April 29, 2021

Stand Together Ventures Lab Launches Open Innovation Challenge, Powered by MIT Solve, to Rethink Policing

Groups set to launch Unbundle Policing Incubator that will work with police officers, community leaders, and startup experts to explore policing alternatives.

Arlington, VA – Stand Together Ventures Lab (STVL3, LLC), a venture group that invests in and partners with early-stage business models that can transform society, launched a new three-month Challenge focused on rethinking the role police officers play as first responders. The Challenge is powered by MIT Solve, a marketplace for social impact innovation.

The Unbundle Policing: Reimagine Public Safety Challenge will serve as an Incubator and Accelerator for social ventures and entrepreneurs focused on decreasing the number of unnecessary law enforcement encounters. The Incubator is a three-month program designed to develop and refine solutions, build and solidify teams, garner expert feedback, and ultimately prepare teams to submit their solutions to the six-month Accelerator. Teams selected to participate in the Accelerator will receive $50,000 per team and six months of resources, coaching, and subject matter expert support to pilot or grow their solutions across the U.S.

The aim of the Challenge is to begin by assessing the many roles the police undertake – such as patrolling violations, mental health interventions, addressing homelessness – and explore whether these roles could be better filled by alternative responders, like unarmed traffic managers and social workers. The goal is to connect individuals to the best resources to address their needs at the first point of contact. Potential solutions might include but are not limited to:

  • Alternatives to deploying police response to 911 calls or traffic enforcement that don’t require armed responses;
  • Alternatives to police-enforced legal sanctions, particularly those related to mental illness or substance use disorders;
  • Increased transparency, public input, and evaluation of police goals and functions within a community;
  • Improved approaches to recruiting, training, evaluating, and supporting police officers in their roles.

Through the Challenge, individuals and teams will have the opportunity to learn from a diverse range of viewpoints on the state of policing and crisis response in the U.S. and work with police officers, community leaders, and startup experts to build new solutions or refine existing ones. There will be workshops, mentors, and other support for different participants.

“An effective criminal justice system protects people, preserves public safety, respects human dignity, and ensures equal justice for all under the law. Police are essential in this process and are on the front lines of preventing and responding to violent crime and calls for help,” said Ayla Smith, Program Director at Stand Together Ventures Lab. “Police are regularly put in situations they are not trained for or that could be better addressed by alternatives solutions. We want to find those solutions, so the right person is responding to every call.”

Unbundle Policing has brought on several criminal justice and innovation experts as advisors to this initiative, including Marcus Bullock, Barry Friedman, Antong Lucky, Dr. S. Rebecca Neusteter, Sheriff Jerry L. Clayton, and Assistant Chief Perry Tarrant. Read more about their criminal justice experience here.

The Incubator application is due July 19, 2021. The deadline for submitting a solution to the Challenge is November 19, 2021. Applicants can apply here.

About Stand Together Ventures Lab:
Stand Together Ventures Lab (through STVL3, LLC and STVL6, LLC) is part of the Stand Together community, a philanthropic community tackling some of the biggest challenges of our times. The Lab originates, incubates and funds ventures that leverage disruptive business models or unique applications of technology to solve core societal challenges. Learn more at stventureslab.com and join us on LinkedIn.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Jim Fellinger at JFellinger@standtogether.org.