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Student Solutions for Sustainable Development

Imagine if every university classroom were a space where students could solve real-world challenges in their geography & field of study.

Photo of Austin Halbert
17 11

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Many of the qualitative results from our beneficiary feedback process have been worked into our User Experience maps. Quantitative beneficiary feedback results pending. Since the Open IDEO process began, we have: -Surveyed 100+ students about workforce readiness, classroom engagement, and agency. -Contacted 250+ industry leaders to gauge interest in ImpactEd projects and better define our target beneficiary within real-world organizations.

Explain your project idea in two sentences.

We empower university students to work on impact projects for real-world organizations through their courses. By July 2020, we will engage 50 universities in the US as centers for progress.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

ImpactEd enables the leaders of tomorrow to shape the world today through action-based learning.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

Founded 01/2017. We recently completed our pilot program in Sweden, where 51 management students came up with solutions for Swedish electric utilities to encourage sustainable consumption in 500,000+ households. The project measurably increased student engagement and 21st century skills growth.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

Higher education is not preparing students for the complex social and economic landscapes of the 21st century. 60% of seniors in the USA do not feel that college has prepared them for their careers. Meanwhile, employers claim that students lack skills in critical thinking, creativity, and awareness.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Our goal for the 3 years ahead is to demonstrate ImpactEd as a new model for 21st century education in the US by helping universities educate students to shape a better world. Year 1 Target- Catalyze 15 projects with 10 undergraduate business programs in the US. Year 2 Target- Catalyze 45 projects with 20 business, public health, & engineering schools. Year 3 Target- Catalyze 150 projects with courses across 5 disciplines at 50 universities.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

Austin (CEO) is a Fulbright Fellow, G20 Young Global Changer, and member of Youth Working Group for UNESCO. Ibrahim (Operations) is a UWC Scholar. Eddy (Tech Lead) is founder of Polymath Lab and an Intel alum. We plan to hire Project Managers across subject areas to expand our reach & impact.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Business Development/Partnerships

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Get feedback from experts

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

The ImpactEd Indicator will measure the outcomes of each project over time. When we enter a region, we map the most pressing challenges in that region through indicators provided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Then we aim to partner with organizations that have the most potential to address those challenges. In addition, we measure our impact on learning & development for universities by assessing outcomes related to student engagement and 21st century skills.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

-We surveyed 100+ students to validate assumptions about classroom engagement and workforce readiness. -After reaching out to 250+ industry leaders, we gauged interest and defined our target beneficiary within organizations. -We initially charged colleges a membership fee. Based on feedback from academic leaders, we are now offering the program free to universities to accelerate our impact.

(Optional) What are some of your still unanswered questions or concerns about this idea?

How might we most effectively reach decision-makers in organizations to source projects with high potential for impact? If time is a main constraint for two of our primary beneficiaries (project partners and professors), how might we minimize their time cost while maintaining quality engagements through project work? With projects across a range of challenge areas, how might we best assess our net impact? How might we harmonize global & local efforts?

What if there was a way to continuously engage 100 million citizens in a systemic approach to problem solving at the local, national, and global levels?

There are more than 100 million university students around the world who spend four years or more solving theoretical problems. Meanwhile, the world’s social, economic, and environmental challenges demand problem solvers.

ImpactEd connects university classrooms with mission-driven projects for nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies. During the ImpactEd pilot program in January, more than 50 management students came up with solutions for Swedish electric utilities to encourage sustainable consumption in 500,000 households.

Explain your idea

The mission of ImpactEd is to engage millions of students as agents of change within their regions and fields of study. We do this by acting as the bridge connecting society's most pressing challenges with society's largest population of problem solvers. The ImpactEd ecosystem is sustained through a 3-step process: 1. Nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies submit project briefs related to ongoing challenges. Each challenge topic is benchmarked with one or more of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 2. Projects are curated by the ImpactEd team and assigned to participating classrooms within our university network based on field of study and geography. 3. Students work on projects throughout their course. The ImpactEd team assesses student solutions and sends actionable recommendations to the project partner.

Who Benefits?

Before launching ImpactEd, we first listened to the needs of institutions, educators, and students by traveling to conduct 100+ interviews across 4 countries. Our primary beneficiaries are project partners, who receive innovative ideas to strengthen their impact and mitigate challenges. Each partner project is assigned to 50-100 students who work on the project remotely. Through projects, educators are able to improve student outcomes. Higher education is currently struggling to prepare learners for the complex social and economic landscapes of the 21st century, with 6 in 10 seniors claiming that college has not been very helpful in preparing them for careers. With ImpactEd, participating students have the opportunity to gain real-world experience in their fields of study without even leaving the classroom. Our pilot project increased student engagement by 22%, while empowering students to strengthen 21st century skills like creativity and critical thinking.

How is your idea unique?

A number of organizations are already providing students with real-world problem solving experiences. Programs like MindSumo and Hult Prize offer students experience through problem-solving competitions. With these programs, students compete on a voluntary basis outside of the classroom, so the reach of these providers is limited. By making reality-based learning a common part of the classroom experience, we are introducing a solution that is structurally scalable. ImpactEd is competing with the status quo more than with any one competitor. Universities have engaged students in real-world problem solving before, through capstone projects, research centers, and case competitions. However, this model has never been capable of scaling sustainably. ImpactEd enables real-world project-based learning at scale. While this enables universities to educate their students more effectively, it also enables universities to emerge as more proactive centers of change in society.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

ImpactEd is a social enterprise founded in Stockholm, Sweden, with current operations based in Redwood City, California. We are one of ten startups worldwide currently participating in the GSV Labs Pioneer Accelerator with Google Launchpad. ImpactEd is a partner of the Youth Working Group to the U.S. Commission for UNESCO, Polymath Lab, and Social Venture Network Sweden. Austin Halbert is the founder & CEO of ImpactEd and a G20 Young Global Changer. Austin grew up as one of six siblings in rural North Carolina. He is an appointee to the Youth Working Group of the U.S. Commission for UNESCO. He has conducted a Fulbright Fellowship on sustainable development in Sweden, developed a 30mm euro product innovation pipeline for Unilever, authored "The American Workday", and received the top research prize at Education without Borders in Dubai. Austin was recently recognized for his efforts at the UN High Level Forum for Sustainable Development. He is most energized when engaging younger generations in global progress. Ibrahim Naji is the COO of ImpactEd. Ibrahim grew up in Sweden, and he has also lived in Norway, Denmark, and the United Arab Emirates. His first business venture took place in 2011 when he co-founded one of Denmark’s largest candy stores. After graduating college in 2013, Ibrahim co-founded Gulf Elite, a media startup catering to younger generations in the Gulf region. He is a United World College Scholar. Edgard Ortega is the lead Technology Partner for ImpactEd and the co-founder of Polymath Lab. Throughout Eddy's career, he has focused on developing systems that deploy human-centered design as a means to foster empathy. He has worked as a Rapid Experience Developer at Intel, where he was able to lead multiple community outreach efforts to teach and explore design paradigms using unconventional computing inputs and technologies. He is a graduate of the Ringling School of Art & Design. As students, we experienced most of our personal development outside of the classroom through civic engagement and internships. The classroom experience left us feeling disconnected, far removed from the everyday realities facing our communities and fields of study. We are motivated to bring ImpactEd to our generation with the goal of enabling all students to gain purposeful learning experiences and contribute to meaningful change.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Austin,

It is great to see all the progress on Impact Ed. You might want to check out The Peace First Challenge and Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest because I think there is some commonality between ImpactEd and these organisations.

Photo of Lesa R. Walker MD, MPH

Yes! Thanks Kate Rushton ! Wonderful work Austin Halbert ! Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest is ready to collaborate with Impact Ed and The Peace First Challenge! There are many ways to involve students (and people of all ages and walks of life) in the Compassion Games to initiate and grow action and impact and to share and connect with others globally. Eager to connect!

Photo of Raul Caceres

Thanks, Kate Rushton 
Austin Halbert - it would be great to connect to see how your students can use our platform to get resources and promote their work!

Photo of Austin Halbert

Thanks Lesa R. Walker MD, MPH ! Really impressed with your work at Compassion Games- it would be interesting to explore potential for partnership on upcoming Games. Feel free to reach out!

Photo of Austin Halbert

Raul Caceres I find your work really interesting- we are always look out for new resources to include in our digital workspace so that students can approach projects more effectively.

On another note, we are working on an impact assessment framework with a couple organizations that could be relevant to Peace First. Would this be interesting on your end?

Photo of Austin Halbert

Thank you for the introductions, Kate Rushton !

Photo of Raul Caceres

Hi Austin Halbert 
It would be great to hear more. Please send more information to Thanks!

Photo of Lesa R. Walker MD, MPH

Austin Halbert Wonderful! I am introducing you to Jon Ramer who is Director/Founder of the Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest . His email is . My email is . Looking forward to collaborating!! Thanks again Kate Rushton for being a "bridgebuilder" :))

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