Designing Innovation for Equity: What’s Taking So Long?

Project Info

Project Description


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


What’s taking so long? Small thinking, small projects and small

mindedness. Neither innovation nor equity benefits with this



Redefining what it means to be a champion.