Little Innovation or Stickiness in i3 Batch

NICE, FR.   Did St. Vrain really have the best Development proposal?  When I compare their Abstract with all the i3 applications I read, it looks minor league.  There’s no conceivable way that this proposal to make some improvements in this foothills suburb of Denver was better than Success Charter Network in Harlem or Brighter Choice in Albany.  Michele McNeil raised the same question and got a squirrely answer about standardized scores.
By making 4 Scaling and 15 Validation grants, cut out a lot of sold Development proposals.  This mix has a low stickiness quotient—a lot of PD but not many new schools (i.e., PD not likely to produce lasting improvement; new school much more likely to be around in 10 years).
Despite the name, as Rick Hess pointed out, the structure of the grant program had little to do with innovation.  It was ‘give money to credible people to scale stuff that appears to work.’
Let me illustrate a contrasting investment strategy.   Four months ago we picked an interesting category; three months ago we picked an Entrepreneur in Residence; two months ago we gave him $100k to develop a plan and a prototype.  In two weeks, we’ll review a more innovative proposal than anything received.  The business will be scaled with less than $5M of invested capital.  That’s investing in innovation.
btw, had a lovely day in Cannes yesterday.  Nice was nice–liveliest after dark downtown scene I’ve every seen.  Perfect weather–warm days, cool nights.  Off to Rome today.

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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