Dayton's Innovation Academy

Six weeks later we launched Dayton’s Innovation Academy. Our launch event was held at the end of the school year, bringing together students, teachers, and community members. We had about eighty people show up in their community center.

During our day-long gathering we followed a similar format to the one at Franklin, where we began by talking about values. What were Dayton’s non-negotiable Core Values that defined them?

It was a powerful discussion. From there we went to themes – areas of potential transformation in the community – and eventually to projects. Three projects were launched that day, each with a six week commitment to demo a prototype.

One project, in particular, stood out. This team sought to build a prototype of a mobile app that would allow farmers with excess crops to sell directly to restaurants in nearby urban areas. The team discovered that it was not uncommon for 20-30% of a farmer’s crop each season to be plowed back into the ground – crop that was greater than the amounts they had under contract with local packing companies. These fresh vegetables would be welcomed by restaurants and provide additional revenue for the farmers.

Six weeks later a presentation of these projects was held in Courthouse Square, during one of their Friday night community events.

The experience was powerful for the community. By quickly aligning, committing, and doing, something amazing happened. Everybody felt it.

The experience got people wondering: could you create a similar experience with kids in a typical classroom or was this experience only available to self-selected students who were already motivated to learn?

That question became the focus of the next experiment, in many ways, the most important one yet.

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