How Service Learning and Skilled Volunteering can Bridge Skill Gaps & Social Innovation Gaps to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals
A working paper by Bobby Fishkin & CrowdDoing, July 19th 2019
See full paper through using this link
CrowdDoing aims to show how social innovation can scale to the scope of our collective challenges by leveraging under-utilized capacities and how it can drive new participation by individuals and institutions to make that possible. Social innovations and social enterprises have insufficient support today to address Sustainable Development Goals. Organizations in both the public and private sector meanwhile face a shortage of skills for navigating a world increasingly challenged by VUCA — “volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.”
A study of CEOs conducted by IBM found that “rapid escalation of complexity is the biggest challenge confronting [the world’s public and private sector leaders].” . Research has connected the increase in VUCA as a critical cause of the doubling of the “topple rate,” the rate at which “big companies lose their leadership positions”. Research finds that the current approach to training for a VUCA world isn’t working . CrowdDoing conducted primary and secondary research on what effectively prepares workers of the future for a VUCA world. The authors of this paper studied the evidence of what kinds of education and training prepare individuals with the skills of the future that a VUCA world demands. This report lays out CrowdDoing’s findings.
In sum, this report indicates that service learning and skilled volunteering have demonstrably been efficient and effective approaches to helping individuals acquire skills for a VUCA world in a diversity of fields—from human resources to engineering to project management to data science. This report builds upon both primary research from CrowdDoing’s experience and secondary research into evidence of service learning’s effects, skilled volunteering and its effects, ad cases I which service learning ad skilled volunteering have been applied to social innovation
The report is meant to help organizations understand how virtual service learning & skilled volunteering can help organizations overcome current and future skills deficits in their workforce. It is also meant to help individuals appreciate the ways in which participation in social-innovation-oriented skilled volunteering can accelerate their problem-solving abilities… and make employees under their supervision more effective.
On the basis of our primary and secondary research, CrowdDoing recommends that each organization consider the CrowdDoing paradigm as viable preparation for an increasingly VUCA world. Helping individuals grapple with complex systems and their consequences for stakeholders through skilled volunteering and service learning in support of social innovation can help give them skills that can help them succeed in a VUCA world.
There is increasing evidence of an “executive skills gap” – a gap between the skills needed to cope with a volatile, uncertain, ambiguous, and complex (VUCA) business landscape and the skills being imparted by executive development programs. This gap is “increasingly obvious—and, costly.” This volatility–a cause of companies losing leadership positions vis a vis the “topple rate” – also relates to the increasing inter-connectedness of the world and the decreasing length of the period during which current skills remain current. “Many executives have acknowledged the extreme compression of the time scale on which dramatic change occurs at the technological, industry, customer demographics and preferences, organizational, operational, and interpersonal levels. A pharmaceutical executive observed: “Ten years ago we had a decade to adjust and prepare for what was coming, but today the adjustment cycles are much shorter. How do you prepare for that?“
This challenge has been building for some time. Already in 2010, IBM’s “Capitalizing on Complexity: Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Study” reported that the complexity of operating in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world is the “primary challenge of CEOs.” Since then research has connected the increase in VUCA as a critical cause of the doubling of the “topple rate,” the rate at which big companies lose their leadership positions, suggesting that even “winners” are in a precarious positions.”
VUCA has come to intersect with each professional role, including that of project management. One example of research in this area is Booz Allen Hamilton’s “Redefining Program Management for the Unique Challenges of Complex Programs,” which identifies complexity in projects as “the exponential increase in ambiguity surrounding stakeholder expectations, especially regarding the certainty of program outcomes and schedules.” Similarly, scholars of the information technology and communications fields have noted that “workers in the digital economy should be able to generate and process complex information; think systematically and critically; take decisions weighing different forms of evidence; ask meaningful questions about different subjects; be adaptable and flexible to new information; be creative; and be able to identify and solve real-world problems”.
One leverage point for achieving Sustainable Development Goals through social innovation is to create new depth and breadth of participation by stakeholders. CrowdDoing aims to scale participation through skilled volunteering and service learning opportunities to help enterprises and institutions foster social innovation.
Better mental health, physical health and productivity among employees are among the intrinsic incentives that prompt companies to adopt employee volunteer programs. Learning, creating impact, and achieving mental and physical health benefits are intrinsic incentives that prompt employees to participate in volunteering & service learning programs.
Service learning has historically been efficient at achieving learning goals but inefficient at achieving impact goals. Scaling service learning in support of social innovation can intervene to change this pattern.
Our increased awareness of the interconnectedness of societal challenges requires that we train professionals to be more than excellent in their particular fields: they need be able to collaborate across disciplinary lines. These collaborations on real-world social innovations shift the perspective of professionals to an empathetic frame of reference vis a vis the stakeholders they aim to serve. Grappling with complexity is not easy, but in order help social innovations reach their impact potential to achieve Sustainable Development Goals and beyond, people are willing to learn more about complex systems and the systems that have implications for a social innovation and the stakeholders it is created to serve.
Skilled volunteering and service learning in support of social innovation is an efficient way for individuals to gain skills that that further their success as project managers, human resources professionals, marketing professionals, and engineers. Service learning focused on social innovation can be efficient simultaneously at achieving impact, and at teaching skills needed in the future.