The first place winner of Praxis' inaugural class of social entrepreneurs is Sajan George, who was a managing director at the nation's leading turnaround agency Alvarez & Marsal for Education Practice, and has used that knowledge to develop an innovative plan to help turnaround the most underperforming public schools in America.
George was announced the winner Tuesday evening at the Q Conference in Washington, D.C., for his plan to customize the instruction method to match the need of individual students. His organization is called Matchbook Learning and received a $50,000 check to be used toward fulfilling its vision.
"I dare you to find another industry in America that has changed so little in its product and service," said George during his Tuesday presentation at Q Conference after showing pictures of similar classrooms despite one being in 1911 and the other in 2011.
"In the last ten years alone, entire industries have been disrupted by companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. And those companies have disrupted entire industries by doing one thing radically well, and that one thing is customization. They customize both content and experience for each individual user. Imagine with me if we can bring that customization technology to disrupt public education."
In his plan, students would be sitting in a physical classroom with a teacher but they would be engaged with netbooks where they can go through guided practices, use smart boards, and others can do project works. George also highlighted that since the education experience is computer-based, the organization can gather data on how students are learning, which will help them to further customize the instruction for each student.
George also shared that the federal government now requires each state to identify their bottom five percent schools. These turnaround schools receive additional money, up to $2 million a year for up to four years if they agree to break their routine and work with radical solutions like Matchbook Learning.
Praxis, a Greek term that means putting theory into action, is a program that applies the business mentorship model to Christian social entrepreneurs. All the Praxis mentors are successful Christian businessmen who counseled social entrepreneurs motivated by their faith to advance the common good.
The second place winner among the 12 organizations is Rare Genomics Institute, founded by Jimmy Lin and Scott Taing, which received $30,000. Rare Genomics Institute allows friends and family members of patients with the world's rarest diseases to help fund the sequencing of patients' genomes so researchers can analyze and find a cure for their diseases.
In third place is Courtney Rountree of Sinapis Group, which was awarded $20,000. Sinapis seeks to help the developing world by supporting early state entrepreneurs by providing them with Christ-centered business education so they will become ethical and successful business leaders who will employ people and improve the economy of their community and country.
The $100,000 total prize money was provided by the David Weekley Family Foundation. Weekley is the founder of Texas-based home construction company, David Weekley Homes – the nation's largest privately held homebuilder that closes over a billion dollars-worth of homes a year. Weekley, a dedicated Christian, donates 50 percent of his income and 50 percent of his time to philanthropy.