An Open Letter to 2017 Technovation Mentors

Dear Technovation Mentors,

I am excited and honored to see the start of the eighth season of Technovation! I wanted to share some of the history and evolution in philosophy and model so you have a sense of where we are coming from and where we are headed.

We started Technovation in 2010 as a small cohort of 45 girls, hosted by Google in Mountain View. The program ran once a week for 9 weeks, after work hours. Each team of girls had mentors who came from local universities and corporations; and the entire group was led through the curriculum by an instructor.  The goal of the program was to provide a first hand experience in entrepreneurship using technology, and thereby help build a strong sense of self-efficacy in the girls.

Over the next three years we scaled the model to 6 sites in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York and Boston. As we scaled, we ran into two interesting issues: 1) We had a hard time finding instructors who were comfortable both with the entrepreneurship content as well as the technology component (this was 8 years ago, before entrepreneurship became so hip!),  2) The unforeseen issue we ran into with this model was that we were serving girls who already had access to a lot of resources. The model was constrained by the girls’ ability to access the corporation that was hosting the program.

Technovation’s parent organization is Iridescent and Iridescent’s mission is to help underserved youth, especially girls to become innovators and leaders using engineering and technology.

So keeping this mission in mind, we put the Technovation curriculum online in 2013, using Mozilla’s P2PU platform. We were one of the first online courses (this was before MOOC was even a word :).  We had no idea what would happen, but it seemed that we needed to do something dramatically different to increase access to technology education.  We leveraged Iridescent’s global networks and were able to get girls from 19 countries to participate in the program. The girls from Nigeria had a chance to present their app to the First Lady of Nigeria and the UN’s ITU Secretary General congratulated them on their work.

We were heartened by the uptake and proceeded to devote the next 3 years to expanding the program internationally, as well as evaluating the long-term impact of the model on the girls.

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