Inclusive Innovation Model

Inclusive Innovative is an equity-centered R&D model that engages communities—students, parents, families, and community leaders—in partnership with district leaders, educators, researchers, and developers to create novel solutions to complex educational challenges. The model prioritizes the voices and lived experiences of those who have been historically and systematically excluded to ensure the process and outcomes reflect their needs, hopes, and expertise.


Connect & Commit

Build relationships, trust, and a shared commitment to tackling a challenge.

Inquire & Investigate

Deeply investigate the challenge from multiple perspectives and arrive at target outcomes for addressing and measuring progress against the challenge.

Design & Develop

Create one or more prototype solutions that can be tested for the target outcomes.

Implement & Iterate

Implement one or more prototypes, tracking multiple progress indicators and target outcomes to iterate and improve.

Sustain & Scale

Implement refined solution(s) in multiple contexts, improving local implementations and gathering knowledge for scaling.

Equity-first practices


Capacity building



Throughout the Inclusive Innovation process, community members and educators are co-leaders and decision-makers; they shape and lead research efforts, and they participate as hands-on designers and developers of solutions.

To start, Digital Promise engages the teams in an experience called Connect and Commit–intentionally centering relationships, trust, and a shared commitment to set a foundation for navigating structures of inequity and power dynamics as we go forward in the work.

Connect and Commit practices introduced in this first stage are reinforced throughout subsequent stages through equity-centered focusing and reflection.

In the Inquire and Investigate phase, Digital Promise supports the team in a wide range of hands-on research-related activities, enabling them to conduct their own research, identify contributing factors, and explore the deeper root causes from diverse perspectives.

The team develops a common definition of the priority problem; co-develops an understanding of the needs, hopes, and dreams of students closest to the challenge; and determines targeted outcomes.

In the Design and Develop phase, Digital Promise supports the team in imagining a range of ideas through a lens of multiple dimensions of equity—including access, belonging, identity, and agency—to create novel approaches that enable equitable conditions.

Once the team has fully defined one or more solutions, the team engages in an iterative development process to create and test prototypes in partnership with subject matter experts and developers.

In the Implement and Iterate phase, Digital Promise supports teachers and students in developing progress indicators and implementation plans before solutions are enacted. Community members collaborate with researchers in gathering data to understand the implementation contexts and measure progress toward the target outcomes and indicators defined by the team.

The team engages in iterative “build-measure-learn” cycles until they have created a version of the solution that reflects student needs and effectively shows promise.

Once the team has demonstrated the promise of the solution, they consider ways to sustain and scale it in their local context.

Digital Promise creates opportunities for the team to share their solutions and learnings with new communities–who are encouraged to refine and adapt the solutions to fit their needs and contexts.

Throughout the Inclusive Innovation process, we support the team in engaging in equity-centered practices.

Ensuring community members, educators, students and parents are co-leaders, researchers and designers throughout the process deepens engagement.

Supporting capacity-building within communities and districts creates a foundation for ongoing collaboration.

Ongoing reflections support all collaborators in a process of shared meaning-making and a spirit of continuous improvement.

Celebrating people and progress honors the contributions, inspires healthy collaboration, and deepens relationships and trust.

Let’s take a look at some Inclusive Innovation projects...

Icon for Student-led Curriculum Advisory


In Arizona, a team is designing a Student Curriculum Advisory, which includes paid student internships, to create a mechanism for students to provide input and feedback on curriculum topics, inquiry questions, source readings, and more.


A Pennsylvania-based team is developing a set of protocols that leverage the expertise of community partners and teach students how to lead their peers and teachers in discussions about the impacts of racism on their educational experiences and mental health.

Icon for Student-led Mental Health Dialogue
Icon for Racial Equity and Social Justice Discourse


In Ohio, a team is developing a toolkit to enable students, teachers, and community members to engage in structured conversations about racial equity and social justice. The team’s goal is to build students’ and teachers’ knowledge and skills and garner community support for school-based dialogue on these topics.


A team in Texas is promoting student agency and building students’ confidence as writers by developing small writing groups and Interactive Writing Galleries, online spaces where students can write about topics they care about and collaborate with peers.

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Teacher of Color Fellowship


A team in Ohio co-designed a unique fellowship experience to recruit and retain Black male teachers through a spirit of brotherhood, relevant professional learning opportunities, and a peer support network.

Inclusive Innovation supports the development of novel solutions to complex challenges that are contextually and culturally relevant. It does so by elevating the expertise of community members as co-leaders, co-researchers, and co-designers of the education research and development process.

Learn More About the Model