As the election nears and we anchor ourselves in the reality of our badly fractured political landscape, hoping for harmony, collaboration, civility and good will seems strangely futile and slightly naive. With political debates devolving into arenas for bullying and personal attacks and with inflexible ideologies on all sides, we are less willing to invite different people to the table and listen to divergent perspectives. But does constructing a protective shell make sense to us as we look to the future? I am convinced that healing the current climate of divisiveness is possible when people come together to solve problems that impact the core of their lives.
This is what GlobalMindED is doing in the arena of educational opportunity.
Five years ago, my colleagues and I sat at breakfast in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We were there for an International Conference on the Habits of Mind, mindsets that target emotional intelligence as they promote academic, emotional, and social success. Several of us have been speakers "on the circuit" of K-12 educational conferences held on almost every continent over the last decade. As guests in these foreign locations, we observed how much educational thought leaders learned from non-educators--business people, leaders of NGO's, and those who fund and promote education, business opportunities and internships.
The non-traditional educators who were present included names you have probably never heard of but who are at the forefront of educational innovation: Bena Kallick, co-founder with Art Costa of the Habits of Mind Institute; Heidi Hayes Jacobs, an internationally recognized educator who is developing 21st century approaches to teaching and learning; Margaret MacLean, an educational coach who supports teachers and school administrators throughout the world; Karen Boyes, an educator from New Zealand and Australia; Annette Watkins, an educational entrepreneur at Australia's Notre Dame University; and Godelieve Spass, a South African Ph.D. who now works at the University of Amsterdam. We all were working collaboratively to expand the world as we knew it beyond the K-12 silo.
"Does America have a conference like this?" I asked Bena Kallick. She replied that most of the conferences in the US grouped K-12 with K-12 people, higher ed with higher ed, business with business, etc. with little or no cross-fertilization.
"That can't be helping our students compete as global workers and leaders, " I said, "and it can't be the best for our emerging and established teachers who need connections beyond the obvious to take their work up and out."
And so GlobalMindED.org was born. While it was originally a way for thought leaders across the pipeline to engage, support and connect around global issues, technology and collaboration, we quickly saw that only the privileged have these opportunities in the US and other parts of the world. We knew within the first few months of writing our business plan that our mission had to be first generation to college students, minorities, women and underserved populations. So to expand opportunities to a broad and diverse population, we knew we had work to do.
What Is the Rx?
GlobalMindED is a group of highly committed people from all walks of life, political affiliations, religions, races, educational levels, careers, fields, geographies and extraordinary capabilities. What unites us is a belief that all people deserve access to the American Dream, not just the privileged few. That means that until every low-income high school student has the same access to coaches, networks, internships, study abroad and career counseling, we will not close the opportunity gap. Similarly, if the K-12 pipeline does not identify after the end of freshmen year of high school those below grade level in math, reading and writing and fails to offer intensive remedial summer programs, then we will continue to have 2.5 million students a year admitted to college with eighth grade math skills and 1.5 students admitted with eighth grade writing and reading skills. Not surprisingly, many of these students who need college remediation don't advance to sophomore year and of those who do, many don't graduate from college.
Who Takes the Rx?
We see a tremendous opportunity in gathering thought leaders from K-12, higher education, business, government, and non-profits to identify leaks in the pipeline as well as new connections that augment traditional education--personalized learning, study abroad, mentorships, summer enrichment, after-school options, badges, credentials, apprenticeships, internships, and other ways students can learn about themselves, their passions and interests as they acquire workplace-ready skills.
Central to transforming our current reality is making technology more equitable. This can happen in five main ways:
- With more diverse people employed by educational technology companies
- With development processes that include diverse stakeholders
- With more students who inform the processes, needs and outcomes as they see them
- With more foundation and venture capital funders committed to learning the issues "on the ground" that can inform their funding, strategies, metrics and deliverables
- By studying those who are setting the standard for access, learning from their successes as well as their mistakes
We would add an obvious sixth way, encouraging first-generation students and women to study science and technology in K-12 and college so that they can lead us in the emerging job market from cyber security to virtual reality to self-driving cars.
For corporate leaders, we see an opportunity to follow in the leadership of Ken Thiry, President of the global dialysis company, DaVita. He set a goal to have a diverse Board of Directors within one year. Eleven months later, Thiry announced a 12-person board with 7 women and/or minority members. Now that he crossed that threshold, Thiry has set the same benchmark with his leadership team across management levels, departments and initiatives.
At universities, we suggest beginning GlobalMindED Collaboratives made up of freshmen who are first generation to college from all backgrounds. These diverse, emerging leaders will help college presidents advance the diversity and inclusion mission of the college. While these students inform the administration's goals, they can also be diplomats on the ground who possess the skills to encourage academic success among their peers, diffuse conflict, chart options and take the narrative and commitments to the highest and best outcomes. Through the perspective of these imaginative and enterprising students, we can solve problems that "adults" often give up on.
In school districts, we see collaboration with the pipeline partners who can bring diverse mentors, role models and resources to students who will be the first in their family to go to college. By focusing on human relationships as well as digital access, a corps of motivated, self-initiating learners who have the ambition and self-awareness to add value to any situation in school or in the working world emerges. Graduates who have these skills will have the know-how to solve problems, the teamwork skills to recruit talent, the vision to stay strong across inevitable obstacles, and the project management skills to hold themselves and others accountable to their desired outcome.
For policy makers, we provide an antidote to the summits so often held in higher education and business. When your council is too often those who think and look like you with similar jobs, it is hard to have a different perspective.
In all, GlobalMindED provides a lens through which to see both the challenges and opportunities across areas from K-12, higher education, the workplace (current and emerging), STEM, technology, health and charitable giving. Our goal is to demonstrate the greatest results with low income and underserved populations.
Rx for the Masses
Eventually, we plan to bring the GlobalMindED mindset of "expand your world through a diverse talent pipeline" to rural and international communities. In rural areas, we see the value of partnering with many educational, workforce and job-related service groups who are in the schools, colleges and communities. Overseas, we will have our first international regional in Perth, Australia in January of 2018. Working together, we can realize the societal and economic value of a diverse talent pipeline that serves all gifts, talents and abilities.
Rx for YOU: What Is Your Dose?
If you would like to transform what we as a nation have experienced recently, join our movement. You can come to the 2017 GlobalMindED Conference in Denver on June 21-23. You can share this information with ten of the most in influential thought leaders you know who can further multiply these efforts. You can donate on-line or you can apply to speak (deadline: December 1). You can let us know your thoughts for how this movement can be more effective with your input, networks, insights and outlooks. You can also make your own personal pact to improve tolerance, understanding and peaceful negotiations by extending yourself to others who are different from you, being curious about their path and offering to help in any way that you are able.
For our nation and our world to be different, we have to be different. What steps are you willing to take to bring about an inclusive nation? What are you willing to do differently at work, in your city and on your street? How will you parent your children to be appreciative of all people? How can you demonstrate the skills of courageous conflict negotiation and respectful diplomacy for minorities, women and underserved audiences? How can you open your mind to a United States and world that sets the standard for access, equity and opportunity for all? Who is a first generation to college student that you know whom you can mentor, hire or coach? This is what it means to be GlobalMindED; it is the spirit of generous leadership, tolerance, peaceful resolution to conflict and an indomitable spirit that will allow us to be the people we are capable of being, now and in the future. Let's get to work collaborating to create a nation and a world in which we will all be proud to be a part.