ANNOUNCING: Bendable, Our System for Lifelong Learning

Today, we announced the launch of our community-based lifelong learning system, Bendable.

It will make its debut in South Bend, Indiana, in close partnership with the St. Joseph County Public Library and with support from the Mayor’s Office.

Bendable allows residents of all ages and backgrounds to easily acquire new knowledge and skills through online courses as well as in-person learning opportunities. The system helps individuals find the learning resources that are just right for them. In most cases, content on the Bendable platform is free for the end user.

We plan to expand Bendable to another 10 to 15 cities over the next five years.

“For too many people, learning ends when they finish their formal schooling,” said Rick Wartzman, head of the Drucker Institute’s KH Moon Center for a Functioning Society. “Increasingly, however, economic opportunity—as well as dignity—hinges upon lifelong learning. Bendable is a system that makes the most highly relevant kinds of learning radically accessible for all of a city’s residents.

“As we launch Bendable,” Wartzman adds, “our ultimate aim is to forge a ‘city of lifelong learning,’ making South Bend more resilient in the face of a fast-changing economy—and now, COVID-19.”

Google.org and Walmart.org provided the lead funding to develop Bendable.

A highly collaborative team created the system over the past two and a half years: IDEO designed the user experience. Carbon Five built the digital platform. Credly put together Bendable’s badging and credentialing regime. And FSG developed an evaluation framework that will help guide day-to-day decision-making and longer-term goals.

The system in South Bend features more than 1,000 learning resources from 18 local and national content partners. They include Cell-Ed, Common Threads, the Drucker Institute, edX, Forever Learning Institute, GCFGlobal, Goodwill Industries of Michiana, Indiana University South Bend, the IT Sector Partnership, Ivy Tech, Khan Academy, La Casa de Amistad, LRNG, Penn Foster, Sokanu, South Bend Code School, Study.com and Venues Parks & Arts.

“Many of the resources you’ll find on Bendable are geared toward learning for work. Some are geared toward helping you improve your and your family’s everyday life. And some are just fun,” said Sarah Zaner, the Drucker Institute’s senior director of lifelong learning. “We’ve tried to put together a learning ecosystem that has real breadth and depth, while still making sure that everything being offered is tailored specifically for the needs and interests of a particular community.”

In South Bend, the St. Joseph County Public Library will administer and steward Bendable. A wide range of local stakeholders—businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, educational institutions, neighborhood associations and other grassroots groups—also have committed to offering a variety of Bendable-related programming and activities.

“We co-designed Bendable with the people of South Bend, and they will continue to shape what Bendable becomes,” said Lex Dennis, the Drucker Institute’s director of lifelong learning. “Bendable is truly community bred, fed and led.”

Among the features on Bendable are Community Collections—personal playlists of learning resources (classes, TED Talks, podcasts, books, etc.) on a particular subject that are put together by South Bend residents. Career Collections are sets of learning resources, curated by local employers, that are aimed at preparing people for some of the most in-demand jobs in South Bend. As users successfully complete Career Collection courses, they will receive digital badges to mark their progress.

For more information, please visit https://www.drucker.institute/programs/bendable/.