Reflections on Startup Weekend EDU D.C.: Next Gen Schools

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This past weekend, we hosted the first Startup Weekend dedicated to school design outside of California—and the first one to be held in more than 18 months. The energy and the excitement of the weekend are still fresh, so I thought we would report out to other potential organizing teams on what we learned.

  1. The demand is there. We had more than 90 people buy $75 tickets to participate in a Startup Weekend dedicated to school design. Educators are hungry for opportunities to engage with colleagues in designing the future of school.
  2. Be clear about what you mean by school design. We wrote a new judging rubric for the weekend that deviates from the universal Startup Weekend judging criteria. This is a really important step. We also learned that five areas of judging is too many—both for participants and for judges. In the future we would work to narrow it down to three.
  3. Coaching is awesome. Our coaches got rave reviews from participants. Participants said that they got their most important insights from exchanges with coaches. One group said they felt like they’d had a graduate-level seminar in 30 minutes.
  4. Make it a community event. Our speakers, our coaches, our judges, and our organizing team were all local. In the end, our participants left feeling like innovation exists in our community and can be driven by our community—we don’t need to fly people in from California to make it happen.

I’ll close with a final personal reflection. We had more than 150 people attend some portion of the weekend. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, our host site, Columbia Heights Educational Campus, opened its doors at 7 a.m. and closed at 11 p.m., and we had teams there at all hours. And to a person, attendees were energetic, optimistic, and grateful for the opportunity.

Innovation in education is going to come from treating students differently and providing very different experiences. People are at the very heart of this movement. The question I keep coming back to is: How are we going to do that if we don’t start treating educators differently—and providing different experiences?

It is our hope that Startup Weekend could be one of those experiences, and it exceeded my expectations.

Thank you to everyone for a fantastic weekend!

Margaret Angell, Director, CityBridge Education Innovation Portfolio

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