Designing Innovation for Equity: What’s Taking So Long?
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion at the ASU+GSV Summit, representing TGR Foundation and the work we do. Speaking to a packed room, our session, Designing Innovation for Equity, set out to broadly explore equity issues in relationship to the Innovation Economy-focused redesign of education systems. Sounds impressive, right?
The session began by asking the audience their thoughts about the progress and challenges currently being made with respect to designing and/or reforming educational systems that address innovation. One gentleman, sitting in the front row, asked, “What’s taking so long?”
That statement sums up my feelings about the work currently being done in educational circles. One reason we lag in this innovation and equity challenge is a sheer lack of action. Educators at all levels are known for analyzing, discussing, brainstorming and researching, ad nauseam. What we lack is leadership and direction that encourages risk taking and change. One that challenges the status quo, misguided policy and efforts that detract local educators from making change while the threat of pulled funding looms ominously.
Our education system is troubled, mired in indecisiveness. It lacks visionary leadership at every level and is devoid of entrepreneurs who are willing to take a few risks. Why don’t we practice what we preach? To learn and change we must be willing to make bold steps to pilot, customize and remove the barriers that exist for both innovation and equity. It isn’t just about creating opportunity. It is about developing a system that not only believes that ALL students can learn, but is created to address the barriers and biases that exist in our schools and neighborhoods.
But back to the panel discussion. What was highlighted were programs reaching a few hundred students in a large urban district inclusive of several hundred thousand students. What was described is, at best, a promising practice. To me, it is just too small to make a real difference. Held in the balance are generations of kids who are being prevented from learning and realizing their potential.
What’s taking so long? Small thinking, small projects and small mindedness. Neither innovation nor equity benefits with this thinking.
Redefining what it means to be a champion.