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Our Story

Innovators for Purpose is a Cambridge-based non-profit that inspires high-potential diverse youth, especially those from under-resourced & under-represented populations, to discover their passions, cultivate skills, and develop mindsets to become creators capable of producing innovative solutions to the most complex problems in their communities and the world around them.  

Using a hands-on multidisciplinary approach that integrates art, design, and humanities with STEM, we have reimagined how to engage today’s learners.  Our Integrated Creative Problem Solving (iCps) framework is a design process that helps youth unlock unique, innovative solutions to the problems they care about most. It actives both left-brain and right-brain, empathy and logic, creativity and analysis.

While this framework often directs students toward science, technology, engineering and math methods to solve problems, students naturally pull STEM concepts into their solutions in an integrated, non-threatening manner. Our  approach broadens participation in STEM and broadens students innovation mindset.

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Innovation First

Innovation drives our economy and society forward with new solutions, better systems and improved processes. Yet, the innovation economy is still a selective “club” that often misses under-resourced populations.

The magic of innovation is that not only helps society progress, but also the innovators themselves. Innovation requires both technical and creative skills that have application beyond just careers. It inspires personal and intellectual growth.

We believe that cultivating these creative problem-solving skills in youth can unlock their potential and empower them drive their own communities forward, giving purpose to their innovation.


Our Leaders

Michael Dawson, Co-founder and CEO,  career has spanned engineering, marketing and sales in High Tech as well as entrepreneurial endeavors in Finance, Consulting and Education resulting in a hybrid of technical skills, business acumen, design savviness, relationship building abilities and an undeniable entrepreneurial spirit. Holds Bachelor & Master in Electrical Engineering Degrees from the University of South Florida and an MBA from Babson.

Donna Dawson, Director of Student & Family Engagement and Creative Director, visionary thinker with a zeal for art and the art making process.  Inventive art educator with a proven capacity for promoting a respectful, caring, safe and inclusive classroom. Creates engaging learning experiences centered on Design Thinking Principles, Character Development and Professional Identity that inspires youth to pursue Design and STEM careers. Holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art Education with over 15 years teaching experience and a certified K-12 instructor.

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Our History

Innovators for Purpose (iFp) was started by a group of friends who, after finding success in their careers, found themselves pondering purpose rather than just the next million dollar idea. Concerned about the quality of life in the communities they came from, the founders thought, “How might we help?” They united on the belief that education is a tool that equips, and thereby empowers, people to be innovators for change in their own communities.

Having previously established a successful nonprofit that encouraged youth of color to pursue math and science based careers, these friends recreated and expanded this idea to include other methods of innovation to empower high-potential, under-resourced youth. 

A hotbed of innovation, Cambridge is where iFp instituted its first program in partnership with Fletcher Maynard Academy in 2014 with an in-school program. Fletcher Maynard Academy is in an under-resourced area of Cambridge that has seen little change amidst the innovation boom. The students in the program collaborated and posed the question, “How might we be part of the changing neighborhood?” From there, iFp applied its design process model to help the students address the question. Since 2014, iFp has added summer and Saturday programs throughout Cambridge and Boston that help youth not only discover their own “How might we…” questions, but also innovate their own solutions.

iFp was incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit in March 2014.
Co-Founders:  William Bagley, Michael Dawson, Donna Dawson, James Grigsby, Edward Johnson, Dana Thompson

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