An Innovation Hub
Innovation Diploma is not a course. We’re a start-up. We are a school within a school. We are School 3.0.
As a joint program between the School and MVIFI, iDiploma students engage with leaders in various industries, to create value through intensive ventures, and to build capacity as young innovators. Rather than merely preparing students for the future, iDiploma empowers young leaders to inspire, innovate, and implement high-impact work now.
Innovation Diploma unfolds as a three to four year program. Participants onboard with "Yeoman's Training" to build muscle and capacity as innovators. Then, various routes define each member's experience. When cohort members complete the program, they earn not only an MVPS diploma but an Innovation Diploma from MVIFI.
We believe that the core of innovation is a synergy between curiosity and action. An innovator engages, attacks, experiments with and ultimately solves problems in new ways. We must stop underestimating high school students. In fact, our young change makers are our best asset. Innovation Diploma empowers them to be innovators now.
I used to think describing iDiploma meant talking about one of our huge passions we had and I was stuck because I didn’t have just one passion. Now I think iDiploma is where I can wonder and learn about the world, ourselves, and problems we face.
I used to think that Innovation Diploma was confusing. I did not understand the purpose (or my purpose). Now I think I am learning skills to change the way I think while still retaining who I am. I am learning how to combine the real world with my life.
I used to think there was only one path. Now I think there are many.
Possibly the biggest thing I’ve learned so far from iD is that I use to think that this world was run by adults and as a student it was my job to sit back and do as I was told in class. But now I realize that students have a lot of amazing ideas and have the capability to actually make big changes happen in today’s world-- we don’t have to wait until we’re “grown up.”
I used to think we would learn about innovation. Now I think we use innovation in our work.
Where do our projects come from?
iDiploma creates opportunities for learners to gain a growing sense of self and even greater ownership over their learning journeys. Through explorations and exposure to a variety of types of innovation and a variety of potential project origins, we are continuing to build their toolboxes, so that each member can chart his/her own journey. Through design thinking and the core Innovator DNA skills, these learners are empowered to put their own mark on the world and do it with a tremendous amount of confidence and craftsmanship.
We operate as a team of innovators who tackle ventures* not projects. These ventures originate from the cohort members’ explorations as well as an all call to the community to submit their problems/opportunities. We've identified three types of ventures: (i)Ventures, CoVentures, and adVentures, that help us categorize the type of work we're tackling. With (i)Ventures, an iDiploma member pursues an individual objective through the lenses of inquiry, innovation, and/or impact. With coVentures, a small team of iDiploma members collaborates more interconnectedly to create new value and entrepreneurial or innovative enhancement in some thing, event, community, process, or product. Lastly, adVentures are moments where the iDiploma facilitators offer a challenge or opportunity to help learners hone a specific skill or set of skills.
*We intentionally use the word venture, which implies a risky undertaking or a daring journey; the word has an implicit sense of exploration and excitement.
Eleven of our iDiploma cohort members are embarking on an adVenture, where the facilitators are helping them identify strengths, build team and build capacity in our Maker tools.
A Design Brief, provided to us by Jeff Garrison from S.J. Collins Enterprises, has a group of iDiploma members concepting site plans for an outdoor community space that will be part of a larger high-end retail complex anchored by Whole Foods. The development, which sits on 11 acres, has the potential to change the landscape and the community of a nearby town.
Through observational journaling and empathy interviews, a group of iDiploma members stumbled on their own design challenge they are determined to solve: How might we make sustainability part of our DNA?
Foundational Rounds are agency building projects meant to introduce students to new tools, materials, and habits of making.
At the inaugural Council on Innovation event in 2013, a cadre of student designers took on the challenge of "How might we be more globally competitive?"
In the spring of 2015, a chief engineer from the North American Energy Services Corporation (NAES) enlisted the services of Innovation Diploma to conduct a "consultivation" (consulting for innovation) focused on "How might we improve communications across the 10 engineers working across the country in different systems and time zones?"
A group of iDiploma students are wrapping up their first year in the program with three rounds of building in our Hive space. Each round is intentionally designed so that students will learn and use the tools available to them, which will help them build their confidence as a maker. Additionally, the elements they are building are intended to hack the current culture and will serve as concrete examples of how building ideas and products visibly and tangibly can bring people together, convey new information or create a sense of community.
Each year, we gather a new cohort of learners who have committed to build habits of mind, practice and skills of innovators. It is critically important that we onboard our new innovators with the language and case studies around what it means to innovate and to also help them realize they can grow their innovator muscles through both practice and tapping into their strengths. This three week module invites students to discover and begin practicing the key innovator skills: observe, question, experiment, network and associate. Through play, facilitated discussions using protocols, sketching exercises and small expeditions, we help set the pace for the skills we will work to build over the next four years.
A team of iDiploma students are committed to reducing traffic in the City of Sandy Springs, a design brief that originated from the Mayor's office. Mayor Rusty Paul, along with the Sandy Springs City Council, has been working on the traffic problem in the city, and these students have now been given the opportunity to be part of the solution. Currently, a team of students are leading conversations with members of the community including Sandy Springs Neighborhood Associations, Mount Vernon parents and students, and Georgia Commute Options. The student team is currently conducting traffic and carpool experiments at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School to decrease traffic in the school community by 10%. Their goal is to use MVPS as a small area case study group, develop traffic recommendations for schools in the Sandy Springs area and the city as a whole.
A group of four students were given a design brief from AT&T Foundry that had them gathering user-based insights on the ideal way to surface video content to customers. Through multiple modes of empathy and discovery work, the team distilled insights and discovered patterns that helped them ultimately create a mid-rez prototype for their client. The team pitched their prototype to ten members of AT&T and the Foundry and were met with high praise: "This is better than a lot of the $100k market research projects I've seen come in." The AT&T Foundry team is currently taking the prototype to their design teams to build it out even further.
Visual Design thinking is a way for us to lean into images as a means to prototype over words on post-its or even physical prototypes. It often requires no more than pen and paper and prototypes can be created very quickly which means more ideas and failing faster which ultimately leads to more creative solutions.
Apply for iDiploma
Innovation Diploma is an opportunity open to Mount Vernon students entering grade 9 or 10. This program is a multiyear journey that unfolds as a three or four year experience inviting students to be change makers now. Students who thrive in this program are insatiably curious, profoundly optimistic, deeply empathic and biased toward action. Contact Meghan Cureton at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the application process or simply click the button below to apply today. Applications are due by January 25, 2017 for the 2017-1018 school year.