..Many of us are working on these challenges today;
but at best progress is slow
and in some areas we are losing ground.
We believe we will only be successful in addressing our challenges if we accelerate our ability to develop ethical, creative, and experienced problem solvers. We need millions of these new leaders, ranging from social entrepreneurs to social workers, and they need to be oriented toward justice and adept at the 21st century skills of communication, data-based management, interpersonal relations, and innovative problem solving.
So how do we develop more of these problem solvers and ensure they represent the diversity of America? And how can we address growing talent challenges across the social sector, including non-profits, government, and social mission businesses? You can imagine multiple answers, ranging from better K-12 schools to national service and employer training. But we believe the best way to develop more leaders is to turn to the sector in our society that already has the job of launching new leaders — the Higher Education sector. In the 50 years after World War II the U.S. college and university system was a beacon to people everywhere and its rapid expansion helped the U.S. become the world’s first majority middle class nation. More recently, concerns have emerged about the cost, quality, and completion rates of our colleges. But we believe the U.S. Higher Education system remains a vital national asset capable of doing more to advance opportunity and social progress.
We envision a new partnership model that allows college students to earn full credit for well-supported fellowships at organizations addressing humanity’s toughest challenges. Students will learn through job-related assignments and related seminars and reflection activities, all of which will help them build career-based competencies and networks while building a better and more diverse talent pipeline for social change. We’ll start with a few dozen Social Innovation Fellows in Boston and over time plan to scale our “Semester in the City” program to additional cities and enroll hundreds of thousands of students, helping to inspire and educate a new generation of problem solvers. As we prove demand for and impact of the model, we will seek deeper partnerships with colleges in which more students enroll – maybe even most or all students from certain colleges, departments, or majors. Our long-term vision is a movement in which millions of college students participate in a semester or more of apprenticeship-based learning, the cost of college comes down, learning and purpose go up, and we inspire a new generation of diverse problem solvers. Please join us in bringing this vision to life.
Eric Schwarz and Lisa Jackson