History of Project InCiTE-- Innovating Creative Teen Engagement
A Partnership Between The Jewish Education Project and The iCenter

Teen education is challenging. Many institutions and organizations are unsatisfied with their record for delivering high quality experiences for learners in the years between Bar/Bat Mitzvah and entering college. Additionally, the educators and youth professionals who work with Jewish teens often find themselves lacking the peer and professional support, communal resources, and professional development opportunities needed to do the best job possible.
Inspired by this recognition and with a mandate to bring strong Israel Engagement to teen settings, the Project InCiTE - Innovating Creative Teen Engagement Fellowship was created through the work of The New Center for Collaborative Leadership at The Jewish Education Project.

We started by asking ourselves
·         Is it possible to create an environment that fosters innovative ideas that will emerge as new models of engagement for teens?
·         How do we facilitate a process that will see these ideas through the creative, design, and implementation process?
·         Can we deliver innovative projects that meet the needs of the organizations and settings where they will be piloted?

Charged with this task, we gathered together a diverse group of educators from national and regional institutions and organizations, and from a range of affiliations, and geographic locations. We designed a Fellowship that looked to address these questions in four fundamental ways.

Innovation Training- We invested in working with SIT (Systematic Inventing Thinking), an Israel based company of thinking trainers who would work directly with fellows. SIT facilitated retreats and training sessions, and provided ongoing support to fellows. Participants were immersed in this process during the ideation and creative phases of Project InCiTE, learning strategies that broadened their capacity to think and innovate as they began to develop ideas for their projects.

Coaches – We brought together a group of seven high level professionals in the field, each of whom brought their own expertise, experience, and perspective to the table. Coaches were assigned to individual Fellows whom they met with regularly, providing multiple support and guiding roles that varied during each phase of the Fellowship. As projects began to develop, coaches worked with cluster groups around common themes that emerged, allowing for their particular expertise to impact fellows they had not worked with in the earlier stages of the Fellowship.

Institutional Sponsors – In addition to the qualifications of each candidate, we took into consideration two equally important factors during the selection process. We understood that for an educator to succeed, they must have buy-in from their institution, and strong support from a professional (Sponsor) within the organization that could act as a champion to advocate for, and help facilitate, the development and implementation of their project.

Peer Relationships – We recognized early on the value of the group to each other, particularly the value of gaining perspectives from others who are committed to teen education and yet come from a significantly different educational or denominational setting. We invested in building these relationships by designing multiple experiences that fostered both personal and professional bonds - particularly during the ten days Fellows spent together in Israel. Project InCiTE provided the opportunity for a group of educators who would have had little if any occasion to spend time with each other, to develop relationships resulting in professional partnerships and personal friendships that have organically formed, having a positive effect on the educational landscapes fellows all participate in. The relationship webs have been formed, and we expect they will continue long after participation in Project InCiTE ends.

A Note on the Organizational Process and Personalities –
One aspect of Project InCiTE that did not make its way into the Innovation or Israel Engagement reports is our internal management process. From an organizational perspective, we feel it bears mentioning.
We had in place at the beginning of the Fellowship three foundational understandings.
End Goals - developing projects, and spreading the ideas to the wider community
Strategies – intentionally picking an eclectic cohort, SIT training, coach support, peer development
Structure -overnight retreats, an intense Israel experience, monthly or weekly coach support calls and meetings.Other than this overall working plan, we intentionally left room for Project InCiTE to be open and fluid. Meaning, we knew that we would discover things along the way that we could not anticipate or expect, and wanted to have the capacity to react as we went along, which we did.  We also learned that personality types present in a process like this one or any other initiative can influence the undercurrent of how it will flow, what will be reacted to, and what will rise to the surface and require attention. It proved to be an exciting, challenging, and often elevating experience to be both responsive and proactive in this way, and we learned not to underestimate its value.

Project Information –
·         Funding: In just 18 months, 14 of 20 Fellows were granted seed funding to launch their projects.
·         Projects: The Project InCiTE Fellows Tab houses pages for each fellow. Each page has a description and assessment about the project they developed, and a “how to” for implementing it in other settings.
·         This site also contains copies of process documents including, a list of the outstanding educators in Israel with whom we worked, itineraries, and relevant charts and graphs.
·         The Project InCiTE team is proud of the wonderful group of professionals who embarked on this journey with us. Their collective commitment and hard work has contributed a body of work that will positively impact the wider educational community. We wish them Hatzlachah as they continue in their personal and professional Jewish journeys.