Solution Labs Push Partners to Think and Act Big

100Kin10 Solutions Labs are multi-month experiences for partners to explore a field-wide challenge and co-develop and co-fund a coordinated solution. The results are products, tools, or opportunities that are bigger and better than any one organization could create or afford on its own. Because they are co-developed and co-funded by multiple partners, these solutions are, by design, employed by a critical mass of organizations, thereby increasing their impact.

In our inaugural Lab, partners and top-notch media firms framed an actionable challenge: develop communications messages that will draw STEM undergraduates and recent graduates to STEM teaching. The resulting “Blow Minds, Teach STEM” launched in September 2014, featuring an animated music video and an interactive website connecting site visitors with co-funding partners. The campaign was featured on platforms such as Upworthy, TED, and YouTube nation, and it was tweeted by influencers including John Legend, The White House, and Secretary Arne Duncan, generating a reach of 13 million via social media and sourcing hundreds of interested candidates to partners.

Our second Solution Lab in March 2014 zeroed in on the need for change-management strategies to help organizations address the transition to the new standards. In one of the projects that emerged, Dr. Drew Westen, neuroscientist at Emory University, incorporated landscape analysis, qualitative research, quantitative data, and ongoing input from co-investing partners to develop messages to guide principals, teachers, parents, and sector leaders in talking about the new standards. The work culminated in “Plagiarize This,” an aesthetically-pleasing toolkit that made it easy for partners and others to integrate the messages into their existing communications. Carnegie Corporation of New York awarded grants to five partner organizations to implement the strategies outlined in Plagiarize This. Read more about the work of these partners in our story called, “Carnegie Corporation Fuels Strategic Projects to Improve Perceptions of State Standards.”

In the third Solution Lab partners came together to grapple with how to respond to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Partners came together not to study the legislation, but to think more critically about the role they need to play within their communities to keep STEM and teachers a top priority as states and districts develop plans under ESSA. Together, they developed a digital resource hub, “Every Student Succeeds with STEM.”

Heidi Glidden, former Manager of Educational Issues at American Federation of Teachers, participated in several Solution Labs and noted:


“Solution Labs are truly unique. They force you to get out of your own way, to think bigger, and try a new approach to addressing something your organization is grappling with alongside an impressive group of collaborators. And, on top of that, you get access to a product that is big, impactful and expensive, one that you likely do not have the time, resources, or people to create on your own. I’ve worked for AFT for over 20 years, and I have not had any other experiences like Solution Labs. This is the first time that I’ve worked with not-the-normal bedfellows, and I love that.”