The Uncollege Movement
As millions of young people around the country graduate from college, others—spurred by the anticipation of astronomical student loans and the harsh reality that a college degree no longer guarantees a job—join the uncollege movement. In place of (and sometimes supplementing) traditional college experience, these young people create, and engage in, individual and peer-to-peer led learning models designed around ideas that move them. An increasing number of them wind up knocking at Echoing Green’s door, requesting informational interviews and brainstorming sessions on one of the movement’s most popular topics: social innovation.
The individuals we meet with are smart. They are well-informed. And they are prepared. Some are in college; others have graduated; still others are doing this in lieu of college, but they all agree on one thing: If you want to work in social innovation, college alone just doesn’t cut it.
Perhaps, however, this is true for those who want to work in just about any field. The thing is, as a result of their entrepreneurial approach to learning, we see these young people being offered internships and jobs by those they meet again, and again. Our observation aligns with a 2012 survey of 225 employers by the research and consulting firm Millennial Branding. This survey found that one in three employers is looking for “entrepreneurial experience” in their potential hires, an indication that the people they hire will be creative and independently driven. Certainly, we look for an entrepreneurial spirit in our new hires, if not entrepreneurial experience as such.
That’s why one of the practices that we teach through our Work on Purpose program, which inspires and equips Millennials to do work that is right for them and good for the world, is Think Like a Social Entrepreneur. From our vantage point, it is increasingly important for emerging professionals to think about founding their social change careers the way that one might found a new social business or organization. The UnCollege approach, first coined by Dale J. Stephens, Chief Educational Deviant of UnCollege, provides one way to do that.
Those involved create their own syllabi, such as this one by Weezie Yancey-Siegel; they design their own speaker series in the form of scheduling one-on-one meetings with the leaders they most admire; and they assign themselves homework—often posting photos and reflections of their experiences on the web for the world to grade rather than a college professor. “Good grades” come in the form of a high online readership, plentiful comments, and real-life job offers.
These students may take, or teach, classes through Skillshare, or Peer-to-Peer University. They may even participate in a new movement of student-led courses at traditional universities. Perhaps they’ll attend workshops on “How to Earn Alternative Credential” or how to have “Startup Success Without Degrees” at this summer’s UnCollegeHackademic camp, take part in group-based social innovation education through Knowledge Commons DC, Citizen Circles, or get a graduate degree at Amani Institute, which is launching to fill the gap between what employers want and what colleges are teaching when it comes to peace building work.
We are fascinated to watch this unfold, and eager to see how this outgrowth of the DIY movement could change the way that organizations such as ours support emerging professionals.
Photo: Brandon King
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