Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of our work is to see formulated strategy come to life. It is especially exciting when the strategy is designed to advance education to overcome poverty and increase access to learning, sharing our vision for our #JustCause program. Roughly five years ago ISA completed a strategic plan for Mississippi Children's Museum as part of our #JustCause effort. Among their many ambitious strategies was to consider expanding their ecosystems of children's museums to underserved regions of Mississippi well outside of the Jackson area. Check out the video below and learn more about their progress on design for Meridian, Mississippi.
I'm feeling a bit inspirational and a need to stay grounded in our cause this morning. Nelson Mandela reminded us that education remains the most powerful tool to change the world. That sentiment became the foundation of our #JustCause campaign. As we look to the future, we know that the work of education - particularly independent schools and colleges - can continue to play the primary role of transformation of people and culture.
No matter how divisive and hurtful our geopolitical context, I know that education will continue to transform people and that love will always win. I believe the values of the 21st century can be largely dictated by the work of our independent schools and colleges. How we define, shape, and solve our accessibility is not so much about our own sustainability, but the rather the health and well-being of our future.
Education does equal transformation. Here's a quick reminder of what we are really working for in this video by U2 celebrating the work of Nelson Mandela.
Our collective #JustCause campaign will begin working more closely with Portland Tennis & Education this summer and throughout the school year. Portland Tennis & Education (PT&E) exists to strengthen and inspire families to reach their potential. The students are immersed in a community where sportsmanship, collaboration, civility, and peace are valued, taught, and practiced. Students are mentored in social and academic skills. Families are supported in raising their children. Our village gains strength and stability as it continues to nourish and mentor our children.
Portland Public Schools recently reported that only 67% of students graduate from high school in four years, with many failing to get their diplomas. Gang activity is also on the rise in North and Northeast Portland, with minority and at-risk students particularly impacted. To address these alarming trends, PT&E delivers proven academic and athletic services that foster self-sufficiency and help participants develop the skills and confidence to succeed in school and beyond. Our focus on parent education and citizen engagement also promotes healthier lifestyles for families and the broader community.
PT&E delivers its year-round, tuition-free program to children who qualify for the federal Free & Reduced Lunch program--an indicator of low household income. Children attend the program 640 hours during the school year and 280 hours in summer, developing the academic, athletic, and life skills they need to reach their potential.
We believe education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world and solve extreme poverty. ISA launched the #JustCause campaign in 2011 to raise public awareness and empower organizations using education to solve systemic poverty. #JustCause has three focus points:
- We promote education throughout our industry as the gold standard strategy for overpowering poverty;
- We consult with select organizations on a pro bono basis which use education as their primary strategy to overpower poverty;
- We invest financially in organizations that empower promising young people toward higher education attainment.
Two of my great loves came together this past week when I had the opportunity to be a guest at Portland Tennis & Education in North Portland. Tennis has been a life-long passion of mine. And, through our work with the JustCause campaign, we believe education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world and solve extreme poverty. At Portland Tennis & Education, they have combined these two greatest passions of mine into an extraordinary program serving some kids in pretty extraordinary circumstances in the city.
Portland Public Schools recently reported that only 67% of students graduate from high school in four years, with many failing to get their diplomas. Gang activity is also on the rise in North and Northeast Portland, with minority and at-risk students particularly impacted. To address these alarming trends, PT&E delivers proven athletic and academic services that foster self-sufficiency and help participants develop the skills and confidence to succeed in school and beyond. Their focus on parent education and citizen engagement also promotes healthier lifestyles for families and the broader community.
ISA will be looking to develop a stronger relationship with Portland Tennis & Education in the future. This is an extraordinary program that is doing exceptional work in our community. Special thanks to Danice Brown, the executive director, for her thoughtful and gracious reception to the family of PT&E.
On a regular basis, I write and speak about trends and forces in the education industry. I spend a great deal of time scanning the environment to identify, understand, and place in context different cultural inflection points and their relationship to education. I bone up on the changing educational landscape and how the great innovators and thought leaders are approaching their work. But, I've never taken the time to articulate in a blog post why education matters to me, and should matter to all of us. Today, I thought I would step back from the day to day of our industry and place my work - all of our work - in context.
Time and time again, education has demonstrated to us that it is the gold standard of investment. From an economic standpoint, there is no better investment. Whether it is pulling people out of a life of poverty or inspiring new job earnings, education performs like no other investment. Consider these facts:
Median Earnings of College Graduates Are Nearly Double High School Graduates. The median weekly earning of a person holding a Bachelor's degree is roughly is roughly $1100, compared to just $600 for high school graduates. And, weekly earnings drop to just over $400 for non high school graduates.
Unemployment is Nearly Double for Non-College Graduates. The unemployment rate nearly doubles - from 4.2% to 8.3% - for people not earning at least a four year degree. And, it increases to over 12% for those not graduating from high school.
A Four Year College Degree More Than Doubles Average Lifetime Earnings. A college graduate can expect to earn just over $1 million in a lifetime of employment, while high school graduates can expect to earn roughly $450K.
Education is a Better Investment Than Stocks, Gold, or Housing. The rate of return on a college investment over a lifetime is roughly 15%, compared to 7% in the stock market, 3% in gold, or 2% in housing.
The Rate of Poverty Dramatically Increases Without a College Degree. The percentage of Americans living in poverty without a college degree is roughly 18%. For college graduates, only 4% live in poverty.
The economic implications of education are undeniable. No currency or investment has performed as well as education over time. Education is the gold standard from an economic standpoint.
But, what is the primary purpose of education? This is the age old question. Is the primary purpose of education for us to earn a living? Or, is it to live a life? Better yet, is it to change lives? I'm not a fan of dualistic or exclusive thinking and tend to support the idea that it is all of these purposes, from economic, to identity, to transformation of the human race. Education advances our understanding of ourselves within the context of our community. It places front and center the age old common life questions of "who am I, why am I here, and what do I have to contribute" and demands us to grapple with these issues.
What I know to be true is simple and straightforward. There are only two things in my life that I cannot lose. They are my education and faith. Collectively, they shape who I am, how I see the world, and how I function within it. No one can take those two things away from me. In an increasingly dangerous world of uncertainty, ambiguity, and fear, I can lose everything - my family, house, job, or investments. But, you can't take away the way I see the world. My story is unique to me. It reflects my experiences, orientation, and understanding. And, education and faith are not just central, but they are singular in defining who I am in the world. With those two sound investments, I can remain competitive and confident in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world.
That's why education matters. And, that's why I pour my life into it. Education matters - in any brand, in any delivery mode, in any context.
JustCause. Perhaps the greatest expression of love is to help someone achieve their potential. It is simply unacceptable when poverty stands in the way of child's shot at a great future. Poverty has many faces - low income, malnutrition, inadequate medical care - all worthy issues, but they reflect symptoms of a larger problem. But, the data tells us that education is the only antidote that breaks the cycle of structural poverty. Success occurs when children in distressed circumstances see a path out of poverty attainable through education. Don't get us wrong - medicine and aid go along way in sustaining a life in poverty. But, education is the game changer. This is the simple philosophy of our JustCause campaign.
The Future is Africa. In recent months, Ian has given a few keynote talks on educational trends and has highlighted the critical confluence of resources, education, and growth in Africa. While the Western world may be preoccupied with India or China as major world powers in education, innovation, and industry today, all data points that the future is Africa. Portland-based and Uganda-focused KUZA has been a strategic partner of our JustCause campaign for three years. We believe that lives are changed through education. Indeed, education is the proven method to break the cycle of poverty. But true and lasting transformation does not come from book knowledge alone. Personal transformation, the kind that spills over into the lives of families and communities, must be cultivated in a safe and supportive environment. And, that is just what KUZA does better than any other organization we are aware.
Take a look at this short video and see for yourself. The future is Africa - and one organization is taking Uganda to new heights through the education, growth, and mentorship of young leaders in their own communities. To learn more, visit the KUZA website.
We campaign a lot about the value of education through our Just Cause effort simply because the facts are startling. No matter how you slice it, education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world. In 2012, 15.1% of America lived in poverty. What impact does educational attainment have on moving individuals and communities out of poverty? According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are Five Fast Facts about educational attainment that you might not have known.
- Median Earnings of College Graduates Are Nearly Double High School Graduates. The median weekly earning of a person holding a Bachelor's degree is roughly is roughly $1100, compared to just $600 for high school graduates. And, weekly earnings drop to just over $400 for non high school graduates.
- Unemployment is Nearly Double for Non-College Graduates. The unemployment rate nearly doubles - from 4.2% to 8.3% - for people not earning at least a four year degree. And, it increases to over 12% for those not graduating from high school.
- A Four Year College Degree More Than Doubles Average Lifetime Earnings. A college graduate can expect to earn just over $1 million in a lifetime of employment, while high school graduates can expect to earn roughly $450K.
- Education is a Better Investment. There rate of return on a college investment over a lifetime is roughly 15%, compared to 7% in the stock market, 3% in gold, or 2% in housing.
- The Rate of Poverty Dramatically Increases Without a College Degree. The percentage of Americans living in poverty without a college degree is roughly 18%. For college graduates, only 4% live in poverty.
When reviewing data such as these, the truth is, the cost of not going to college is absurdly high in America. The value of a college degree has shown time and time again to perform as the gold standard for employment, earnings, and paths to prosperity. And, if these data are to be taken literally, then the greatest challenge we have is increasing access to high quality education through programs, initiatives, and grants.
"You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so we can fly away?
We gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way."
Back in the late 80's and early 90's I became a big fan of Tracy Chapman. I was smitten by the song "Fast Car", mostly because it was catchy, folksy, and had some true meaning. I was in my early 20's, starting grad school, and gearing up to take on the world. Much has changed since then, and this summer I spent some time reacquainting myself with old songs and the memories that went with them. I happened upon Tracy Chapman again in my late 40's and her song Fast Car.
The song, as you likely know, is about the cycle of poverty. It describes the plight of a young woman, living in the ghetto without her mother who had left the family, dropping out of school to take care of an alcoholic father. Partnering up with another soul, she puts her hope in a young man and his metaphorical car to pursue the American Dream.
"You got a fast car
I got a plan to get us out of here
I been working at the convenience store
Managed to save just a little bit of money
Won't have to drive too far
Just 'cross the border and into the city
You and I can both get jobs
And finally see what it means to be living."
As we know, the car doesn't reach the promised land. The girl discovers her ill-placed trust in someone else failed to elevate her circumstances. And, she moves on, bitter, unfulfilled, and lonely.
And, so the cycle of poverty goes, until it is broken, turned upside down, and education is inserted into the mix. Education is the only proven antidote the world has seen to break the cycle of poverty. There are no fast cars, no easy ways to change the trajectory of the society. Change requires hard work to alter the very structure of the world. As Nelson Mandela once said, "education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world."
This next week, as Labor Day approaches and passes by, we will be talking about the impact of education on poverty. We will highlight some key facts and data that might surprise you about the transformational impact of education on culture. We'll talk about why education is perhaps the greatest expression of love for another person. And, we'll talk how everyone can get involved in promoting education through little and big ways.
ISA has been collaborating with Portland-based KUZA over the past two years as part of our Just Cause effort. KUZA operates in Uganda and puts good kids in great schools to break to the cycle of poverty. KUZA invests in higher education for qualified and determined youth in Uganda, positioning them to become strong leaders in their families and communities. They partner with several organizations in Uganda to identify students who already demonstrate leadership and scholastic ability, but without outside help would not be able to finish high school or university. KUZA provides scholarships for the last 2 years of High School, and University. KUZA's goal is to release empowered and equipped young people back into their communities to affect change.
KUZA, the Portland-based non-profit dedicated to transforming Uganda through education, held an extraordinary gala Saturday night in the Pearl District at Castaway. Nearly 300 people attended the evening, learning about Africa, Uganda, and using education as a tool of social change. Our own Ian Symmonds keynoted the event on "Why Africa, and Why KUZA", while executive director Sara Reamy made the case for the organization. Long-standing KOIN-TV anchor Mike Donahue played emcee, leading the magical evening. KUZA has been one of several Just Cause client efforts over the past several years. For more information, please check out KUZA online.
Ian was the keynote speaker for Odyssey 2014 at the Chattanooga Convention Center on behalf of ISA's Just Cause client Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy. His topic? Education as a tool of social transformation. Watch the short video here, which was also aired on PBS.
Ian keynoted at the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy Odyssey Fundraiser Luncheon yesterday at the Chattanooga Convention Center. His topic focused on education as a tool of social transformation and as the primary success factor for solving poverty. Charging community leaders and attendees who support the school as "ed-activists who were waging a peaceful revolution on poverty", Ian laid out research on the individual and community benefits to educational attainment.
The luncheon was the fifth annual benefit for CGLA. Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy opened five years as a charter school serving girls from the inner city. The curriculum has a high focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and sends nearly 100% of its students - most of whom emerge from low socioeconomic groups - to college. A surprise appearance from country star Jimmy Wayne, who has his own story of overcoming poverty, ended the event. Check out his performance with some members of the CGLA choir below.
Ian will be speaking at the Odyssey Luncheon for the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy on Tuesday at noon EST. His topic: "Education as the Agent of Social Change". The event will be live broadcasted on local PBS TV, and the video will be posted on our website after the event. You can follow along on Tuesday by following the hashtag #justcause on your Twitter feed.
For more information about Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, please take a moment to check out the video above about this remarkable school.
Ian will be featured as the keynote speaker at the 5th Annual Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy Odyssey on February 11th. The Odyssey is the premier annual fundraiser for the charter school that proves access to high quality education to distressed students in Chattanooga. Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy is the focus of our Just Cause campaign this year, as we are delivering strategic planning and research services to the school.
Ian's talk - "Education as an Instrument of Social Change" - will highlight data that demonstrates education as a proven recipe for breaking cycles of injustice, poverty, and inequality. His talk will be featured on PBS in the Chattanooga region and will be available immediately on our website after the talk.
We're launching a strategic planning and visioning process today at Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy. The process will ongoing throughout the academic year with community leaders, faculty, staff, and administration collaborating on the project.
The Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy provides girls and young women with a rigorous college preparatory education focused on math, science, and technology in a supportive environment that nurtures self confidence, inspires leadership, encourages critical thinking, and promotes academic excellence.
Why should Africa matter to educators in the Western world? Here are a few facts that you might want to consider, courtesy of our good friends at TED, the Global Fund, and the United Nations.
- By 2050, Africa will be twice the population of China and home to one-third of the youth of the world.
- 10 million people have had their lives saved from near certain death from anti-viral medications provided from The Global Fund, Product (RED) revenue, and the collective efforts of the One campaign.
- There are 2.65 million fewer deaths of children under five - per year - when compared to the year 2000. That is 7256 fewer children dying each day.
- 10 nations in sub saharan Africa - Cameroon, Senegal, Guinea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Niger, Mauritania, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, and Uganda - have had 100% of cancellation of debt, a ten-fold increase of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and a tripling in domestic aid in the last decade. The result has cut childhood mortality by a third, doubled education completion rates, and cut the percentage of their population living in extreme poverty by half.
- Africa is generally pro-Western world and has high affinity for American values, such as entrepreneurial business, democracy, and social justice.
- Most recent economic impact studies continue to demonstrate that the bulk of the world's natural resources reside in Africa and have yet to be truly unleashed to improve the plight of African people.
- The global fight on terror will increasingly be waged in Africa.
The numbers are startling. Death rates are down. Education completion is up. Foreign investment is on the rise. Debt cancellation is common. The percentage of people living in extreme poverty has been halved since 2000. The world's greatest natural resources - and pro-Western views - reside in Africa.
Educators - let's pay attention to Africa. In your curriculum, language and culture studies, in your outreach and recruitment, and in your strategic thinking. This shift is happening fast.
Eliminating extreme poverty is not an act of charity, but an act of justice. Today, when scientific advances and technology have improved the lives of so many, it is simply unacceptable when poverty stands in the way of child's shot at a good future. Unacceptable.
Poverty has many faces - low income, malnutrition, inadequate medical care - all worthy issues, but they reflect symptoms of a larger problem. Our experience - and the data - tells us that education is the only antidote that breaks the cycle of structural poverty. Success occurs when children in distressed circumstances see a path out of poverty attainable through education. Don't get us wrong - medicine and aid go along way in sustaining a life in poverty. But education is the game changer.
Just Cause is our campaign to change the conversation about poverty. The Just Cause campaign has two essential purposes:
- We seek to increase access to quality education for distressed children through a communication campaign designed to change the conversation about poverty.
- We partner with one organization each year to help them achieve their access mission by providing pro bono strategic services to them.
We will be working with two strategic partners this fall on Just Cause programs, including the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy and Breakthrough Manchester, putting our collective time and energy into organizations that are actively working to break the cycle of poverty.
Let's change the conversation about poverty. At the end of the day, we all know that education is the game changer in a kids life. Help us out by sharing this article on your social media feeds and join our campaign.
The ISA Team has selected the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy for our Just Cause parter for the 2013-14 year. The CGLA in Tennessee is a single gender, small learning community for girls from primarily disadvantaged circumstances in grades 6-12. The college preparation curriculum is centered on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). With an extended day and a year round calendar, CGLA offers girls an accelerated and integrated remediation approach that is intended to move them to proficient and advanced levels within core academic subjects. A range of social supports that reflects girls’ social development needs are integrated into the educational experience.
Just Cause is the ISA campaign to change the conversation about poverty. The Just Cause campaign has two essential purposes:
- We seek to increase access to quality education for distressed children by changing the conversation about poverty.
- We partner with one organization each year to help them achieve their access mission by providing pro bono strategic services to them.
We take on one research and strategy consulting project per year under the Just Cause campaign, for which we receive many inquiries for services. These are typically pro bono or reduced fee consulting projects assisting educational organizations that serve distressed populations of children or youth.
Let's Change the Conversation on Poverty. We all know that transformation requires education. Let's change the conversation on poverty. Join our campaign by sharing our Just Cause page to others or tweeting your thoughts to the hashtag #JustCause.
Most people who know me well are well aware of my found appreciation for the rock band U2. I have been a fan for nearly 30 years, love their music, and even took my kids out of school to see the U2 360 Tour live at the Rose Bowl. But, what most don't know is why I appreciate them for far more than their music.
U2 is perhaps one of the most strategic organizations I have observed. From a pure marketing perspective, they have been operating under the same positioning concept for three decades: peace, love, and justice. While their music has changed over the years, they have undeniably used this platform to not only sell music, but change the world. Their activist strategy has push their ongoing relevance. They have an uncanny ability to remain relevant through changing times and aging voices. They insert their voice into issues that are relevant to the times. They are still one of the few bands that you will hear all ages not only listen, but also relate.
For a dose of their most recent market relevance, check out this acoustic version of Sunday Bloody Sunday, just released by the One campaign, to focus on the elections in Iran.
Eliminating extreme poverty is not an act of charity, but an act of justice. It is unacceptable when poverty stands in the way of child's shot at a good future. We have a role to play in ending the structural poverty faced by distressed children and youth. Just Cause is our campaign to do it. Here is an update our on Just Cause progress.
We are wrapping up our work with the Mississippi Children's Museum this month. Working with our partners on the steering committee, we have revamped the mission and vision statements, enhanced the core values, and developed an ambitious strategic plan for the future. In just two years of complete operation, the Museum continues to break new ground - and attendance records - for inspiring at risk youth in Mississippi. The new plan will seek to reach more audiences statewide.
We are seeking a strategic partner for Just Cause for the 2013-14 academic year. We continue to receive inquiries for our services. Interested prospective clients should contact our firm and review our Just Cause page no later than July 15th for consideration for services in the next selection process.