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Joanna Jacobson is the President of the One8 Foundation. She is also the co-founder and Managing Partner of Strategic Grant Partners, a venture philanthropy organization that is both a foundation and pro-bono consulting firm. Previous to this, Joanna career was in private industry where she held senior management and marketing positions in turnaround businesses including the President of the Keds Corporation and SVP Marketing and Product Development at Converse Corporation. Earlier in her career, she worked at Colgate-Palmolive in product management and worldwide new product development. She has also taught at the Harvard Business School and was a partner in Core Strategy Group, a marketing strategy consultancy. Joanna earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard University. She is the board chair of Youth Villages MA, and also serves on the boards HBS Social Enterprise Initiative and Unlocking Potential Education Network.
Lindsay Gearheart: What is your background, and how did you find your way to the One8 Foundation?
Joanna Jacobson: Prior to One8 Foundation, I worked in the consumer goods sector as a marketing and product strategist. I’ve held senior roles in two turnaround companies, including the President of the Keds Corporation and SVP Marketing and Product Development at Converse Corporation. Currently, I’m the President of The One8 Foundation where I’m tasked with building and managing our family foundation. In my role, I work to effectively allocate much of our wealth to causes that influence critical, positive social change in the world.
LG: Can you tell us more about the One8 Foundation? What is its mission, and how does it go about achieving it?
JJ: The One8 Foundation’s mission is to propel and support outstanding leaders with compelling ideas that deliver a scaled and sustainable impact in education. Through our efforts, we strive to deliver equitable access to opportunities, Jewish engagement and Israel social cohesion and understanding.
LG: What is venture philanthropy? How does it differ from “traditional” philanthropy and why do you think it’s such an effective way to drive social change?
JJ: Venture philanthropy, a type of impact investment, borrows from the venture capital model prioritizing support to highly effective, passionate and committed leaders with ideas that effect sustained social change. Our model goes beyond traditional venture philanthropy as our foundation is both a foundation and a pro bono consulting firm. We provide strategic and analytical support to our grantees and provide the multi-year grant dollars to scale.
LG: The One8 Foundation has a variety of initiatives and a large grant portfolio focused on dramatically improving education in Massachusetts. What is your focus in education?
JJ: We believe the current education model needs to adapt to provide students with the skills they need to thrive in a rapidly changing high tech world. Higher education and careers require STEM knowledge and the 21st century skills of critical thinking, complex problem solving, collaboration and communication.
To equip students with the tools needed to succeed, we are helping to scale proven applied learning and STEM programs across the state to drive students to become adaptive learners. With applied learning, students develop critical STEM skills to effectively solve real world problems. In fact, research shows that when we have the chance to apply what we learn, our comprehension, interest and engagement increases significantly.
LG: You have set up Mass STEM Hub in your foundation to support this work. What is its goal?
JJ: Mass STEM Hub is a program of the One8 Foundation and its mission is to provide schools with access to and support for the next level of STEM education to prepare students to succeed in a rapidly changing, high tech world. One of the programs we are scaling is Project Lead The Way (PLTW), an inspiring, hands-on and evidenced-based K-12 STEM curriculum with continuous participant-friendly support to allow educators to bring their classrooms to life while raising the next generation of innovators.
A current initiative is the STEM Week Challenge, brought to you by Mass STEM Hub and Project Lead The Way. The STEM Week Challenge takes place Oct. 21 through Oct. 25 during Mass STEM Week, a statewide effort to boost the interest, awareness and ability for all learners to envision themselves in STEM education and employment opportunities. The challenge features a curriculum developed by PLTW, the innovative PreK-12 activity, project and problem-based learning program, in conjunction with MassDEP, Dell Technologies, and TD Garden. Centering around the theme of ‘zero waste,’ students will apply their classroom STEM experience to the real world.
LG: Are there ways for the HubWeek community to get involved with the STEM Week Challenge philanthropic work? How could our readers help you accomplish your goals?
JJ: Our work relies on STEM professionals volunteering to provide authentic feedback to students on their work. These interactions are enormously influential to both students and educators because they can see first-hand how what is being taught has immediate applicability to solving real world problems. We would love to welcome Hub Week community members to sign up to volunteer in our virtual and in person student challenges.
The STEM Week Challenge is a very exciting opportunity to get involved with local students and experience the impact of applied learning. Over 400 schools across Massachusetts are signed up for the Challenge – that’s an estimated 60,000+ students and 1,600+ teachers who will be engaged in solving real world zero waste problems. There are several ways to get involved – from serving as a virtual consultant right from your desk, to providing students feedback at the Showcase on October 25th at the Reggie Lewis Center here in Boston, to helping us choose winners of zero waste solutions submitted online. Learn more and sign up at STEMWeekChallenge.org, or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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