In March 2016, Think Big and education advocate Kari Keefe teamed up to start the KC Social Innovation Center – an impact agency focusing on the social impact from technology, future workforce initiatives, and innovations in education and learning. Think Big Partners was the chief catalyst in the Center’s formation and early success by helping to incubate and accelerate its launch, including initial financial support as a founding funder of the startup-inspired nonprofit.
The KC Social Innovation Center (KCSIC) acts as a regional hub – a ‘think and do’ tank – that creates a sandbox for technology, community, investment, education and business networks to all come together to explore and catalyze solutions to bring growth, prosperity and inclusion to Kansas City. Its early focus has been applied to innovations in human capital development in smart, digital cities.
Since its inception, KCSIC has experienced significant growth in a number of core impact areas.
It was selected from a competitive applicant pool as a “pioneer VilCap community” by Village Capital and its partners the Kaufmann Foundation, Sorenson Impact Center and Revolution/Rise of the Rest. KCSIC received a commitment of $50,000 from the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and is the only education-specific city joining a sector-based cohort of 16 of the strongest entrepreneurial ecosystems in the country. The launch and deployment of the VilCap Communities program took place this past summer, facilitated by The Lean Lab, accelerating their cohort of five EdTech startups, resulting in two $25,000 grants to peer-selected companies. The 2016 winners were PledgeCents and ClassTracks.
The center is innovating around youth employment with new technology, new platforms, and new programs to develop precious talent from the inner city and scale it. At the center of its work is the LRNG digital platform — connecting learning experiences across the city to make learning more discoverable and accessible to all. LRNG launched in KC this summer when KCSIC was chosen as one of 8 new pilot cities for expansion. This work includes cornerstone partners Mayor Sly James and the City of Kansas City, Missouri, Kansas City Public Library, and the KC STEM Alliance. LRNG provides Kansas City youth the ability to earn digital badges — micro credentials that validate learning in all its many shapes and forms.
KCSIC continues to expand its emerging technology programs, including SensED IoT – a project-based, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education program for middle and high school students, designed to highlight and provide real-world experiences in the emerging application of the Internet of Things.
At the close of 2016, KCSIC is reflecting on its inaugural success, planning for 2017, and expanding with a priority on design thinking in human capital development in order to continue to bring about innovative pilots that disrupt learning systems, methods; and at times, the way humans support and work in these systems.
Do you want to help inspire and advance innovations in education, learning and workforce development? Contact KCSIC to get involved.