How It Works

The Zaentz Early Education Innovation Challenge will provide funding to recognize promising new ideas that have the potential to transform early education. To support innovation of all kinds, there are three tracks:

The Idea Track

If you have a new idea or concept in mind, but have not yet put it into action or raised funding for it, the Idea Track is for you.

The Pilot Track

If you have developed or released your proposed idea or approach as a prototype, the Pilot Track is for you. Please note that no applicant or team should have raised more than $50,000 in funding for their approach.

The Scaling Track

If you have a product or service that has been launched, and are at a point where further sharpening and refining is needed to support scaling, the Scaling Track is for you. 

3 Track Icons Cropped

Who should apply?

Applicants may be individuals or teams, and should have the experience and expertise necessary to advance the proposal. We are looking for ideas, concepts, or approaches to a pressing problem in early education that has high potential to drive transformative change in the field. Submissions to the Challenge 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. Proposals should be grounded in research and/or knowledge of early education and the needs of children at that stage of their development.

Potential areas of focus include, but are 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! 


Zaentz Innovation Challenge Ideas graphic

What do Challenge finalists receive?

Challenge finalists will receive feedback on their proposal. A small group of finalists will be invited to pitch their ideas at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). After final pitches, our judges will select from each track 1st place, 2nd place, and Audience Choice to receive Challenge funding.
Funding recipients will receive:
  • Idea Track: $10,000 for 1st Place; $5,000 for 2nd Place; $1,000 for Audience Choice
  • Pilot Track: $15,000 for 1st Place; $10,000 for 2nd Place; $5,000 for Audience Choice
  • Scaling Track: $15,000 for 1st Place; $10,000 for 2nd Place; $5,000 for Audience Choice

Stay Tuned

We are no longer accepting applications for the Zaentz Early Education Innovation Challenge.

Sign up here to receive updates about the Challenge and our selected finalists.