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San Diego: Pactful

Pactful is a social good innovation tool for teens and teachers who want to build a better world by creating solutions to global problems.

Pactful is a social good innovation curriculum and app used globally by teens and teachers who want to build a better world. The digital platform and challenge events inspire users to leverage design thinking and an innovator’s mindset to create solutions aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Learning Forerunner


HundrED has selected this innovation to

Learning Forerunners Across America

Web presence






June 2020

About the innovation

How can teenagers and their teachers build a better world?

San Diego

San Diego is a thriving city known for its tourism, its military and defense industries, international trade, and wireless cellular technology. Having a strong educational system led the city to be ranked among the nation's the top ten most-educated cities, according to the U.S. census. Innovation is at the forefront of San Diego’s culture and can be seen throughout the region in the form of a STEM Ecosystem, several innovation hubs, and leading biotechnology firms. With its diverse population, topics of equality, inclusivity, and accessibility are at the helm of city-wide initiatives and movements. San Diego’s rich historical presence has served as a strong foundation for the city, and its evolution continues to solidify a legacy for generations to come.


Created by the Jacobs Institute for Innovation in Education at the University of San Diego, with the sponsorship of Dr. Irwin and Joan Jacobs, Pactful is a free, virtual, social good innovation method for teachers and teenagers who want to build a better world. Pactful is currently being implemented by educators in over 24 states. It was designed to recapture “Lost Einsteins” and empower learners, educators, and communities to innovate from within. Research shows the chances of becoming an innovator depends on several variables: where you live, your race, your gender, and your socio-economic level. Pactful believes that all learners can build a better world in their own communities and beyond when provided the right context, support, and tools.

Pactful supports educators and students in the following ways:

  • Learners have access to a free design thinking curriculum that supports making a positive impact in their local communities and the world

  • A showcase of filterable solutions aligned to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals is accessible to users for progress monitoring

  • A community of educators using Pactful exists for networking and support

  • Challenge events and teacher camps provide important opportunities to be a part of something larger

Pactful's Commitment

The Jacobs Institute for Innovation in Education is a research and development institute powering K–20 inclusive innovation over the past eight years. Our mission fosters inclusion, diversity, and social justice in education. Working across the spectrum of educational innovation, our work supports research and evaluation of educational innovation initiatives, development of new technologies including Pactful, curriculum and pedagogical models, and support for educational organizations to sustain and scale their initiatives. Our team of experts engage in pioneering research and evaluation, develop of innovative curriculum and technologies, and support professional learning grounded in the learning sciences.

Examples and highlights:

One unique Pactful solution, Go-Green Food Bags, was created by a team of 9th grade teenagers and aligned with Sustainable Development Goal #12: Responsible Consumption and Production. Their research identified that out of the 300 million tons of plastic produced annually, 50 percent of it is manufactured for single-use purposes. By lowering the amount of plastic waste, people will be able to protect wildlife, clean the ocean, minimize global warming, and reduce carbon footprints. This team believes that people can help better the Earth by changing one small thing in their lifestyle: using eco-friendly Go-Green Food Bags, which are hand-made, reusable, 100 percent eco-friendly, and made from recycled materials.

Another example of an innovative solution, Idle Reminder, was created by a team of 10th graders and aligned with Sustainable Development Goal #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. Idle Reminder is an alert system for transportation service vehicles, indicating excessive greenhouse gas emissions, which usually occurs in idling buses. Greenhouse gas emissions cause climate change and global warming. By addressing this issue, students plan to improve air quality and slow the impacts of increased temperatures and rising sea levels, making cities more sustainable.

Pactful embodies the San Diego region’s goal of inclusive innovation by:

  • Offering an entirely digital curriculum and virtual events to minimize accessibility limitations

  • Supporting educational equity by providing an educational tool at no-cost

  • Establishing a network of educators in our online Pactful community forum

  • Conducting Pactful Changemaker Challenge Competitions with students across the world

  • Promoting diversity and inclusive practices through research and competition requirements, lowering the access barrier

  • Inspiring social good innovation in teenagers by creating solutions to local and global issues

This innovation in San Diego has sparked the attention of educators, schools, and districts across the United States and the world, including Aruba, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong.

Impact & scalability

Spread of the innovation

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