I am honored to serve as the CEO of Collective Shift and to launch its first endeavor, LRNG. I am also deeply indebted to those whose work is the inspiration and the foundation of our work. Significant transformations do not take shape magically. They build on the work of inspired individuals, committed communities, good fortune and great timing. As LRNG launches, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and thank the Digital Media and Learning Community, whose extraordinary work has paved the way for LRNG.

Collective Shift and its first effort, LRNG, build on more than ten years of research, design, and implementation in learning and education. Seeded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a community of scholars, designers, practitioners, and policymakers began to work together to research, design, test, argue and then redesign approaches to learning in the connected age. John Seely Brown has been my mentor for the last decade. He, with many members of the MacArthur Board of Directors, including Marjorie Scardino and Sara Lawrence Lightfoot, have guided, cajoled, directed and served as crucial thought leaders. In 2004, Henry Jenkins, Mimi Ito and Nichole Pinkard helped to launch a new philanthropic initiative – Digital Media and Learning – at the American Museum of Natural History. During the next ten years they seeded new narratives, a theoretical foundation and evidence base upon which to a grow a field. LRNG is deeply indebted to this work, and the Connected Learning pedagogy that emerged from it, as well as to the intrepid community of leaders who shifted their careers to work together, including Katie Salen, Jim Gee, Joe Kahne, John Palfrey, danah boyd, Doug Thomas, Craig Watkins, Howard Gardner, Diana Rhoten, Peter Lyman, Cathy Davidson, David Goldberg, Kylie Peppler, Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, Mark Surman, Cathy Cohen and many, many others.

Redesigning institutions that touch the lives of all youth is not for the faint of heart. In 2007, Mary Dempsey, then Commissioner of the Chicago Public Library, launched a bold experiment to redesign libraries to serve, engage and motivate young people. In collaboration with the Digital Youth Network, this experiment – named YOUmedia by the youth involved –showed how an institution shifts its approach to learning from consuming information to participating with and producing new knowledge and products. This demonstration, along with trailblazing work led by the National Writing Project, Smithsonian Institution, the Field Museum, Institute of Play, Global Kids, Quest to Learn, FUSE, iCivics, Convergence Academies, Hive Learning Networks, Make Movement, Youth Radio, DreamYard, Voto Latino, Stevens Initiative and many others, points the way to the future of learning.

Systems are often driven by definitions of accountability. What we measure, how we measure and where we measure outcomes determines what counts and what endures. Our systems will not change without groundbreaking efforts to completely redesign feedback mechanisms. LRNG builds directly on two experiments to radically change assessment and feedback in learning. In 2011, Katie Salen and Michael John, with Electronic Arts, the Entertainment Software Association and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, launched a new organization to build assessments into video games. GlassLab, which will merge into Collective Shift and become an integral part of LRNG, is creating the methodology to integrate engagement, relevance, rigor, feedback and assessment into learning.

In 2012, HASTAC and the Mozilla Foundation began to reimagine how to make learning visible and credible, wherever and whenever it occurs. Open Badges, launched at Mozilla with Mark Surman and Erin Knight’s leadership, sought to take the lessons learned from the worldwide web and completely reinvent credentials. NASA, the Manufacturing Institute, 4-H, the Veteran’s Administration, Carnegie Mellon University, Critical Commons, Cooper Hewitt, and others joined in to explore the potential of this new tool.

In 2013, with the support and leadership of Nichole Pinkard and the Digital Youth Network and the Mozilla Foundation, the City of Chicago sought to connect learning opportunities across the city and make them visible and transparent to youth, parents, mentors and educators. Dallas, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., soon joined, with leadership from the Sprout Fund, Big Thought and D.C. Trust. Experimentation and redesign across entire cities, while often fraught with false starts, creates the path to the future through harnessing those missteps into new insights and tools for others to leverage. These cities and organizations have been our pioneers and guides in establishing a vision for how to network and connect ecosystems of learning for all youth. We now call this transformative approach Cities of LRNG.

In the last ten years, the philanthropic community has supported critically important efforts to advance education and to experiment with new approaches. These include the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s leadership on deeper learning and hard-to-measure skills; the Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s insightful focus on student-centered learning; the groundbreaking launch of 100kin10 by the Carnegie Foundation; the STEM Funders Network’s collaborative vision for STEM ecosystems; the Gates Foundation’s Teacher2Teacher, marking a fundamental shift in professional development; Grable Foundation’s city-wide approach to improving the lives of children, and John Legend’s teacher innovation challenge, which will become part of LRNG.

As a community, we are reaching a tipping point in education that lays the groundwork for shifting from closed school systems to open and vibrant learning ecosystems. The promise of providing bright, boundless opportunities for all youth lies in this shift. We launch Collective Shift and LRNG to connect this ecosystem and to ensure that all youth find their path to future success.

None of this work would have happened without the leadership, vision, and support of MacArthur’s President, Julie Stasch and a talented team of program officers, including Jennifer Humke and Tawa Mitchell. It reflects MacArthur’s embrace of creativity, innovation and risk, and the value it places on fairness and human potential.

Finally, with a superb, committed board in formation, I am deeply grateful that Jessica Lindl joins me as my partner on this journey.

As I step into leadership of Collective Shift, I am humbled to build on the vision and dedicated work of all those who have given, and who continue to give, their creativity, passion and grit to this effort of turning the promise of connecting learning into the reality of a brighter future for young people everywhere.

Connie Yowell
CEO