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Implementing Solutions

2021 Jacobs Foundation Conference | April 21-23

Education solutions for a post-COVID world

Submissions are Closed

Eligibility Requirements & FAQs

What is a Solveathon?

The 2021 Jacobs Foundation Conference Solveathon will be hosted by MIT Solve and use a human-centered design thinking process focused on rapid ideation, refinement, and prototyping of solutions to four global education Challenges. And the solving goes beyond the event: every idea developed in a Solveathon is submitted to Solve's Open Innovation platform as a solution to one of Jacob Foundation Conference’s four global education Challenges run by Challenge Partners to develop education solutions for a post-COVID world: 

  • Scalable Innovations for Blended Learning in partnership with Global Schools Forum: How can evidence-based blended learning solutions be scaled in low-resource contexts?

  • Showcasing 1000 Solutions for Quality Learning in partnership with Schools2030: How can 1,000 actionable school-led solutions be codified, validated, and showcased through an online portal to help the world’s teachers and education policy-makers improve quality learning for all?

  • Improving Learning Outcomes through Data in partnership with Global School Leaders: How can school leaders in low-resource settings effectively gather student data to improve learning outcomes?

  • Equitable Classrooms in partnership with MIT Solve: How can all young learners have access to quality, safe, and equitable learning environments?

The best ideas from the Solveathon will be eligible for funding from a pool of 1,000,000 Swiss Francs and mentoring, coaching, and partnership opportunities to further implement their solutions.

A wide range of skills is critical to creating compelling, research-driven solutions—engineering, design, marketing, business planning, community engagement, teaching, policy, etc. 

The Solveathon is a space to form and reshape ideas, to evaluate and re-evaluate designs, to prototype and collaborate, and to make new friends. Participants will have access to subject matter experts, insight into the local manifestations of each problem, and experience developing and sharing human-centered responses to these global education Challenges. 

Will the Solveathon be virtual?

The 2021 Jacobs Foundation Conference Solveathon will be held virtually on Zoom. Solveathon participants will also utilize other virtual communication and collaboration platforms such as Slack and Google Jamboards throughout the workshop. 

Who can apply?

Anyone, anywhere around the world can register to attend the 2021 Jacobs Foundation Conference and participate in the Solveathon. You can be a team with an existing solution to one of the four Challenges, an individual with expertise to contribute to a team as a mentor, or an individual interested in joining a new team to build a solution from scratch.  

For full participation details, please see our Terms of Service.


2021 Jacobs Foundation Conference Solveathon timeline

  • April 20, 2021: Pre-Conference networking event

  • April 21, 2021: 2021 Jacobs Foundation Conference Solveathon begins

  • April 22, 2021 at 3:00pm ET: Deadline to submit solutions on the platform

  • April 23, 2021: Challenge pitch sessions; finalists announced; finalist pitches; Audience Awards announced

  • April 28, 2021: Winners announced

  • May - August 2021: Three-month support program and solution implementation

  • September 2021: Winner Interview Day to determine follow-on prize funding allocation

  • Onward: Jacobs Foundation works with winners to advance their solutions

What type of solutions will Jacobs Foundation accept?

Jacobs Foundation seeks innovative, human-centered, research-based solutions to the four Conference Challenges that will contribute to positive learning outcomes for children ages 2-12. 

Through open innovation, Jacobs Foundation is looking for a diverse portfolio of solutions across geography, development stage, and team members’ gender and background. We encourage people of all backgrounds to submit applications and welcome submissions from all countries.

Solution applications must be written and pitched in English. We will consider solutions at all stages of development:

  • Concept: An idea being explored for its feasibility to build a product, service, intervention, or business model based on that idea. If not a registered organization, the team must have a fiscal sponsor.

  • Prototype: A team or organization building and testing its product, service, intervention, or business model. If for-profit, a new company getting off the ground that has raised little or no institutional capital (less than $500,000) in pre-seed fundraising. If not a registered organization, the team must have a fiscal sponsor.

  • Pilot: A team or organization deploying a tested product, service, intervention, or business model in at least one community. If for-profit, a young company that is working to gain traction and that has raised less than $2 million in institutional capital in seed funding. If not a registered organization, the team must have a fiscal sponsor.

  • Growth: An organization with an established product, service, intervention, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth in multiple communities or countries. If for-profit, an early-stage company that has established a track record and is seeking to raise a round of roughly $2 million to $15 million in institutional capital in a Series A or potentially B round.

  • Scale: A sustainable enterprise working in several communities or countries that is looking to scale significantly, focusing on increased efficiency. If for-profit, a successful company that is scaling its operations and seeks to raise a round of more than $15 million in institutional capital. 

Can my team submit multiple solutions to the same Challenge?

No, you will only be allowed to submit and pitch one solution on behalf of your team. The judges will select the solutions that are most aligned with the criteria and dimensions of the Challenges.

How does Solve's platform work?

Solve’s award-winning open innovation platform was designed based on 10 years of research conducted by the Climate CoLab, a project of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, which studies how people and computers can be connected so that collectively, they can act more intelligently than any one person, group, or computer has ever done before.   

Anyone, anywhere in the world can submit a solution to open innovation Challenges hosted on Solve’s platform. Users may also comment and vote on published solutions, which are visible on Solve's website. All judging is completed inside the platform, with solutions assigned to specific judges to review and evaluate.

How will my solution be evaluated?

Our judges are experts and leaders from across industries and sectors. The 2021 Jacobs Foundation Conference judging panel will review solutions to each of the four Challenges before selecting finalist solutions to move on to the Day 3 Closing Plenary pitch session. The judging panel will then select winners from the finalist pool. Judges will score solutions along the following criteria:

  • Alignment: The solution addresses one of the four Challenges. 

  • Potential for Impact: The planned solution implementation has the potential to impact the intended population. 

  • Feasibility: Solution implementation is feasible, and the team has a plan for financial sustainability. 

  • Innovative Approach: The solution includes a new technology or methodology, a new application of technology or methodology, a new business model, or a new process for solving the Challenge. 

  • Research Component The solution is grounded in evidence and includes a research component.

  • Scalability: The solution can be scaled to affect the lives of more people. 

  • Technical Feasibility: The technology, business model, approach or process underlying the solution already exists, has been proven to work in other contexts, and is being appropriately applied to the solution; or, if the underlying technology, model, approach or process is novel, the applicant has provided convincing evidence of its potential function.  

What is the Audience Award?

The Audience Awards are CHF 20,000 awards provided to finalist solutions who receive the most votes on the Solve open innovation platform during the Day 3 pitch sessions.

What is a Finalist vs Winner?

Each Challenge will have 8 teams participating. Some teams will have existing solutions and others will be formed on the spot and create solutions from scratch. On Day 3 of the Conference, all 8 teams will pitch their solutions to their Challenge-specific judging panel, and judges will select 3-4 teams from each Challenge category to compete in a finalist pitch session to take place during the Closing Plenary. Judges will review finalists’ pitches and online solution submissions on the Solve platform before selecting the winners of the Solveathon. 

The teams with the winning solutions will be announced following the Conference and will join a three-month support program that will include mentorship, coaching, and partnerships to further implement their solutions.

What will I get if my solution is selected as a Solveathon winner?

If you are selected as a winner you will receive funding from a pool of CHF 1,000,000 from Jacobs Foundation as well as three months of mentoring, coaching, and partnership support. 

Funding for the Grand Innovation Prize and Promising Innovation Prizes will be allocated in tranches based on milestones met during the summer follow-on program. Audience Award prize funding of CHF 20,000 will be granted in one payment following the Conference. 

How will funding be awarded to teams?

New teams formed as a result of the Solveathon that are selected as prize winners will have funding granted to the team lead’s organization, if the lead has already established or is affiliated with an organization that can host the solution. Newly formed teams should decide amongst themselves who will be the team lead organization. In the rare situation where teams do not have an organization affiliation, Challenge Partner organizations may provide fiscal sponsorship.

Existing solution teams will have funding awarded to their organization. Any new team members who join the existing team as part of the Solveathon will act in advisory roles during the Solveathon, and may opt to continue their advisory role for the duration of the follow-on program, but will not be granted award funding.

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