The Mind Trust grew out of a mayoral effort to create high-quality schools in Indianapolis — and on the surface it’s focused on creating great charter schools and district “innovation schools.”
But the organization’s founder and CEO, David Harris, says The Mind Trust’s most important mandate is attracting and cultivating talented education entrepreneurs in Indianapolis.
“We describe ourselves as an organization that’s focused on talent — specifically entrepreneurial talent,” he said. “We desperately need lots of new schools and we need new ways of tackling education issues. We need people who have visions for doing things differently and better than we have before.”
Entrepreneurs have reshaped just about every private industry — from manufacturing and transportation to retail and hospitality — and they have the power to transform education as well by applying big, innovative visions to the challenges in K-12 education.
How does Harris pick the most promising entrepreneurs to innovate on behalf of Indianapolis’ public school students?
“We set the bar very, very high,” he explained. Since The Mind Trust’s inception nine years ago, 4,000 people from 48 states and 36 countries have applied to the organization’s three fellowship programs — and fewer than 20 have been selected. The Mind Trust seeks fellows with both big vision and the ability to execute and get things done on behalf of Indianapolis public school students.
The Mind Trust’s core programs to recruit talent to Indianapolis public schools include:
- The Education Entrepreneur Fellowship, which invests in visionary leaders who are addressing key problems from teacher retention to summer learning backslides.
- The Charter School Incubator, which invests in educators aiming to create innovative school models that rethink traditions and propose new approaches.
- The Innovation School Fellowship, which invests in talented leaders who want to launch high quality, autonomous schools within Indianapolis' largest district. (This type of school was made possible by a 2014 Indiana Law. The first of these schools is launching in 2015 with support from The Mind Trust.)
Harris says the beauty of investing in talented people is they don’t do what’s expected. They take new approaches that can provide much needed opportunities to high-needs students: “Who knows what ideas people might come up with — how we use space, how we use time, how we use calendars, so we can reduce expenses but still achieve great results for kids.”