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Inspiring the next generation

November 24, 2020

Inspiring the next generation is something at the core of NEO Academy's sense of purpose, but this is something that is easy to say, but much harder to actually do.

Regular readers of our blog will know that we often write about how important our core values are, and we have to admit that this is an incomplete picture. What good are values, really, unless they translate into action?

That means practicing what you believe. This way, the values are reinforced and become something real and tangible.

To speak honestly, we are still finding the best ways to truly live our core values every day. The more abstract the value seems, the more difficult it can be to find concrete ways to express it. Take, for example, our core belief that we have a responsibility to inspire the next generation of learners and workers. Sounds great, but how on earth do we actually do that?

Whether it was just luck, or perhaps the alignment of the stars, two fantastic organisations invited us to be part of their events last week: on Tuesday 17th November, NEO's Founder & CEO Alejandra Otero gave a talk at Learnlife's [RE]LEARN, the Learning Innovation Festival. On Thursday 19th, it was over to USIL in Peru for Global Entrepreneurship Week. So, what did we talk about, and what does this have to do with values?

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Education as a Service (EaaS)

Learnlife is an amazing organisation, based in Barcelona with a bold vision for a new education paradigm worldwide. NEO Academy aligns completely with the way they see the future of education, and taking part in this event was a great way to connect with other like-minded colleagues and peers. As we've already said, we feel that those of us working in education need to share experiences and ideas, whether you're in academics, or student recruitment. We all make change possible together.

We gave a talk about EaaS to expand the idea of the circular economy into our own field. Rather than learning about the circular economy, we raised the idea of education itself being part of the circular economy. So much attention is given to circular systems and product cycles, but services can be circular too. As circular products look at cutting down on packaging, so too can education. Classrooms with fewer walls, more transversal learning and more integration with the "real" world outside. Less packaging around learning experiences means more learner directed choices too. From hybrid or online learning to liquid learning, Education as a Service in the circular economy is as fluid as the future it serves. Adaptability is the key. Similar to products, we also have to think about the way we distribute and use learning. Episodic learning events that fit our needs at any given time, rather than overarching four-year programmes that stay static and still. Google showed the way forward here with its professionally relevant micro credentialing approach. "Pay per use" modules and customizable pathways are far better suited to a future that promises to be as unpredictable as it is challenging. In the circular economy, a lot of attention is given to repair as a way to extend the life cycle, and why should education be different. When studying a masters degree in 2020 that has not updated its content since 2012 (this happens a lot!), you can be forgiven for wondering why we don't have more collaboration between learners and course designers to improve the content. We need open, fluid channels of feedback and improvement each and every learning cycle. Learners very often find better ways to explain content than they heard in class, more relevant analogies or more incisive sources to support learning. Keeping the channels open to more collaboration with learners to improve the content continuously will keep things up to date in a way that is learner-directed and sustainable. And finally, at the end of a product lifecycle, the idea of buyback could translate into the service of education as an incentive to lifelong learning. Might the learner have access to resources and support (even in a managed peer to peer network) beyond the official end date of their course or module? How might they be incentivised and supported to return to further formal learning when they need it, and how might they be best equipped for independent learning on their own terms? As we entirely rethink the current approach to education, NEO's proposed EaaS model was able to stimulate some reflection and further thinking, and our values push us to collaborate with our peers in this field to make a contribution in any way we can. We would warmly welcome any further comments or input as we develop this framework.

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Inspiring the next generation of women entrepreneurs

If we want to make a difference where it counts, we need to at least be visible and present to those next generations coming into our institutions, our profession and their futures. As part of Peru's Global Entrepreneurship Week 2020, we had a great chance to connect directly to an audience of female entrepreneurs about what the future might hold for them, and how they might shape it.

Gen Z are less tolerant of a glass ceiling than any generation that's gone before them, so it's not enough to just be visible. The fact that NEO's Founder, Alejandra, took the entrepreneurial path to build a successful organisation as a young woman, well that's something a confident young Gen Z woman would likely already see as possible for herself. What she may not see, however, is what that path is like.

That is why we were so honoured to be a part of this; not just to be visible, but to engage, share and be authentic about what the life of an entrepreneur looks like. Alejandra focused not on the apparent successes, but on the formative events; failure, inspiration and values.

Rather than give answers, Alejandra asked questions. How do we learn from our failures? Where do you get the inspiration from, that enables you to inspire others to come with you? How do you find your own values and sense of self worth, to keep a steady hand on the wheel when you could easily get lost? How do we derive strength from reflection and vulnerability? These are the realities of being an entrepreneur, and it is not a life for everyone.

This is the approach we feel is instinctively right. To be available for open and honest engagement with the younger generation is where we feel we can make a difference.

This Thursday 26th November we will be posting Alejandra's talk about learning from failure. In the weeks afterwards, we'll also post an interview with Alejandra Otero about her pathway to a leadership role, and the lessons she has learned along the way. We hope you will join us and let us know what you think.

What is more, if you are an organisation from anywhere in the world, which has young people that might benefit from talking to us about our profession of Education Marketing and Recruitment, or women in leadership roles, entrepreneurship or just what it's like to be working globally with a diverse team in an exciting environment, contact us. We would love to connect with these groups, so that we can continue to learn more from each other.

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