2020 Forecast Provided Nellie Mae a Path Forward

Topics: Community Partnerships, Systems Change

By Bob Driehaus

Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s 2010 pivot toward student-centered learning in recent years happened in no small part thanks to KnowledgeWorks’ 2020 education forecast.

Nick Donohue, president and CEO, recalled an “aha” moment when the KnowledgeWorks strategic forecast team presented the forecast 10 years ago in San Francisco at a Grantmakers for Education engagement that KnowledgeWorks co-created with Collective Invention.

He was struck by the forecast’s notion that educational innovations were likely to take place outside traditional institutions and by how those institutions were going to be challenged to reconcile bottom-up developments with the top-down hierarchies in place.

“I just remember thinking that it was going to affect the preparation to acquire the skills and knowledge that people needed,” he said. “It was also the question that if the world was going to look like that, then what would an education system look like that fit into that future.”

Donohue said the forecast provided a fundamental contribution in terms of offering a framework in which to shift the way we should educate students.

“It wasn’t just the forecast. It was the way they painted a picture of the future in terms of what it meant for the future and for the skills and knowledge kids would need,” he said. “It was pretty fundamental. The evidence of that is that we then tried to engage Collective Invention.”

Donohue said Nellie Mae Education Foundation built on the provocations presented by the 2020 Forecast with others. “We held a similar engagement with some policymakers to see if the light would go off in the same way.” The insight, he said, was that education would look a lot different if students were provided with student-centered experiences.

Nellie Mae Education Foundation continues to evolve, he said, again pivoting from an intense focus on student-centered learning toward supporting community voice and forging partnerships to achieve racial equity. The foundation’s evolving strategy reflects the bottom-up changes in education that the 2020 Forecast identified.

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2020 Forecast Retrospectives