Lead, Focus, Rethink, Abandon, Innovate
Executive Director’s Message by Andrea Bennett
This building is part of the Drucker Institute at the Claremont Colleges. Peter Drucker is considered a visionary for management education and is known as the “founder of modern management” (Wikipedia). Many of you were probably required to read some of his works in school. He wrote 39 books and contributed articles to several publications. He started storing his archives at the Claremont Colleges before he died and in 2006, it became the Drucker Institute. I have not read all of his books or articles, but I remember the respect my teachers in business school had for his work.
The Drucker Institute is not part of the Claremont Colleges, per say, but is located on the graduate school campus. I walk by this building often and am always struck by the words they chose to put on the outside of the building. Lead, Focus, Rethink, and Innovate are all “positive” words. They are words of action that conjure a feeling of strength, at least for me. But Abandon seemed at first to be out of place. A more negative word that makes me think of a baby on church steps or a vacant building with broken windows.
But as I thought about it and after reading more about the institute, I realized that Abandon could be used as a positive word, especially with the other words there. One must abandon the “old way” in order to rethink, focus and then lead others to innovate. We hear so much about the “pace” of change and how we are increasingly unable to adjust to the change as people and as societies. Perhaps we do need to abandon in order to adjust and embrace change more quickly.
When I looked at their website (https://www.drucker.institute/) one project caught my eye. It’s called City of Life Long Learning. They are building a program in South Bend, Indiana to provide resources for residents that will help them get training, do research, and ultimately become employed. They are not starting from scratch totally but are attempting to integrate the resources more fully to make is easier for residents to find what they need.
It sounds intriguing. They did the research and found that while unemployment was low in South Bend, many people were in jobs that put them at risk for unemployment and those people had no plan or resources to help them change that. Others have left the workforce and are no longer counted in the unemployed numbers because they have lost hope of finding work after the manufacturing jobs were gone. Instead of looking at the unemployment rate as one figure, they are dividing them by census tracts and finding up to 15% unemployment. South Bend was traditionally a manufacturing town but has had to rebuild its economy and some people have not yet been able to make the transition.
They are talking with employers to determine what skills are needed and to discuss what issues employers are seeing with the current workforce. Their pilot includes using school teachers, religious leaders and others as “Lifelong Learning Ambassadors” to help people overcome the challenges “of being from a low-income neighborhood”.
According to the website, this year they are focusing on four areas:
- Gathering information about what those in South Bend need to learn and want to learn, and how they like to learn.
- Establishing trust and building momentum for lifelong learning throughout all parts of the city.
- Forming key partnerships with local and national resource providers.
- Early planning to replicate the model across the country.
The project is part digital with a portal that is meant to help citizens understand the skills that employers need and give them the resources to learn them. Walmart and Google are involved and providing funding. Schools, libraries and local businesses are all involved, as is the city’s government which is already having success with some infrastructure projects to help rebuild the city.
The portal is to launch in 2020 and the St. Joseph County Public Library system will administer the system. Three quarters of South Bend’s residents have library cards and most are within 15 minutes of a library.
Number 4 above will be a big challenge, in my opinion. Creating a model that other cities can use when cities and populations are so different, is kind of like creating an administrative system for schools and expecting it to work perfectly for everyone. The plan will need to be broken down into components that can be used in different ways to be effective.
It makes perfect sense to me to involve the whole community when building something that will affect, and hopefully benefit, the whole community. This is exactly the kind of work Peter Drucker would want an organization bearing his name to do. I hope it is successful and can be replicated. And I hope the public schools are fully involved as thought leaders and changemakers. A free education is the cornerstone of our society and if it can be made life-long and lead to happier, productive, peaceful lives - that is the functioning society that Peter Drucker strived for in his work.