Innovating through Polyplexus incubators

Dedicated to providing insightful thought leadership that leverages knowledge networks and invites constructive challenges, the Charles Koch Institute is partnering with the innovation accelerator Polyplexus – a global, online platform that spurs ideation, research, and development. As a result of that partnership, CKI is excited to announce three upcoming “incubators” that will allow thousands of academics, scholars, researchers, and subject matter experts to review our R&D inquiries and strengthen our research proposal prompts via open discussion and calls for feedback.

We believe these incubators will help us reach new audiences, facilitate interdisciplinary ideation, and source innovative research ideas for potential funding. But we need your help to leverage this opportunity fully. We’re inviting economists, scholars, human and natural scientists, and researchers in all fields to take part in each of these incubators, and to share this announcement with friends and colleagues across the entire spectrum of academic study.

These incubators focus on three public policy and regulatory considerations in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. They are a great opportunity for social and natural scientists, economists, and technologists to join the evidence-based conversation and learn more about potential funding opportunities from CKI.

To help us bring talented minds to the table, we’re also offering up to $1,500 in awards for the greatest contributions across all three incubators (up to $250 each for the best two “conjectures” made per incubator).

You can also sign up for a free, public training session for new “Plexors” conducted on Friday, May 29, 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. EST. Sign up here.

Incubator descriptions and start dates:

CKI Incubator 1

Re-imagining the Social Safety Net as an Innovation Commons
Program Manager: Lenore Ealy
Date: June 1, 2020

Incubator Descriptor:

Thinking about Poverty as an Innovation Problem

In this incubator, we want to foster interdisciplinary conversation and ideation that culminate in research proposals that re-frame poverty as an innovation problem.  Poverty is statistically defined as a shortage of income, whether on absolute or relative measures. The modern welfare state comprises programs of social insurance, income subsidies, and in-kind transfers of goods and services that were largely developed and have been managed in the context of addressing perceived market failures in the distribution of income.

The conventional welfare state solution to poverty has thus been a combination of redistribution and regulation aimed at redressing inefficiencies or inequalities, or a combination thereof. But what if poverty is thought of more as a symptom of an innovation problem — a problem of finding ways to better use knowledge, promote coordination, and foster exchange that helps those with low incomes more quickly find pathways to flourish? Can we imagine an innovation commons that can promote social and economic innovations to fuel human betterment and make poverty a temporary condition rather than a lifelong dependency? Our goal is to promote an interdisciplinary conversation that elicits research and development to radically change our approach to addressing poverty.

Key Questions and Themes to Explore Together:

  • What are the knowledge, exchange, and governance problems that seem to trap people in poverty or in dependence on welfare instead of work, and how might we design better solutions to these problems?
  • Poverty is often concentrated in geographic areas (ZIP codes) that are adjacent to flourishing areas. What are the barriers that inhibit innovation and economic development in such areas?
  • Can we – and how best to – map the entangled political economy of our current public and private systems of assistance?
  • How can poverty be viewed as an innovation challenge rather than an income challenge?
  • Can we imagine new and better ways of designing an effective social safety net?
  • What systems and technologies can create more person-centered designs of assistance?
  • How can new technology platforms and tools disintermediate the modern welfare state and contemporary nonprofit organizations by helping those people experiencing poverty more quickly gain the knowledge, relationships, and opportunities they need to get out of poverty?

CKI Incubator 2

Alternative Models for Postsecondary Education
Program Manager: Jon Franklin
Date: June 15, 2020

Incubator Descriptor:

Reinventing the Intersection of Postsecondary Education, Workforce Development, and Lifelong Learning

Industry analysts, educators, and employers increasingly agree that a four-year college degree can be an insufficient or inefficient indicator of a person’s readiness to contribute to the workplace. Alternatives to traditional postsecondary pathways are emerging (bootcamps, accelerated apprenticeships, micro-credentialing, hybrid colleges, etc.), but little is known about their value as a proxy for job readiness and the ability to engage in future learning. Building new postsecondary pathways that reduce under-employment or unemployment while instilling a passion for lifelong learning in students of all ages holds the potential to redefine the role of education in society.

We seek to foster a cross-industry conversation about existing and emerging alternatives to two- and four-year college degrees. Traditional colleges and universities, education entrepreneurs, private businesses, and nonprofits are invited to join as we explore what is necessary to generate new learning opportunities that are student-focused, financially sustainable, and reflect the 21st century workplace.

Key Questions and Themes to Explore Together:

How can postsecondary education and private enterprise collaborate in the development of more effective alternatives to prevailing postsecondary education models that respond to student interests and passions?

How can we reliably measure and compare the value of postsecondary educational experiences across different types of degrees and credential programs?

Consider the educators and employers who are driving innovation in the adoption of alternative credential pathways – what cultural and institutional characteristics are most important, and why?

What building blocks are necessary for an ecosystem where learned competencies (as opposed to degrees) are used to define open job positions and to create credentials aligned with employer needs?

Which industries are best positioned to collaborate on creating talent development programs such as short-term apprenticeships and micro-internships?

CKI Incubator 3

Alternative Regulatory Frameworks for Diagnostics for Health Awareness and Drug Approvals
Program Manager:  Adam Millsap  and Tom Romeo
Date: July 1, 2020

Incubator Descriptor:

Accelerating Approval while Protecting Safety with New Medical Innovations

Medical innovation has shown itself to be instrumental in improving individual healthcare for millions of people in the U.S. From vaccines to new cancer treatments, medical breakthroughs are key to addressing health efficiently. Current FDA management of drugs and devices requires new innovations to pass basic safety testing, as well as testing to determine product efficacy. As it is currently structured, this process is time-consuming and creates a large amount of uncertainty for the market and companies seeking approval. This approach contributes to high prices and delays access to potentially life changing medical breakthroughs. The US needs a faster way of approving new medical innovations without compromising the safety of consumers. Our goal is to foster an interdisciplinary conversation that elicits research and development into alternative models to the current FDA efficacy testing framework.

Key Questions and Themes to Explore Together:

  • How can testing of efficacy be considered on a more individualized basis?
  • What role can third-party or private testers play in streamlining efficacy testing?
  • How can medical devices be categorized to allow for more efficient testing?
  • Is there a model for efficacy and safety testing in other sectors that can be used in the medical innovation context?
  • How can post-market surveillance be used to streamline product availability while ensuring safety and considering health data privacy?

06-30-2020 10:40am

Supreme Court strikes a blow against free speech in Soros case, Charles Koch Institute fellow says

"At the heart of the First Amendment lies the principle that every person should decide for themselves what they want to say, or whether they want to say anything at all."

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06-18-2020 12:12pm

Conversations about race, equality, and the American experience

Organizations such as Braver Angels offer a path forward—driving a movement that seeks to create a space for dialogue to help us better understand each other and learn from each other. In a time where we’re having important conversations about race, equality, and the American experience, hearing each other’s voices is incredibly important.

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06-17-2020 10:15am

Lessons from Tiananmen Square for American Protesters

While Beijing pushed for measures to prevent protests, vigils, and other speech around the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Americans across the country started raising their voices to speak out against long entrenched injustices. Charles Koch Institute Director of Free Expression Sarah Ruger spoke to this essential component of progress in a recent commentary in Real Clear World.

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