Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative?

The Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative is a long-term, multi-faceted project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) that promotes the knowledge, professional learning, and collective action necessary to cultivate optimal early learning environments and experiences. The Zaentz Initiative, co-directed by HGSE faculty Drs. Stephanie Jones and Nonie Lesaux, envisions a nation where all early education leaders have the knowledge and strategies they need to provide children and their colleagues with strong, supportive learning environments. The Initiative consists of three core components: (1) the Early Learning Study at Harvard, a population-based study seeking to understand what works in a diverse range of early childhood settings; (2) a Professional Learning Academy to support the development of early education leaders from across our mixed-delivery system, and (3) a Fellows Program to build a new pipeline of leaders in the field.

Why is the Zaentz Initiative hosting this Challenge?

The Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative seeks to be a leading connector for innovation and entrepreneurship in the field of early education. We recognize that new ideas are needed in our field, and we want to use this Challenge to seed the field with fresh thinking and strategic approaches that drive sustainable, transformative change.

What is the timeline for the Challenge?

January 4, 2018 - Online application launched 

January 18, 2018 (2:00 PM EST) - Optional informational webinar

March 23, 2018 (11:59 PM EST) -  Online application deadline 

April 2018 - Finalists announced 

June 4, 2018 - Finalist pitches at HGSE

Who can apply?

We encourage anyone or any organization with an idea, prototype, product and/or service to apply. Applicants can include individuals or teams of up to five from more than one organization. We do not have any preference for the type of applicant or proposal.

Can individuals apply without being part of a team?

Yes, the Challenge is open to both individuals and teams (made up of no more than five individuals). All applicants must be at least 18 years of age at the time of entry.

Do I need to list all members of my team?

Yes, please list all team members if you are a group of individuals from more than one organization submitting a proposal. If you are applying as part of a single entity or organization (e.g., a school district, corporation, state agency), please note that in the contact information and include only one point-person.

Do I need to be affiliated with HGSE or Harvard to enter?

No! We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, and you do not need to be affiliated with HGSE or Harvard to apply. The ideal Challenge applicant has some knowledge of and/or experience with early education, but understands the need for new ideas and approaches in the field and is eager to think outside traditional systems and solutions.

What types of ideas or approaches are you looking for?

We anticipate that many proposals will focus on new organizations or initiatives, new school or program models, new curricula or assessments, and new tech tools, but we encourage creative thinking and we look forward to being surprised by new ideas and concepts!

In addition to taking different forms, Challenge submissions may target short-term and long-term change at multiple levels of the early education system, including the home, classroom, program and networks, and/or policy, but all proposals should have the potential to be scaled to have a system-level impact in the future. We have provided several possible solution themes, including (but not limited to):

  • Workforce development
  • Professional communities of practice
  • Planning and instruction
  • Authentic assessment
  • Classroom environment and materials
  • Trauma-informed practice
  • Parent and family engagement
  • Community engagement and wraparound services
  • Other: Think outside the box!

How does the Zaentz Initiative define “early education”?

We generally define “early education” as ranging from birth to age five, but we are open to different interpretations of the term.

What is the difference between the tracks?

  • The Idea Track is designed for applicants who have an idea or concept, but have not yet built, tested, formally incorporated, or raised any funding for it. 
  • The Pilot Track is designed for applicants who have developed and released a prototype. However, no individual or team applicant in this track should have raised more than $50,000 in prior funding for a proposed solution at the time of entry, including all revenue, donations, and/or investments.
  • The Scaling Track is for a product or service that has been launched, and are at a point where further sharpening and refining is needed to support scaling. 

Is it OK if my idea is very early stage and I haven't tried it?

Yes! We encourage you to enter the Idea Track, which is intended to attract people with completely new ideas that haven’t been put into action yet. So long as you have identified a clear problem in the field of early education, a set of users affected by this problem, and an idea that is supported by early childhood research/science, you are good to go!

Can I submit multiple proposals to a single track?

Absolutely. However, you can only submit each unique proposal once. We will not consider the same proposal submitted to multiple tracks.

Does my idea need to be completely new or original?

It is fine to submit an idea or approach developed and/or submitted elsewhere. However, we require that any research or other sources used in your submissions be appropriately cited; if you reference someone else’s thinking, be sure to give that person credit! Plagiarism will result in immediate disqualification.

Does my proposed solution need to be a non-profit?

No, we welcome submissions that are non-profit, for-profit, or even undetermined (for those just beginning with new ideas). You should include details about funding under “The Future” section of your online application, where it asks how you plan to grow and sustain your venture.

Will you provide any resources to prep our application & pitch?

Watch our webinar recording to learn more about submitting your ideas to the Challenge.

To receive updates and information about the Challenge, be sure to sign-up here

How many finalists will there be in each track?

We anticipate approximately five finalists in each track.

Will finalist proposals be posted online?

Yes, once we have selected the finalists, we will make a summary of their proposals available. We will also feature funding recipients on our website.

Who is responsible for expenses to attend the finalist pitches?

Finalists are responsible for travel expenses to attend the finalist pitches at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Will I forfeit my IP rights for my idea if I apply?

No, ownership of any intellectual property submitted as part of the Challenge will remain with the original owners (applicants). However, the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative may use any submitted materials for future academic research. Contestants should not disclose any information that is proprietary or confidential, and neither the Zaentz Early Education Innovation Challenge team nor its associated institutions will sign confidentiality agreements. Additionally, Challenge organizers cannot guarantee confidentiality of any materials submitted to the Challenge.

Who will judge our proposed solutions and on what criteria?

Proposals will initially be judged on their quality, relevance, and design. Once finalists are selected, they will present their proposals to a panel of expert judges and a live-audience during the final pitch ceremony. Final pitches should include information about the problem, solution, and future of the proposal, and should keep in mind the values of the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative: Aspiration, Equity, Scientific Integrity, Connectivity, and Communication.

When will funding recipients be announced?

Funding recipients will be decided and announced by our panel of judges at the finalist pitches.

Are there requirements or timelines for funding recipients?

There are no requirements or timelines for implementation once funding is given. This Challenge is not meant to be a partnership, incubator, or accelerator program.

Watch Here

Live stream the Zaentz Early Education Innovation Challenge finalist pitches, here.