundation of our work with the League of Innovative Schools and Education Innovation Clusters community networks. The work of the Center will spur the creation of Inclusive Innovation incubators across the country—essentially spaces for fostering and deepening collaborations between communities and districts from the League and beyond. The League represents the full spectrum of neighborhoods, teaching and learning contexts, and student populations in the country and will anchor the national footprint for this work. Out of this endeavor will emerge new and differentiated models, tools, programs, and products that are created by and supportive of the needs, interests, and dreams of Black, Brown, and Indigenous students and families.

We are launching this endeavor with several equity-centered research and development (R&D) projects underway, including:

  • Addressing Adolescent Writing through Inclusive Innovation
    We are working with teams of educators and community stakeholders in three regions on supporting adolescent writing for Black, Latinx, and low-income students.
  • A Diverse Educator Workforce: Designed by Teachers of Color
    Teachers of color from seven regions across the country are designing concepts to increase recruitment and retention. In December, we are hosting a national convening to showcase the concepts and Black, Brown and Indigenous-led organizations who are leading the work.
  • Open Education Resources for Racial Justice Professional Development and Teaching
    We will work in collaboration with racial justice organizations, communities, and districts to develop resources and teacher professional development to build teacher capacity and competency to engage students in racial justice consciousness and action.
  • Inclusive Innovation Capacity Building
    We will engage deeply with a district and its community partners to support and resource their capacity to apply Inclusive Innovation practices to address a local problem of practice. We’ll also document, codify, and share the learnings with the field through convenings, and communications campaigns.

The design and strategy of the Center is being informed by a renowned Community Advisory Council of leaders of color who work directly with and in-service of communities of color: Graphic with photos of Center for Inclusive Innovation Advisory Council

  • Kevin Hinton, CEO/Executive Director, Beacon House (Washington, DC)
  • William Jackson, Founder/CEO, Village of Wisdom (Durham, NC)
  • Nakeyshia Kendall, CEO/Founder, MindCatcher (San Francisco, CA)
  • Tiffany Majors, President and CEO, Greater Baltimore Urban League (Baltimore, MD)
  • Kevin Nichols, Co-Founder/CEO, The Social Engineering Project (Oakland, CA)
  • Chase Patterson, CEO, The Urban Academy of Greater Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Marsha Boyd Pharr, Retired Assistant Vice Chancellor at North Carolina State University and TRIO Programs Director (Raleigh, NC)
  • Jonathan Santos Silva, Founder/CEO, The Liber Institute (Rapid City, SD)
  • Karla Vigil, Chief Executive Officer, Equity Institute (Providence, RI)
  • Jamye Wooten, Founder, CLLCTIVLY (Baltimore, MD)

I am excited to launch the Center with my colleagues Malliron Hodge, Director of Community Collaboration and Design; Viki Young, Senior Director of Research; and the Digital Promise team.

Over the next several months, we will create a platform for community leaders, families, and schools to share how they are engaging in this work together. I am honored to build on the legacy of my parents by dedicating my life’s work to being an education freedom fighter and, hopefully, change the game and the odds.

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