California Community Colleges Launch New Initiative to Catalyze Innovation and Invention to Solve Social Challenges

All Californians invited to become social enterprise inventors

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office today launched a bold initiative through its Workforce and Economic Development Division to encourage, harness and develop the inventive talents of communities across the State. The goal of the Invention and Inclusive Innovation (I3) initiative is to catalyze innovation and invention to solve social problems that existed before COVID-19 and those that have been created or amplified by the pandemic.  

“This initiative aims to spark innovation in every region of the State to address small challenges that impact dozens of people to big challenges that are disrupting the lives of thousands of people,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.

The I3 program is a collaboration between the Chancellor’s Office and the Lemelson-MIT Program, modeled after the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams. The InvenTeams are groups of high school students, educators and mentors that invent technological solutions to real-world problems of their own choosing. The InvenTeams initiative has been changing teaching and learning and providing young people with creative problem-solving skills to flourish in college and career for 17 years, including student teams who have received patents for their high school projects. A full list can be found here

“Having grown up in the Central Valley and attended a California community college, I know first-hand the impact community colleges have on a young person’s life,” said Stephanie Couch, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. “Through the InvenTeam initiative, we have seen the lasting impact the invention experience has on young people from all backgrounds as many students changed the course of their future to pursue STEM college and career pathways. I’m thrilled that we are bringing this experience to California at a time when we need more programs that prepare women and people of color with 21st century skills to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.”

As one of the most diverse systems of higher education, California community colleges will increase access to invention education to women and communities of color who have historically been underrepresented in the innovation and invention economy, but whose life experiences provide valuable insights and perspectives to tackle systemic changes.  

Four California community colleges have been selected to work with Lemelson-MIT to develop a prototype customized to the needs of the community college experience focused on ensuring diversity, inclusivity, and equity of invention education, an emerging learning approach for working across disciplinary boundaries. The program design includes multidiscipline student teams working online, in and out of the classroom, utilizing an open inquiry and problem finding approach to solve problems within their communities over six to nine months. Additionally, this program will focus on supporting the creation of for-benefit enterprises that have a social purpose baked into their mission, also known as the Fourth Sector.

 The four colleges are: 

  • Modesto Junior College: Modesto, Yosemite Community College District
  • Chaffey Community College: Rancho Cucamonga, Chaffey Community College District
  • Sierra Community College: Rocklin, Sierra Joint Community College District
  • College of the Desert: Palm Desert, Desert Community College District

Student recruitment for the initial I3 prototype will take place in spring 2021 and the program is expected to be scaled to 20 additional colleges for implementation in 2022. 

“As the global leader in innovation, California and California community colleges are best situated to lead this effort. The challenges facing our communities are daunting, but our resilience is our most important asset in overcoming these obstacles. The California community college system is ready to meet this moment,” concluded Sheneui Weber, vice chancellor of workforce and economic development. 

About the California Community Colleges
The California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the nation, composed of 73 districts and 116 colleges serving 2.1 million students per year. California community colleges provide career education and workforce training; guaranteed transfer to four-year universities; degree and certificate pathways; and basic skills education in English and math. As the state’s engine for social and economic mobility, the California Community Colleges supports the Vision for Success, a strategic plan designed to improve student success outcomes, increase transfer rates and eliminate achievement gaps. For more information, please visit the California Community Colleges website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Lemelson-MIT Program
The Lemelson-MIT Program celebrates outstanding  inventors and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention. The program was founded in 1994 by Jerome H. Lemelson, one of U.S. history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. It is funded by The Lemelson Foundation and administered by the School of Engineering at MIT, an institution with a strong ongoing commitment to creating meaningful opportunities for K-12 STEM education.

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