From education to employment

Where are the FE Thought Leaders that are building 21st Century assets?

Penny Power is founder of the Digital Youth Academy

Think Tank, after Think Tank. I leave impressed, inspired, slightly doubtful and always more connected. One of the aspects of FE that occurred to me this week, when I attended yet another Think Tank looking at the topic of Technology, Education and Learning was:

“Where are the experts in this industry that could inspire change, share knowledge and become Thought Leaders in their own right, for their ‘institution’ and for the FE Sector at large?”

Clearly, there are some impressive change makers and pockets of people who are quite incredible – real strategists who have the budgets and leadership around them to enable change. I feel privileged when I meet them. However, it almost seems to be in the hands of luck whether you come across them. It takes being a ‘connector’ to stay in touch with them.

The subject of thought-leadership has grown enormously. Since the advent of Blogging, Twitter and the ability to build a personal brand online, we all have the ability to ‘lead thoughts’. It is a unique time in history to stake a claim on what you know, your advanced, pioneering thoughts and lock them down in ‘Google’ as THE person who has the experience, credibility and passion to make change.

At a recent new Steering Group I was asked to attend, again on the subject of FE and Edtech, I witnessed the emergence of some amazing ‘assets’ being created within some Colleges and Training Providers. These assets were the domain of the institution that the person worked for and funding was being sought to scale and share. The expectation was clearly for the ‘institution’ to make these available to the whole industry and not just grow their own value.

The term ‘assets’ was not used until I introduced this commentary. It makes us all think differently about the way grants and funding in general is being distributed. I fear that no matter how much money is invested to create a ‘shareable’ programme or technology solution, it will be hard to get uptake from other Colleges when they are ready for distribution. My thoughts on why this is are as follows:

Many institutions (in all sectors) have a ‘not invented here syndrome – admiring the achievements of others but persuading themselves that it is not quite ‘fit for their purpose’.

Any ‘programme or solution’ needs to grow credibility in order to be trusted. Credibility cannot be built on marketing collateral and sales techniques. The market now wants to know (in all markets) who is behind this amazing solution and how long and how hard have they dedicated themselves to it. If it is a whim or short term in its thinking, it is never respected.

Asset Creation. I put forward the belief in the Think-Tank I attended, that we have to create assets that show ongoing value as part of the tendering process. So, if £800,000 is invested in a number of new ‘thoughts and ideas’, what does the winning bidder believe is the value of this asset once released to the market and how will they ensure it has sustainable value for the sector? So, would this ‘notional’ £800,000 fund turn into £2million of cost saving or income to the sector? Where is the financial value and what do they commit to in order to achieve this?

I believe that all of the above starts with the thought-leader – the passionate expert who will be the person that assists in the original bid and its implementation and also ensures that the market begins to follow them and read their past, current and future journey. This is the best way to achieve credibility, assets and therefore the trust from a new partner / College.

As an entrepreneur, I have to create sustainable assets. I have to commit for the long term, I cannot expect overnight success. I have to overcome barriers, build a community that believes in what I can see and make sure the market is willing to adopt it. I rely heavily on thought leadership. My blogs go back to 2002 and are twelve years of sharing a consistent belief about the digitally connected world and the need to build personal credibility. When I build a programme and create assets, the legacy of the previous twelve years of thoughts, commitment and experience go with it.

So, as a final round up of this month’s meandering…

I wonder if we could build a ‘thought-leadership’ community and share the marvellous people that exist in the FE and Training Provider Sector and allow them to lead from the front.

The alternative is that the institutions build the ‘followers’ and believers. My experience is that people follow, trust and believe in people more than institutions. This would be a brave move for any College or Provider that enabled it. I have seen a few that do, and oh boy, I see the benefits to all every time.

Penny Power is founder of the Digital Youth Academy

If you would like to discuss this, please contact me on Twitter (@pennypower) or through email.

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