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NIFI Announces New “Linked Futures” Deliberations

We wanted to make sure that NCDD members, especially those in higher ed, saw the most recent edition of Higher Education Engagement News, the periodic update on the American Commonwealth Partnership from Harry C. Boyte. This edition announces a new stage of the collaboration between the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute – both NCDD organizational members – that builds on the Shaping Our Futures initiative. You can read the newsletter below or find it at the NIFI blog by clicking here.

Make sure to note that it’s not too late to be part of the “framework testing phase”, so if you are interested in facilitating a test deliberation around the future of higher ed as part of this new project, find the details for how to get involved below.


March 2014 Higher Education Engagement News

Higher Education Engagement News is a periodic newsletter, edited by Harry C. Boyte, which responds to requests for updates and information about initiatives associated with the American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP). ACP was a coalition to strengthen the public purposes of higher education, organized for the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act establishing land grant colleges in 2012, on invitation by the White House Office of Public Engagement.

This issue is devoted to Linked Futures – Communities, Higher Education and the Changing World of Work, a new deliberation being developed in association with the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums. Linked Futures builds on the earlier Shaping Our Futures, 150 forums across the country on the public purposes of higher education. The Linked Futures deliberation will address the crucial question of how to think collectively about changes and challenges often described as an avalanche, which often seem overwhelming. The project is described below.

We are in the “framework testing phase” for the next month (until April 11th). This involves having small groups test how the framework works. The framework gives more detail on the three options described below, but is not a full National Issues Forum “issue guide,” like Shaping Our Futures.

If you are interested in getting in on the ground floor of this deliberation by testing the framework, please contact Harry Boyte (boyte@umn.edu) and copy our project administrator, Hunter Gordon (gordo430@umn.edu), who will keep track. If you want to test the framework we will send it to you, along with facilitator guidelines and an optional questionnaire.

Linked Futures – Communities, Higher Education, and the Changing World of Work

Linked Futures builds on Shaping Our Future – How Should Higher Education Help Us Create the Society We Want?, a National Issues Forum and American Commonwealth Partnership public deliberation launched at a National Press Club event on September 4, 2012, with Undersecretary Martha Kanter and higher education and civic leaders including David Mathews, president of Kettering Foundation, Muriel Howard, President of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Scott Peters, Co-director of Imagining America, Nancy Cantor, Chancellor of Syracuse University, and others. Shaping Our Future convened more than 150 forums across the country, bringing together college students, parents, faculty, employers, retirees, policy makers and others to deliberate about the purpose of higher education and its roles in the society.

The findings, described in Divided We Fail, a report by Jean Johnson of the public opinion and engagement group Public Agenda, revealed a gap between the ways in which lay citizens outside the policy making arena talk about higher education, and the debate among elected officials and other policy makers. As Johnson puts it, “Facing a more competitive international economy and relentlessly rising college costs, leaders say now is the moment for higher education to reinvent itself.”  In contrast, “Forum participants spoke repeatedly about the benefits of a rich, varied college education…where, in their view, students have time and space to explore new ideas and diverse fields.”  Lay citizens emphasized the need to broaden, not narrow, STEM education and preparation for other careers, in the context of rapidly changing work roles and globalized workplaces.

The next stage is Linked Futures. A design team with representatives of six Twin Cities institutions– Augsburg College, Century College, Hamline University, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Metropolitan State University, and St. Paul College – working with the Kettering Foundation gathered concerns from hundreds of citizens in different settings. They addressed the question, “How can communities and higher education work together to address the changing world of work?”  A framework is being tested with three options to consider:

• Prepare Students for the Job Market:  Our colleges and universities have to raise academic expectations, tailor their programs to the real needs of employers, and direct more of their educational resources toward vocational and pre-professional training.

• Change Jobs for the Better. Many of the positions available to new graduates are poorly paid, offer little in the way of job security or job satisfaction, and are vulnerable to downsizing and outsourcing. Colleges and universities should take the lead in shaping a new kind of workplace…and a new kind of worker, one with the skills and habits of mind needed to thrive in a complex and rapidly changing world.

• Be a Good Partner to the Community. Colleges and universities represent vital anchor institutions, places where the community gathers, engages issues, organizes activities and makes common cause. We depend on them to provide the civic and intellectual leadership that can strengthen democracy and drive long-term social and economic progress.

The Linked Futures issue guide will be ready from the National Issues Forum Institute in September.

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Roshan Bliss
An inclusiveness trainer and group process facilitator, Roshan Bliss serves as NCDD's Youth Engagement Coordinator and Blog Curator. Combining his belief that decisions are better when everyone is involved with his passion for empowering young people, his work focuses on increasing the involvement of youth and students in public conversations.

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