Today we announced a new initiative to help turn South Bend, Indiana, into “The City of Lifelong Learning.”
The project is being coordinated with the Office of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and seeded with $500,000 in grant funding from Google.org and Walmart, both of which have demonstrated a great commitment to advancing workforce development and education programs.
The South Bend Lifelong Learning System ultimately aims to serve all of the city’s 100,000 residents, with an emphasis on helping the most economically disadvantaged.
The system—part digital, part physical—will take what is currently a highly fragmented set of learning resources, identify those that have proven to be most effective, integrate them more efficiently and make them accessible and inviting for the entire South Bend community, regardless of someone’s age, educational level, income or job status.
“The city is excited to continue working with the Drucker Institute, with help from Google.org and Walmart,” said Mayor Buttigieg. “In a rapidly changing economy, we’ve got to make sure that workers can adapt and thrive. This grant will help our community enhance equity and open opportunities for residents to develop their skills.”
Under the South Bend Lifelong Learning System, a digital portal promises to allow every resident of the city to understand what skills are in demand in the area (based on timely employer input); see where those skills are being taught (via local institutions or through curricula available directly on the platform); keep a record of what has been learned, with badging recognized by local businesses; present, for those who have the knowledge and skills, volunteer opportunities to teach others; continually develop professional and technical skills, as well as stay intellectually engaged once retired; and learn beyond the workplace—for example, how to gain financial literacy or cook healthier food.
While lifelong learning options will be delivered in large part through this online platform, the City of South Bend will be collaborating with the St. Joseph County Library and other nonprofit partners to ensure that designated physical spaces will provide wireless connectivity, computer training, face-to-face teaching (where that is more effectual) and a conduit to other support services. What’s more, the St. Joseph County Public Library is expected to play an essential role in administering the system on an ongoing basis.
The South Bend Lifelong Learning System will be developed in three phases. During the first phase, which will take place through the end of 2018, the Drucker Institute and its partners will gather information from key stakeholders—including business and labor groups, nonprofits and neighborhood associations, the public schools and other educational institutions, experts in early childhood development and seniors—and evaluate local and national learning resources that are available for the platform. If successful, the project will move into a design phase and, finally, be marketed and launched across the city.
“This is a major, multiyear effort,” said Rick Wartzman, director of the KH Moon Center for a Functioning Society, a part of the Drucker Institute that is spearheading the project. “We have a long way to go before the system will actually be up and running, and we are mindful that we ourselves have a lot to learn as we move forward.
“But we are also confident that our overarching vision—to create a system that allows all people to more easily acquire new knowledge and skills throughout their lives—is essential to having a flourishing community in the 21st century,” Wartzman added. “As Peter Drucker reminded us, ‘In the knowledge society, learning is lifelong and does not end with graduation.’”
“We are excited to support the development of this visionary approach to lifelong learning at a community-wide scale,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer at Walmart and president of the Walmart Foundation. Helping people identify and easily acquire job-relevant skills—and helping employers recognize which prospective employees have the right skills—will unlock meaningful opportunities for advancement for people across the community, and strengthen the businesses that hire them. This is exactly the sort of innovation leading to opportunity that defines Walmart’s approach to workforce development.”
Andrew Dunckelman, Economic Opportunity Lead at Google.org, said: “Through the Google.org Work Initiative, we’re supporting new efforts to help people prepare for and connect to jobs in the changing economy. We’re proud to support the Drucker Institute’s work with the Mayor’s Office of South Bend as they look to create a national model for communities to advance lifelong learning.”
The Drucker Institute is no stranger to South Bend, having piloted a management-training program for public sector workers in the city beginning in 2013. That program is now being used nationwide.
“South Bend has proven to be the perfect place to test new and innovative programs,” said Lawrence Greenspun, the Drucker Institute’s director of public sector engagement. “We hope to eventually replicate the lifelong learning system around the country, just as we did with the public sector training program we first developed and deployed in South Bend.”