New York City Innovation Zone (iZone)

New York City Innovation Zone
Case Study

“ …working in schools, working in external markets, and driving systemic reform.” 

Andrea Coleman, former CEO, iZone

  • Impact Measurem- ent
  • Partnersh- ips
Location in government

City government

Where it is based

New York City, USA

Mission statement

“In 2010, the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) launched the Innovation Zone (iZone), a dedicated Office of Innovation that would support schools in personalizing learning to accelerate college and career readiness among our students. Having started with 81 schools, the iZone now includes 300 schools from across the city.”

Annual spend

£9.1 million1

Size of team


Example of impact

iZone’s iLearn programme is projected to save £6.6m ($10.8m) by 2015.2

The New York City Innovation Zone (iZone) is a community of schools committed to personalising learning around the needs, motivations and strengths of each child, with the aim of accelerating college and career readiness. The iZone acts as an incubation lab for the city’s education department, working directly with over 300 schools, a range of companies and others in the education market, and the wider city government to influence policy reforms and to test and develop solutions that improve educational attainment across New York City.

What it does

The iZone acts as an incubation lab for the Department of Education in New York City. It works on three levels, supporting innovation in schools, creating and stimulating external markets, and fostering wider systemic innovation, such as through policy reforms.

Challenges, such as open calls and hackathons, are a central method for encouraging iZone schools to innovate. Schools help set the challenges, and are involved in developing, testing and scaling solutions. iZone’s work also involves ‘systems level’ change, whereby the iZone works to influence policy to foster innovation in schools.

One iZone programme is School of One which strives to solve the issue of all children requiring different types of support in order to learn effectively. Drawing on a complex set of algorithms that analyse each student’s understanding of materials from each lesson, a customised schedule is created for the student to follow the next day. This schedule determines the learning modality, such as teacher-led instruction, student collaboration, or virtual instruction, as well as allocating the amount of teacher time to best leverage their expertise.

Another initiative is iLearn NYC which strives to increase student access to online and blended learning from 7,400 students in 2010/11 to more than 22,000 students in 2013/14.

Interesting features
  • Impact measurement: iZone is data driven, using evidence in the formulation of programmes and testing their impacts through rigorous evaluation design, such as their Educational return on investment framework (eROI).
  • Partnerships: iZone seeks to work closely with partners in government and to stimulate innovation through partnerships, creating what it terms a radical collaboration community involving strategic collaborations with the private sector, as well as the schools in the iZone.


  1. Confirmed in email correspondence with iZone, May 2014. Converted from $15,0000 ($10,5000 government funding and $4,500 other sources) Currency converted using $ 0.607408 To £1 as on * as of 21/01/2013, taken from
  2. Data provided in Nesta Impact Survey, February 2014. Currency converted using $ 0.607408 To £1 as on * as of 21/01/2013, taken from

Photo credit: The Essential Allies Challenge to increase family engagement.Image courtesy of New York City Innovation Zone (iZone)

This page was last updated on

Friday, June 27, 2014 - 16:14