The Lab at CEI

Providing Colorado educators with space, time, and resources to dig into big ideas about how to improve education systems, with a focus on design thinking.

Our Point of View

At The Lab, we invest in innovators over innovations. CEI’s approach is to focus on people and on process more than on technology or specific interventions. We work with educators, youth, and other entrepreneurs to build the empathy, vulnerability, skills, and community needed to adapt in response to student and community needs. In turn, they help CEI anticipate emerging opportunities and barriers to innovation in the field.

The Lab’s current work includes targeted programs working to cultivate an ecosystem of innovators; test cutting edge strategies and programs; and increase readiness for implementation of innovative practices in schools and school districts. Ongoing and current projects include:

  • The Innovation Fellows Program CEI’s Innovation Fellows Program is an annual summer program that supports early stage educational entrepreneurs to take ideas from concept to launch.
  • Innovation Partners Program Colorado Youth Congress The Lab at CEI invests in local entrepreneurs to help scale their work and expand CEI’s understanding of strategies for improving Colorado’s education systems.
  • Innovation Community Events The Lab at CEI supports and facilitates community events to build the innovation ecosystem around Colorado.
  • National Partnerships: Peace First Challenge The Lab at CEI partners with national organizations to bring cutting edge programming to students and educators in Colorado.
  • Suicide Prevention Design Network The Lab at CEI designs and facilitates cutting edge programs and projects in partnership with schools and districts across the state of Colorado, for example tackling the issue of suicide prevention.

Youth Activation

For the next 18 months CEI seeks to better understand the strategies, programs and approaches that best support students to meaningfully impact their learning and the systems they learn in. To do this, we believe young people must have an opportunity to build agency in their schools and communities, have access to authentic positions of power and those in positions of power, and identify and engage in their purpose and passion.

To unlock the conditions that will best support youth activation, CEI aims to:

  • Cultivate conditions that enable student agency in academic learning and their everyday environments;
  • Increase student skills or mindsets in design, entrepreneurship, influence, growth mindset or agency;
  • Increase adult skills or mindsets in youth-adult partnership, supporting student agency, or investing in youth ventures;
  • Support students to find and engage in their passion for change;
  • Develop and support youth-led networks; and
  • Create access for youth to influence in structures of power (government, schools, business, other institutions).

Here Are The Questions We’re Asking

How might we better support young people in finding and engaging their passion, activating their agency and gaining meaningful access to centers of power in the education ecosystem?

How can youth activation inform the transformation of school systems and the teaching profession?

Featured Project: 2019 Innovation Fellows Program

CEI’s Innovation Fellows Program is an annual summer program that supports early stage educational entrepreneurs to take ideas from concept to launch. We are currently recruiting for the 2019 cohort of fellows. Download the Innovation Fellows one-pager to learn more about the program and how to apply.


Paul Beck