“We believe that all people are capable of improving their own conditions. We believe that communities should own their visions of their futures. The problem we are here to solve is increasing their access to resources. We aim to reduce gatekeeping to the change we want to see in education. This is part of the message Hassan Hassan, CEO of 4.0 Schools, recently shared in a three-part series announcing 4.0’s new $15 Million Fund III. Before diving into the details of Fund III, it’s important to understand why 4.0 exists.

In Part I of Hassan’s series, he underscored that “4.0 is not a charity. We are not saviors. We are not the frontline leaders in every home, school, and neighborhood around the country doing the work that needs to get done day in and day out.” 4.0 is actually something more than all of this. They are connectors, coaches, and investor – and each of these roles plays out through 4.0’s Essential Fellowship and Tiny Fellowship programs.

Connectors and Coaches

Paramount to both of the Fellowship programs is the element of connecting and coaching. Fellows are connected with 4.0 staff, experts in the field, and program alumni during the course of their Fellowship. With the Essential Fellowship, aspiring founders receive coaching on “how to plan and run a short, discrete test of your idea.” In the Tiny Fellowship, aspiring founders learn how to take an idea to a proof point and they are coached in “how to plan, run, and evaluate a recurring, part-time pilot.”

As 4.0 looks to the next four years, the model of coaching and connecting will become more localized. In Part II of Hassan’s series, he noted, “4.0 will transition toward a distributed leadership model that moves all cash, coaching, community, and curriculum decisions and activities to representative alumni leaders in local communities across the country.” In practice, 4.0 has noted that this distributed leadership model will be driven primarily by alumni who will work in four areas:

  • Talent: Alumni leaders will coach each incoming class of fellows.
  • Ventures: Alumni investment committees will select and evaluate pilots.
  • Ecosystems: Alumni community builders will recruit future fellows and connect existing fellows within and across local communities.
  • Research: An independent collaborative of researchers will study the work to provide transparency, accountability, and continuous learning.

Investors in the Future of Learning

4.0 Schools has invested in more than 1,000 of its alumni over the past 8 years. Investments run the gamut from schools to programs to products (learn more about 4.0 alums here). What sets 4.0 apart is that they “invest relatively small dollar amounts in 10X more founders who have not yet quit their day job but have the technical expertise – and lived experiences grounded in the conditions they want to improve – to build the future of learning.” The relatively small investments are atypical of traditional educational philanthropy in that: 1) investments are made in the very early stages of an idea and 2) the smaller size of the investments means that more dollars can be given to more people. In Part II of Hassan’s series, he notes that the 4.0 strategy is one that “expands conventional wisdom in education philanthropy.”

As mentioned above, 4.0 will move towards distributed leadership where alumni will work in four areas. Those areas correspond to the areas 4.0 will pursue with its funding:

  • Talent: We will catalyze representation in education entrepreneurship.
  • Ventures: We will increase diligence in the earliest stages of investment.
  • Ecosystems: We will promote community ownership of education reform.
  • Research: We will advocate for smaller-scale pilots as more ethical R&D.

In 2013, we shared four reasons why every city in the country needs an organization like 4.0, and the reasons below still ring true today:

  1. They understand blended learning and can support teams in organizational design and tech integration (few shops are good at both);
  2. As a nonprofit, they are focused on impact, they take a longer view than accelerators, and will work on big problems;
  3. They build an innovation ecosystem by connecting educators and entrepreneurs; and
  4. They are the one organization that a superintendent, charter executive, chamber executive, and foundation executive could all get behind.

We look forward to seeing all of the innovative ideas that come to fruition as a result of 4.0’s Fund III. To learn more, view the Fund III Prospectus, sign up to be notified when the Fellowship application opens up in September, and be sure to read Hassan Hassan’s announcement of the fund.

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