Printed in BeyondMVP on May 25, 2015
“I can honestly say, with conviction, that the four weeks of this class have influenced my life for the long run.”
That’s what one student said after completing a short-term course with Innovation in Action.
Innovation in Action, formerly known as the Center for Entrepreneurship, brings inquiry-based learning programs to high school students across the country. Founded in 2011 by Eric Jacobsen, Innovation in Action has put on 3-day workshops, week-long summer camps and internship-based challenges in partnership with local school and companies in Atlanta, Georgia; Park City, Utah; Concord, New Hampshire; Boston, Massachusetts; New Haven, Connecticut and other cities. The goal of the program is to leverage local resources, namely innovative companies and civic-minded entrepreneurs, to train students at the intersection of business, social entrepreneurship, and education.
Jacobsen is a serial entrepreneur who had a vision of encouraging youth to pursue a path that is meaningful. He dreamed up Innovation in Action while attending the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative. Jacobsen partnered with Blake Sims, who was getting her Masters in Education at Harvard at the time, to develop a curriculum that would be fruitful and challenging. Lindsey Mangone joined the team in early 2014 as executive director and brought with her a wealth of business experience through her work at Deloitte and a passion to see youth transformed through mentor-based relationships.
The camps and workshops focus on introducing students to design thinking, the growth mindset, the Business Model Canvas, Innovator’s DNA, and the tenets of the Lean Startup. Student teams are paired with local mentors to work on solving real problems. For example, during a short-term course at the Paidea School in Atlanta this last spring, one student worked with the school’s psychologist and a local shelter to develop a mindfulness program for homeless people in his neighborhood.
This year, Coca Cola, the Centers for Disease Control and the Atlanta Beltline will be participating in the program and presenting students with real business challenges. And, through a partnership with a study abroad program, Innovation in Action has also sent students to Cambodia and Cuba, among other places.
The program has the support of local educators. Atlanta teacher Miranda Knowles who has led two sessions at the Paidea School said, “Social entrepreneurship actually really speaks to me as a field of inspiration for students. I love giving kids the space to understand an issue deeply and design something to make a positive impact.”
According to the leadership team, the program’s biggest needs right now are for for innovative spaces to host student events and for mentors and facilitators to lead the way in their communities.
Typical classroom settings do not make ideal venues; more ideal are those that promote networking and community building. Correspondingly, the best mentors are those who can embrace a coaching-style teaching method, allowing students to ask questions and guide the learning by finding their own answers. Program leaders emphasize that students must embrace the reality that there is usually more than one right answer!
Innovation in Action has a goal of bringing their curriculum to cities where students don’t have access to resources that might launch them on the path of entrepreneurship. Currently, the program runs on a tuition-based revenue model, with corporate sponsorships subsidizing the cost and providing scholarships for deserving students. The organization would entertain outside investments that would allow them to reach more lower-income students and will eventually be applying for grants to do the same.
There are currently two summer programs open for registration:
- June 15-17 at the Atlanta Tech Village
This 3-day workshop will encompass Entrepreneurship 101 and allow students to participate in a design challenge, culminating in a pitch competition.
- July 6-10 at Chick Fil A Headquarters
This week-long camp will allow students to dive deep into the Business Model Canvas and the Innovator’s DNA.
Other programs are in the works for the late summer in Concord and Park City.