Equity Issues

Center for Inclusive Innovation Aims to Improve Opportunities for Students of Color

Education technology research and development will gain additional levels of perspective with Digital Promise's launch of the new Center for Inclusive Innovation. The goal is to bring in communities of color to participate as "co-creators and collaborators" in education innovation.

The center will be guided by a community advisory council made up of organizers, facilitators, developers and social change leaders who work on improving educational opportunities for students of color. The council will provide guidance on community-driven design and network building and participate in local and national R&D opportunities.

The initiative draws on work already undertaken by the nonprofit, which published "Designing a Process for Inclusive Innovation: A Radical Commitment to Equity" last year. That report examined how to bring "historically marginalized populations such as Black and Latinx students and students living in poverty" into education R&D. The organization has also been working with schools and communities on collaborative projects, including designing for the recruitment and retention of teachers of color and advancing innovation in secondary writing.

The 2019 report included a simple matrix for understanding how well equity considerations are built into proposed education solutions. As the organization noted, what distinguishes the inclusive innovation model is that "it results in solutions that have been informed and developed by co-experts, including community stakeholders, developers, and researchers Co-design of solutions ensures they are contextually and culturally relevant."

Now Digital Promise hopes to deepen its community work through the new center.

"Communities of color have long been creative, brilliant, and entrepreneurial, but they are left out of the education innovation conversation," said Kim Smith, executive director of both the Digital Promise's League of Innovative Schools and the new center, in a statement. "We hope to recognize and resource historically underserved communities as leaders, designers and beneficiaries of innovation."

"Working at the intersection of communities, educators, researchers and developers, we seek powerful solutions to provide students with culturally affirming, high-quality education," added Digital Promise President and CEO, Karen Cator.

"The creation of the Center for Inclusive Innovation has come at a time in our country where Black, Brown, and Indigenous students will need every possible resource available to negotiate power relationships as they develop," noted Marsha Boyd Pharr, assistant vice chancellor in charge of federal TRIO programs at North Carolina State University and a member of the Community Advisory Council. "It is exciting that the mission is to not only move students forward in their development, but to include their families and communities in the process, because raising the next generation is a shared responsibility."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.