It wasn’t so long ago that events about education innovation were seen as the province of a few futuristic fanatics. For those who even put education and innovation in the same sentence, it was rarefied stuff. When folks got together to talk about innovation in education – and it wasn’t often – they could easily fit into the secondary meeting space at a smaller hotel, or, just as likely, into the lounge at the hotel bar. There, they could reassure each other that they were not alone, or crazy, in the belief that entrepreneurs with new approaches could bring fresh ideas that would actually have real impact in public education.
So it’s a little bit amazing to read through the agenda for the Aspen Institute Education Innovation Forum and Expo, which takes place not in some hotel lounge, but in the DC Convention Center Jan. 20-21. (Disclosure: NewSchools will be presenting a venture idea at the Expo, together with turnaround wizards Mastery Charter Schools.) The idea behind the event is to build on the federal Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), which last year delivered some $650 million to 49 innovation efforts at a wide range of stages of maturity. (Disclosure #2: nine of NewSchools’ portfolio members won. We’re really proud of them.) The event will bring private funders together with folks who didn’t win in i3, either because they weren’t eligible (for example, because they are for-profit organizations) or because they scored high but not quite high enough. It’ll be the science fair of the year.
But for folks like us, who’ve been pulling together events on education innovation for a decade, it’s equally cool to see the bang-up agenda for the day. Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute will kick off the day and introduce Education Secretary Arne Duncan; next up is… Alan Greenspan? And that’s the beginning to a day of smart, interesting folks—too many to list here but check out the agenda. The conversations in DC will help to tee up topics we’ll explore at our own Summit, which we’re excited to be planning together with the good Aspen Institute folks who are behind the event next week. (And among the many cool speakers next week is Sandy Speicher of the innovation design firm IDEO, who’s been helping us think about new formats and content at our Summit.)