In early April 2022, 5,000+ energized education pioneers assembled in San Diego for 55+ hours of inspiration, discussion, collaboration … and a little fun. This year’s version of the ASU+GSV Summit was especially animated given the pent-up demand for in-person collaboration and everyone’s collective desire to start making tangible improvements in education equality, climate change, and employment.
Personally, I entered the week with cautious optimism and left San Diego with a renewed sense of purpose. In this brief article, I will share my observations and explore some opportunities for positive change across four main themes:
Climate Change – Now or Never
This year’s conference kicked off with a bang thanks to John Doerr and his new book, Speed & Scale. John shared some chilling statistics about the dire future awaiting our children thanks to climate change. Three numbers: 59-Net 0-2050.
“We need to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 59 billion tons to Net Zero by 2050 … or else.”John Doerr
The good news is John and his collaborator, Ryan Panchadsaram, shared an action plan for solving the climate crisis in our generation. You can review many of their 55 “key results” in the graphic below. It is not lost on me that John’s last name is synonymous with action (“Do-err”). I’m convinced it is a pen name.
In the first hour, John and Ryan set the stage for the rest of the conference: time is running out … we need to act now! And education is the spark that will start the fire which will burn down the energy status quo. Bad metaphor.
The path forward relies on digital transformation and rapid expansion of our Green Economy. An expansion that can only occur with proliferation of Green Skills (such as genomic agriculture and clean energy) and 21st century Green Jobs. All of which sits on the foundation of digital credentials and predictive AI. These were topics explored during several sessions from Pearson, Fathom, Credly, JFF (Jobs for the Future), Linked In, and others. More on digital credentials later.
According to many of these experts, we need to build centers of energy excellence regionally to achieve climate resiliency. Then, the smart energy communities can sell their clean energy to everyone else and teach us how to “Green-ize” our own economies. This is already happening in places like New South Wales (Sydney, Australia) where they shut down a local coal plant and reskilled all the workers in Green Jobs. Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without digital learning, digital wallets, and digital credentials. Cool.
Thomas Friedman book-ended John Doerr’s opening with another inspiring discussion about how we can provide lifelong career training that works for everyone. Specifically, the power of new digital education systems (and credentials) that can help us fill the Green Skills gaps and create a workforce that can respond to future demands – such as climate change.
Education Equality – It Makes a Difference
In order to overcome existential Topic #1 (Climate Change), we need to tackle existential Topic #2 (Education Equality). This challenge has several solutions, most notably:
One startling statistic from Gerald Chertavian, Founder of Year Up, is that 75-80% of under-resourced job candidates are eliminated from consideration if a hiring manager requires a 4-year degree. Not fair.
“We work at the intersection of education leaders, researchers, and technology developers to improve learning opportunities for all and close the Digital Learning Gap. Because when all learners have equitable access to technology, when everyone participates, and when everyone learns, we all benefit from a more engaged, informed and just society.”Digital Promise
I attended several awesome sessions on this topic with many, many inspiring speakers. One such session involved Dr. Roslyn Artis (President, Benedict College), Ed Smith Lewis (UNCF), and Dr. Ka’rin Thornburg (Partnership for Education Advancement). Dr. Artis spoke passionately about surrounding her talented students with the support services they need to succeed. For example, she turned the bookstore (no more physical textbooks) into a Center of Entrepreneurship. Ed Smith Lewis announced HBCU-V – a virtual support platform for HBCU institutions.
This reminds me of another awesome project I witnessed recently. A Cancer BioHackathon for Meharry Medical College sponsored by Praxis AI in which the patient (Bill Paseman) received valuable genomic insights into his condition and the HBCU medical students received workforce-ready bioinformatics training and digital credentials. Or a similar healthcare research program – called Aseto’ne Virtual Institute – built specifically for native students sponsored by the NIH and American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC).
Digital Credentials – A New Way
There is a new TLA taking over the education landscape: LER (Learning & Employment Record).
Peter Janzow of Credly reminded us that digital credentials have been around for a decade. In fact, there are over 52 million credentials currently flying around inside the digital Credly skills network. Unfortunately, employers don’t care. Until now.
It is a fact that removing traditional degree requirements from hiring practices is the #1 most powerful way to increase diversity of any applicant pool. It also ensures that you are hiring the best and brightest for the job. Digital credentials are:
Fortunately, this is not an either-or debate. Digital credentials and traditional degrees can easily coexist. And many innovative institutions are finding ways to integrate stackable credentials and certificates into their 2-year and 4-year degree programs. Schools such as Western Governor’s University, ASU, MIT, and others. Further, ten states (and counting) currently require community colleges to use stackable credentials.
Sharon Leu of JFF (Jobs for the Future) discussed their recent research report highlighting the power of a skills-based talent marketplace. It is a WIN-WIN-WIN for learners, employers, and skills providers (educators). Most importantly, a skills-based economy will help us tackle Topic #1 (Climate Change) and Topic #2 (Education Equality).
“Every day, capable and passionate people are excluded from opportunities regardless of whether they can actually do the job, often because they don’t have a traditional degree or the right network. Whether their skills are developed through short-term courses, on-the-job-training, military service or community service, workers with the right skills should have access to opportunities. Digital credential wallets give people a way to manage and showcase skills in ways that tell the complete story of their abilities, which is key to advancing equity and opportunity for all.”Sean Murphy, Director, Opportunity at Walmart
Content is King – With Passion Comes Great Responsibility
If you have been on YouTube, Instagram, or Discord recently … you have undoubtedly noticed that content rules the day. And the great thing about The World is Flat (Thomas Friedman) is that the best content rises to the top.
The best content has one thing in common: Passionate Creators.
Jennifer Garrett from Meta and Andrew Barry from Curious Lion hosted a session to discuss passionate content creators with some of the best:
The Creator Economy has breathed new life into traditional, boring, corporate learning. The trick is curating quality and aligning disparate content with cohesive learning objectives. It is a small price to pay for engaging, passionate content delivered in creative, digital ways.
One organization that is helping bridge the gap between creators, learners, and employers is Guild Education. Paul Freedman, President of Learning Marketplaces at Guild, presented a compelling argument for education as a benefit for employees and a market differentiator for employers. But only if the content is compelling, engaging, and collaborative. Well said.
In early April 2022, the education industry spent roughly 132 person-years together generating buzz, momentum, and new ideas. We need to amplify that San Diego wave into real action. Just like John Doerr outlined in his new book. Without follow through and change, the event was just another in a long line of inert points in time.
I am more optimistic this time. Maybe it is the challenge of the last few years, but I feel like people are more ready for action than in previous incarnations of ASU+GSV. How about you? Do you share my optimism for the future of education … and the planet?
The sky is the limit.