Harvard University Student Entrepreneurs in Education Innovation Get Major Boost

New Resources will Help Teams Spur Greater Change for Learning Communities Across the Country

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.—September 19, 2019— Harvard University announced today a new focus on education innovation and student entrepreneurship through an initiative called Operation Impact. Along with support from new sponsors, including corporate leader SMART Technologies, Operation Impact provides student entrepreneurs the funding, infrastructure and mentorship, and cutting-edge web design and development they need to create and develop impact-focused starts-up. Students will work in cross-disciplinary teams to address a range of pressing issues faced by educators, learners, and parents throughout the world.

In the past year, teams from Operation Impact’s beta program have helped to combat pervasive burnout in new educators; improve access to and promote STEM education across the country; and create opportunities for women of color artists, cultural practitioners, and communities of color. (For more about these ongoing projects and Operation Impact’s unique approach, visit this Harvard Gazette story.)

The goal of Operation Impact is to empower students to not only be users of the educational system, but to innovate in ways we can improve learning and teaching for all, said Jaime B. Goldstein, director of the program. She added, “By giving real money to real students, Harvard is teaching students how to innovate and bring ideas to scale in the field.”

Operation Impact is open to all Harvard students in degree-granting programs; in 2019, students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were invited to join with Harvard students to create education innovation teams.

“Harvard has long been an incubator for creative and entrepreneurial ideas around teaching and learning, and Operation Impact is tapping into those energies and talents in new ways,” said Bharat Anand, who leads the Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning , which administers the initiative. “The value of these students’ ideas—spanning disciplines across Harvard’s campus and now MIT as well—are increasingly apparent beyond Harvard, and some have already shown concrete examples of their impact. It is exciting to see that corporate sponsors are joining our community to work together to further catalyze their successes,” added Anand, who is also the Henry R. Byers Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

Operation Impact receives support from SMART Technologies, Wix, AWS Educate, and RallyCry Ventures. SMART Technologies will fund Operation Impact’s SMART Fellows, graduate students and recent Harvard University alumni who have significant experience in education innovation. For the next three years, SMART will support eight fellows who will serve as on-the-ground mentors to student innovators, guiding them from the earliest stages as they apply for funding, to connecting teams with external experts and potential funders.

SMART is also providing access to technology and resources, sharing their software and hardware, as well as hands-on training and implementation services. Fellows and student teams will utilize the available products to enable collaboration and support the ideation process at every step.

“Supporting innovation in education that is driven by students is vital to the evolution and transformation of education systems around the world,” said Jeff Lowe, SMART Technologies executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “As a company, we are committed to improving outcomes in education; and to helping discover and share the knowledge and practices that will support students, teachers, leaders, and systems in achieving success. We are proud to support Operation Impact and cannot wait to see what incredible innovations this year’s teams develop.”

Wix, a leader in website creation, provides each team with a premium website for a year, enabling the students to use Wix’s web design and development platform to build professional websites that help facilitate their work and communicate their ideas.

“Wix is thrilled to partner with Harvard University on this initiative. Operation Impact provides crucial resources for tomorrow’s leaders and enables easy access to the powerful tools necessary to launch businesses online,'' stated Ohad Bolotin, head of Academic Partnerships at Wix. “Operation Impact facilitates students as they develop into agents of change within the education space. Wix is committed to helping academic institutions and their students to create an impactful online presence. The Wix platform provides a strong base for learning programs, communities and individual career trajectories.”

Other sponsors include AWS Educate, which helps students build the data and technology behind students’ innovations by optimizing AWS’s cloud-based system. RallyCry Ventures will be helping to support Operation Impact’s culminating annual award (the Launch Pad prize) and is collaborating to design processes and support for teams to gain optimal traction. AWS EdStart is providing the first and second place Launch Pad Prize awardees with Amazon Web Services Promotional Credits and time with the EdStart team.

Operation Impact was designed in close collaboration with the Social Innovation and Change Initiative (Harvard Kennedy School), the iLabs, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Initiative.

Read the Harvard Gazette story about Operation Impact and the student innovation teams that are reaching learning communities across the country.

For more information from SMART Technologies:
Shannon McLaughlin
SMART Technologies

Posted: October 3, 2019
in Media Releases