The Power of Place: Exploring the Future of Readiness in a Local Context

21st Century Skills

The Power of Place: Exploring the Future of Readiness in a Local Context

from Knowledgeworks

By Katie King     Sep 22, 2018

The Power of Place: Exploring the Future of Readiness in a Local Context

Across the U.S. and beyond, stakeholders invested in creating positive futures for young people face a critical window of choice. The rise of smart machines is altering the ways that humans can and will engage in the workforce in the future, and our notion of what constitutes a “job” is changing as work becomes more taskified and project-based. These shifts require us to look beyond our current definitions of readiness and redefine what today’s young people will need to thrive in the future. And because every community is unique, each one needs to work to enhance its students’ readiness for further learning, work and life in its own way.

KnowledgeWorks convened a group of education, workforce and civic leaders in Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast Ohio to explore how they each might face the changing nature of work and readiness in urban, rural and suburban communities. Their insights revealed the power of locally grounded idea generation and the urgency of tackling these issues with others who know the specific assets, challenges and opportunities of a place.

These leaders identified region-specific opportunities to shape the future of readiness today, but their ideas can spark conversation and inspire action beyond the regions in which they arose. The following three opportunities are particularly relevant for stakeholders across the country and have potential to be considered and adapted to many community contexts. Though technology is driving many of the changes in the nature of work and readiness, these leaders highlighted shifting educational structures and shared mindsets as the most powerful opportunities for change.

Opportunity 1: Empower Educator and Curricular Innovation

Educators can best promote long-term readiness in their students – supporting their social-emotional learning, resilience, and metacognition – when they are able to focus on deepening their own skills in those areas and to play a lead role in innovation efforts.

Action Ideas

  • Provide educators with personalized professional development — such as sabbaticals and experiential learning opportunities — that support their own future readiness and their development of innovative instructional practices and curriculum.
  • Connect legislators and industry experts to educators through listening tours or cross-sector convenings that elevate teacher voice and expand each group’s understanding of the others’ needs and challenges.

Opportunity 2: Promote Collaborative Governance and Resource Sharing

Every community has underutilized people and places that can support learners’ future readiness. These may be local businesses that provide mentorship or internships, community organizations that provide additional space or learning opportunities, or parents with new ideas and unique perspectives whose schedules may have not allowed them to engage with education institutions in traditional ways. Identifying opportunities to mobilize a broad range of community assets can ensure a more effective and coordinated approach to promoting students’ readiness.

Action Ideas

  • Explore existing models of collaborative and inclusive governance structures, such as participatory budgeting or similar processes that explicitly involve diverse representatives to prioritize the involvement of traditionally marginalized communities. Assess how relevant those models might be to the local context, adapting or reimagining them to meet the community’s assets and needs.
  • Evaluate possibilities for sharing resources, spaces and services within communities and across traditional neighborhood boundaries. Explore opportunities for exchange of knowledge, resources and skills that build and maintain communities’ identities, reduce inequities and demonstrate the benefits of new partnerships and collaborations.

Opportunity 3: Shift Mindsets about the Community to Grow a Sustainable Economy

Often, narratives about rural and low-income communities and communities of color are too narrow and focus on what those communities lack rather than what they have. Locally developing an asset-based community identity opens new avenues for exploring economic and community development opportunities.

Action Ideas

  • Develop an aspirational vision for the region that leverages its unique strengths, resources and values, led by the people who live and lead there – especially its young people. Communicate that vision broadly, particularly to other local and regional leaders.
  • Examine assumptions about traditional markers of success in education and work, exploring how traditional economic or community development approaches might be altered to be more sustainable, inclusive or appropriate to a specific place.

Exploring the future of readiness is an act of stewardship to young people and to the communities in which they live. Grounding that exploration in a specific place can be a powerful tool for promoting collaboration and inspiring change. Get ideas on hosting such conversations in your community in Shaping the Future of Readiness: A Discussion and Facilitation Guide and dig deeper into research on this and other topics in our upcoming comprehensive forecast of the future of learning.

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