Disrupting Education: Startup Weekend EDU D.C.

Early in the tech industry’s meteoric rise, it brought us the concept of the startup. Traditionally, we picture startups as small organizations, headquartered in garages, with lots of promise and little certainty. And we know that sometimes, on the power of an idea, those startups become billion-dollar companies like Apple or Hewlett-Packard.

What we often forget is that the great ideas that made these tech titans successful weren’t their first efforts. In fact, it took failure — often years and years of it — to catapult the tech leaders we know today from the garages where they began to nearly worldwide notoriety.

At CityBridge Foundation, we believe it is just as important for educators to have a safe space to develop bold new ideas — and possibly fail — as any tech startup. That’s why, from December 4th through 6th, CityBridge Foundation and Startup Weekend EDU, a 4.0 Schools program, will welcome 125 educators for a weekend of (to borrow a piece of tech slang) hacking the current U.S. education model.

The event, Startup Weekend EDU D.C.: Next Gen Schools, will challenge participants to think of education much in the same way that tech startups envisioned their revolutionary ideas: from the ground up. For 54 hours, educators, innovators, designers, and strategists will consider a total overhaul of the current school model, rather than tinkering around the edges of what already exists.

Across the weekend, participants will pitch ideas, form teams, and then design new, innovative schools to present to a panel of judges on Sunday, December 6th. Judges will include Jennie Niles, D.C.’s Deputy Mayor for Education, and Abrehem Gebre, a 2015 graduate of Columbia Heights Educational Campus and Georgetown class of 2019.

This event, the first of its kind to be held outside of California, will not only ask participants to challenge the traditional notion of “school design;” it will also push them to think about how we define academic success. Instead of simply relying on test scores, teams will explore other, more holistic measures that include student ownership and agency, social and emotional support, and career preparedness.

The end product from the weekend? Not a new software or tech gadget, but a suite of truly innovative — and, most importantly, actionable — ideas about what schools could look like in the near future. And, courtesy of Microsoft Corporation, the winning team will receive a one-year membership to global incubator and seed fund 1776 to launch their idea.

Want to see photos from Startup Weekend EDU: D.C.? Check out our recap.

Mieka Wick
Executive Director, CityBridge Foundation