Lumina Foundation recently announced a series of Challenges and a dedicated Pavilion on InnoCentive.com to spur innovation in areas that would transform higher education in America. The Foundation’s first Challenge, Design of Student-centric Websites for Open-Enrollment Colleges and Institutions, is underway and will close on April 30. Two additional Challenges were recently launched and are currently available on Lumina Foundation’s Open Innovation Pavilion. We recently spoke with Juan (Kiko) Suarez, Vice President of Communications and Innovation at the Foundation, about this exciting initiative.
Hello Mr. Suarez – thanks very much for speaking with us. For those not familiar with Lumina Foundation, can you tell us a bit about your work?
Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials to 60% by 2025 (we call this Goal2025). Lumina’s outcomes-based approach focuses on helping to design and build an accessible, responsive, and accountable higher education system while fostering a national sense of urgency for action to achieve Goal2025.
The Challenges you are launching support the Foundation’s new Strategic Plan, which includes some big goals for higher education in this country. Can you tell us more about the problems you’re addressing and the goals you’ve set?
We are solely focused on helping the country reach Goal2025. This strategic plan covers the time frame between 2013 and 2016. Over the years, we found that Lumina must play four roles in this journey to the goal: goal setter, framework developer, thought leader, and honest broker. We have published a plan with eight strategies organized under two imperatives: mobilization and design. Mobilization is aimed at getting different actors in post-secondary education (e.g., policy makers, education institutions, non-profits, and employers) to commit to serious increases in attainment of students that are considered “non-traditional” but represent a new majority in the 21st century: students of color, low income, first generation, and adults with some college credit but not a degree.
The second imperative, design and build, is aimed at redesigning key components of the current postsecondary system that we believe will unlock more capacity and better quality to serve those students. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the issue: America currently has only 40% of its working age adults between 18-64 with some sort of recognized credential or degree beyond high school. Our goal is to increase attainment to 60%, without losing quality (or even doing a better job with quality of learning). This means getting 23 million more people in the U.S. studying and receiving a meaningful credential, certificate, or degree post high school. We believe that credentialed learning is currency for individuals and the country. We can attract more jobs of the future, and grow our economy by $500 billion if we can have that done by 2025.
Many foundations would traditionally issue an RFP and/or award grants to address their needs. What prompted you to partner with InnoCentive and use crowdsourcing as part of your strategy?
We will continue to issue targeted RFPs and grants as our main vehicles to fund relevant work, but open innovation adds to our capacity to bring solutions from talented Solvers all over the world that otherwise we would never reach. Our agreement with InnoCentive is perfect for that, since they have the community, processes, and tools to make that happen in a very well organized and transparent way.
The Foundation’s focus is on higher education in America, yet many of our Solvers are from other countries. How do you believe our non-U.S. Solvers can contribute and provide value?