How Being Small, Young and Social Can Build New Models of Higher Education

I recently read a blog post by Matthew Abrams, co-founder of Mycelium (@Mycelium), an experimental learning laboratory for social change agents. In his blog post, Matthew highlighted several new models for higher education. Each of these models was fascinating in its own right, but what intrigued me most was what they shared in common. 

  1. They were small. 
  2. They were young. 

According Mathew, "the small size enables agility; their youth enables idealism." Here goes on to say: 

These new models are cultivating 21st-century skills, including intercultural communication, systems thinking, social and emotional intelligence, empathy, and social entrepreneurship. They have the freedom to experiment because they don’t have to report to accreditation boards or adhere to concretized cultures. They also have a mandate to produce real, tangible value, because if they don’t, they disappear. 

While Matthew only highlighted two ways in which these models were unique, I think there is a third: They were social.

This fact was highlighted in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post by Traci Donnelly, the CEO and executive director of The Child Center of NY

Research shows that successful employment programs provide not just technical training and job opportunities but also mentoring and real-life skills. Young people do best when they receive behavioral coaching, training in workplace communication and time management, and counseling and stipends to reward good performance. Corporations and schools are not terribly good at this kind of holistic training.…But we in the social services and youth development fields are experts at it.

Why do these ideas matter to us? Why does being small, young and social give us hope? Because we are each of these things. Instead of wishing we had $12 million in the bank, 130 people on the payroll and a 20-year history, we can embrace the fact that we are a nimble nonprofit harnessing the power of design thinking to unite the world. With this on the top of our minds, we can reshape the fields of education and create lasting change. 

I think Matthew had it right when he closed his blog with this idea: "Those who have the most rigorously tested answers will not drive the future of learning; those who pursue the most meaningful questions will." 

What are the most meaningful questions to you? How will you pursue them? How can we help?