MIT Solve and the Jacobs Foundation announce the 2022 cohort of LEAP Fellows and Hosts that are working towards bridging the learning gap for students aged 2-12.
Despite the need for strong, evidence-based innovation in education, the research and entrepreneurial expertise required to accelerate solutions grounded in research is often inaccessible to education ventures. Financial constraints can put this type of support out of reach for organizations, and dedicated opportunities for researchers and practitioners to come together and achieve the collaboration needed to advance effective education practices are scarce.
In May 2022, the Jacobs Foundation and MIT Solve joined forces to launch LEAP (Leveraging Evidence for Action to Promote change), a global initiative that reduces these barriers and brings together researchers and social entrepreneurs to support education organizations in strengthening the evidence base of their learning solutions. By fostering this collaboration, LEAP aims to positively impact educational innovation and provide children with the tools they need to thrive.
The 2022 LEAP Challenge put out a call for two types of participants:
- Project Hosts: LEAP sought project proposals from global education organizations focused on bridging learning gaps for underserved children ages 2-12 that were interested in strengthening the evidence base of their product, program, or business model.
- Fellows: LEAP asked for applications from experienced education researchers and social entrepreneurs from around the world with a passion for supporting education organizations and advancing evidence-based education solutions across the globe.
In the inaugural LEAP Challenge, we received 120 Project Host proposals and 212 Fellow applications. LEAP’s esteemed panel of judges reviewed Project Host proposals and invited 20 Finalists to pitch their LEAP Project and answer questions live from the panel.
After much deliberation, 10 extraordinary Project Host teams were selected to participate in LEAP! They will receive expertise from research and social entrepreneur Fellows over the course of a 12-week project sprint, strategies and deliverables designed to strengthen their evidence base, and a $5,000 stipend.
Joining the 10 Project Host teams in the cohort are the 40 selected LEAP Research and Social Entrepreneur Fellows who will pair with the organizations to provide them with the expertise needed to accelerate their solution’s growth.
Follow LEAP developments throughout the year as projects kick off this fall!
LEAP Social Entrepreneur Fellows
Over the past four years Andrew has worked as consultant in the Education in Emergencies sector. He is currently a senior consultant at the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) supporting their communications and capacity building teams, in addition to providing strategic guidance and oversight to the global update of the organization ‘s foundational tool, the INEE Minimum Standards for Education.
Lissett Mary Babaian developed an award-winning preschool cartoon, managed the education innovation portfolio of Africa’s largest scholarship program, designed Armenia’s first US-accredited undergraduate program, and served as the managing director of an educational consultancy as well as the principal of two innovative schools. She is currently a Practitioner Fellow at the University of Virginia Humanitarian Collaborative and a consultant for the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium (CLCC), a project led by UNHCR and Arizona State University. She holds a Master of Education from Harvard University.
For almost two decades, Clint has worked globally in the fields of Corporate Social Responsibility, impact investing, social finance and corporate strategy. He has held executive roles in non-profit and for-profit entities, successfully founded three of his own ventures, and has been a consultant to several leading global organizations. Currently, his key areas of focus are on fairer access to finance and private-sector resilience building. Clint has an MBA from the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, and a Masters in Advanced Management from Yale University’s School of Management. In 2019 Clint became a Fellow of the Jacobs Foundation.
Francis Bizoza Bigirimana
Francis is a project-based curriculum designer, focused on foundational literacy and numeracy, SEL, and playful approaches to learning. He is also a Master Teacher Program Fellow under the Anzisha Education Accelerator Program of the African Leadership Academy. He graduated from Makerere University with a degree in Education, and is an alumnus and pioneer fellow of Teach for Uganda. He previously established Edtech education enterprise Teachers Empowerment Platform (TEP) that works to build the capacity of teachers to improve their skills in facilitation of learning and use of digital tools for improved learning outcomes.
Tsz Man (Bethany) Fong
In her work for Teach For Hong Kong (TFHK), Bethany led a teaching Fellowship Programme in which over 90 % of school principals agreed that Fellows performed better than entry-level teachers. The Fellowship also incubated an NGO to drive social-emotional learning in schools. Prior to working in TFHK, she managed a newly founded pre-school for girls in a rural village in Ghana. She is currently studying MA in Educational Planning, Economics and International Development at the Institute of Education, UCL.
Christopher founded BSD Education in 2013, an educational software and curriculum provider that enables teachers in schools to teach students digital skills during their lessons. He is also the founder of Fargo Foundation and Refugeek, a non-profit social enterprise focused on creative and technology education for at-risk and displaced communities, and a Director of the Young Founders School, an educational non-profit for youth entrepreneurship education. He currently serves as Chairman of Kennedy School in Hong Kong. Chris has an LLB (Hons) Law from the University of Bristol.
Gabriela is a multilingual seasoned professional with over 12 years of experience in International Development. She has led large and complex projects, working in multicultural environments and collaborating directly with local communities. She has worked in a variety of institutions, from small NGOs, socially responsible businesses, government and international organizations. She received her Master’s degree in Public Administration and International Development from Harvard University.
As Chief Program Officer at Team4Tech, a nonprofit impact accelerator, Lindsay leads a global team of program directors and regional hub coordinators to build engaged communities, catalyze big ideas, and create sustainable change in education. She is an adjunct faculty member of the Johns Hopkins University Graduate School of Education and is also part of the Fulbright Specialist Program, collaborating with international universities and organizations to solve global challenges. Lindsay holds an MSEd in Curriculum and Instruction and a BSEd in Middle/Secondary Language Arts Education, both from the University of Kansas.
Simi Lawoyin is currently leading the People & Culture practice at Amplify Mission. She is also the Co-Founder and Strategic Advisor at JASS Academy, a mission-driven talent accelerator currently focused on the African continent. Over the years, she has served as an advisor to several startups, most recently: AgUnity (bringing digital solutions to rural farmers and under-served communities), Training Ground (an app to help young athletes transition to life after school), and Life’s Six Buckets (focused on helping parents / caregivers facilitate social emotional learning for children).
Matthew Lloyd-Rose set up The Social Impact Agency in 2021 and now works with organisations to analyse, accelerate and amplify their social impact. He was previously the Head of Research at Teach First, and part of the team that founded the charity Police Now, then joined the EdTech start-up tiney as their founding Head of Education. Matthew is also the award-nominated author of Into the Night: A Year with the Police (Picador, 2023), The Character Conundrum: How to develop confidence, independence and resilience in the classroom (Routledge, 2018), and Curiocity: An Alternative A to Z of London (Penguin, 2016).
Sergio is a social entrepreneur with over 22 years of experience in humanitarian aid. Building on his fieldwork with the UN and several international aid organizations in refugee camps, Sergio formed the nonprofit venture, RISE, to improve aid coordination.Sergio and his team at RISE created several digital platforms designed to accelerate service delivery by leveraging the power of mobile technology in the field. Sergio has a BA from Rice University, an MSW from Columbia University, and an MBA from MIT Sloan and is based in San Francisco.
After several years in marketing in Berlin, Pawel wanted to see more of the world and enrolled in the MBA program at Yale. It was there that he acquired the foundation for his further pursuits: running original concepts in the learning space. In 2017 he founded After School Hustle, a non-profit that aims at giving teenagers the opportunity to learn skills for the digital economy – ranging from design and programming to spreadsheets and entrepreneurship.
Sabrina has commenced postgraduate studies at the Auckland University of Technology in the area of entrepreneurship education within the New Zealand schooling system. An experienced CO.STARTERS facilitator and trainer, and a co-founder of primary school Ako Space, Sabrina is also a successful ‘intrapreneur’ working on a number of initiatives ranging from the future of education to setting up a strong support structure encouraging students to start their own businesses.
Efua is a social scientist with a degree in Political Science and Sociology and a Master of Business Administration from Saïd Business School, the University of Oxford. She was a University of Oxford Global Leadership fellow (a joint initiative and developed a project promoting Inclusive Education by engaging senior leaders in intergenerational dialogues, integrating responsible leadership and design thinking. Her most recent work was with MIT Solve and The Quality Teaching Academy as a strategy consultant.
Swetha is the CEO of Plus Education, an Australian non-profit that provides equitable, inclusive English language education and digital learning for children on the margins of the developing world. She has nearly 20 years’ experience in pedagogy design, leadership, and growth across the EdTech sector globally. She has a MSc in Mathematics from IIT Madras and an MA in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University along with a professional certification in Teacher education (CIDTT) from Cambridge University.
Tony is passionate about the use of data and evidence to alleviate poverty worldwide particularly at the intersection of education and public policy. Tony currently works at an international NGO called IDinsight focusing his efforts on leveraging robust development economics tools in the furtherance of this passion.
Catherine has spent her career at the intersection of business and impact. She is currently providing ESG consulting services to organizations driving positive environmental and social impact. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelors in Accountancy. She is also a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with a Masters in Business Administration where she started her own social enterprise, Viva, to promote holistic health.
Alejandro is an entrepreneur, innovator and strategist with 20+ years of experience working in social impact around the world. Currently, his focus is on large scale education and entrepreneurship programs with a strong commitment to inclusiveness and gender equity. They combine the reach of mass media, the interactivity of digital tools and the depth of in-person interventions. Before that, he led a multi-site regional development program in Latin America and the Caribbean including health, education, employment and racial equity initiatives.
Jazib serves as the Chief Operations Officer of Tintash (Pvt) Ltd, a software services studio in Pakistan where he has been involved in product development for a range of global clients including Sesame Workshop, Houghton Mifflin, BBC, Carnegie Mellon University and others. He has completed a BS in Electrical Engineering from Stanford, an MBA from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (Pakistan) and an Ed.M. in Technology, Innovation and Education from Harvard.
LEAP Research Fellows
Daniel Ansari is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning in the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of Education at Western University in Canada, where he heads the Numerical Cognition Laboratory. He is member of the The College of the Royal Society of Canada, a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science as well as the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.
Annelise Buzaid is the Sr. Director of Research at the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy. In this role, she manages a portfolio of research projects designed to surface effective practices in schools in order to impact policy decisions and scale promising strategies. In addition to performing research, she supports school districts to align their work with research-based practices in a way that is responsive to each community’s local context. She received a B.A. in English and a M.A. in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology from Boston College.
Nadine’s work is at the intersection of developmental psychology, learning sciences, neuroscience, EdTech, and educational policy within a learning disability framework. She is the 2019 recipient of the Learning Disabilities Association America Award for her work on learning disabilities and has received the Norman Geschwind Memorial lecture 2020 and the Alice Garside Award from the International Dyslexia Association for outstanding leadership in advancing the science and advocacy of dyslexia. Outside of her academic work, she is the co-founder of EarlyBird Education, a gamified platform system for identifying children at-risk for language-based learning disabilities.
Melissa Hogenboom is an award-winning science journalist, filmmaker and editor. She makes and commissions films and writes articles on a range of topics including psychology, neuroscience and human evolution. Her journalism has been recognised by multiple awards, including the Webbys, the Drum Awards, Kavli AAAS Science Awards, the Telly Awards and the British Association of Science Journalism Awards. She is a New America fellow, and she is author of The Motherhood Complex.
Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education in Science and Technology and the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering, heading the Educational Neuroimaging Group (ENIG). She is also an Associate Professor (PAR) at Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She is a board member of the Society of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Society (Flux) and an active member in scientific societies focusing on child brain development, neuroscience, and reading.
Dr. Jasińska is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Brain Organization for Language and Literacy Development (BOLD) Laboratory at the University of Toronto (Applied Psychology and Human Development). Dr. Jasinska received her Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience from the University of Toronto in 2013 and completed postdoctoral training at Haskins Laboratories in 2016. Her research aims to understand how experience (e.g. bilingualism) shapes neurocognitive development and learning, including in understudied environments with poverty-related risk.
Natalia Kucirkova is Professor of Early Childhood Education and Development at the University of Stavanger, Norway and Professor of Reading and Children’s Development at The Open University, UK. Natalia’s work is concerned with social justice in children’s literacy and use of technologies. Her research takes place collaboratively across academia, commercial and third sectors. She blogs for Psychology Today and her latest book is ‘The Future of the Self’.
Catherine Lebel is an Associate Professor of Radiology at the University of Calgary and a Canada Research Chair in Pediatric Imaging. She leads the Child Brain & Mental Health Program at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and is a member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. Dr. Lebel’s research uses MRI to study how brain structure and function change with age in typical children and those with neurodevelopmental conditions including fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and learning disabilities.
Dr. Oluwakemi Olurinola lectures at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye. She is the Lead Consultant of Exquitec Education Technology, an EdTech consulting firm that is a Microsoft Global Training Partner. A researcher and consultant in the field of educational technology, she has a particular interest in the application of current science and technology to the field of education. She is a Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow, a Microsoft Global Learning Mentor, TeachSDG Ambassador and a Digital Citizenship Institute Global Impactor.
Dr Laura Outhwaite is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities at IOE- UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society. She is also Deputy Director of the Child Development and Learning Difficulties Lab. She is currently leading a background paper on the use of educational software and apps in early childhood education for the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report. She completed her PhD at the University of Nottingham.
Luca Maria Pesando
Luca Maria Pesando is a demographer and sociologist whose research explores the interplays between family formation, human capital accumulation, and dynamics of poverty/inequality within and across generations. His agenda is interdisciplinary in nature, combining macro- and micro-level perspectives, and drawing on disciplines as diverse as demography, sociology, economics, education, and public policy.
Dr. Ponguta is a Principal Investigator at the Yale Collaborative for International Early Childhood and Youth Development (Co-LEaD). Her work includes early childhood development (ECD) policy-making and policy analysis in over 10 countries in Africa, South Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Currently, Dr. Ponguta leads a study to characterize ECD in Emergencies. In partnership with UNICEF, she is also leading the formulation of strategies to systematize the evidence-base for parent education programs at scale.
Dr. Teomara Rutherford is an associate professor in the University of Delaware School of Education affiliated with the Learning Sciences and the Educational Statistics and Research Methods programs, with additional faculty affiliations in Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Computer and Information Sciences. Dr. Rutherford received her PhD in Learning, Cognition, and Development from University of California, Irvine. Rutherford’s research focuses on learning and motivation, especially in STEM and in digital contexts.
Dr. Martin Tomasik is Full Professor for Research Methods in Developmental and Educational Sciences at the Institute of Education and Scientific Director at the Institute for Educational Evaluation, both at the University of Zurich (Switzerland). His research is situated at the intersection between educational and developmental science and focusses on research technology, quantitative methodology, and mathematical modelling. He studied psychology at the Free University in Berlin (Germany) and received his doctoral degree at the Friedrich-Schiller-University in Jena (Germany).
In the past decade, Barbara has consulted for organizations including UNICEF, UNESCO, USAID, the World Bank, the British Council, GIZ and the Gates Foundation. She is a member of UNESCO’s expert panel on literacy and is currently a senior consultant with SIL Africa Learning & Development in South Africa. Barbara holds a PhD in international education from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for African Studies.
Sho Tsuji earned a Ph.D. from the International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, followed by postdoctoral research at the Infant Language Center at the University of Pennsylvania and Laboratory of Cognitive Sciences and Psycholinguistics at Ecole Normale Supérieure. She is now a Principal Investigator at the IRCN Babylab, the University of Tokyo. Her research investigates the mechanisms behind young children’s amazing capacity to acquire language fast and efficiently in diverse environments.
Dr. Sharon Wolf is an Associate Professor in Human Development and Quantitative Methods at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Prior to joining the faculty at Penn, Sharon was a postdoctoral research scientist at the Global TIES for Children research center at New York University and a National Poverty Fellow with the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was in residence at the US Department of Health and Human Services.