Future Make – Preparing Young People for Creative Futures
There is lots out there about the future of work. The RSA have just published the field guide to the future of work and NESTA have recently published ‘The Future of Skills Employment’ both publications share the opportunity, challenge and complexity of predicting what will be required from our young people in the next 20 years. At RIO we are completely into the conversation of what it all means but also firmly believe the best way of working stuff out is doing it.
Therefore we have developed Future Make. Below is the transcript of our head of learning Jonathan Clitheroe talking through the rationale for the programme at the recent NESTA event on creative futures.
Primary school is the place where children and young people make decisions about what they are good at and what’s “for them” a lot of which is still based on gender, class, ethnicity, personality, economics, perspective and possibility. They are decisions it is very hard to unlock or reshape later.
On the plus side primary schools are generally good at recognising the value and importance of creativity and they also do a lot of work to develop positive learning behaviours (meta learning, learning powers, thinking hats etc). However, they can be less good at making real and tangible connections between these behaviours and the real world (whether work specifically or potential futures and consequences more widely). This means schools can fail in breaking down barriers for primary age pupils in understanding what is truly possible for them.
Secondary schools are better at making links between subject areas and jobs or careers, but they also tend to work in very defined boxes – subjects, careers, and learning pathways (e.g. universities). I.e. if you are good at science you are obsessed with knowledge and facts and have a lack of social skills and should really explore futures as a marine biologist or research scientist, whereas if you excel in performing arts you are expressive but a little disorganised and will struggle to get a job that earns you any real money (a sweeping generalisation, but scarily common). Collectively this means that a lot of CYP leave school without a real understanding of what they are good at, where they could go with this, the changes they could make in their lives, communities and world as a result and a sense that a lot of the opportunities out there are not for them (if they even know about them in the first place).
At RIO we are really interested in how CYP understand the potential of a future in the wider creative economy and how they connect the development of the softer transferable or 21st century skills with their ability to succeed. How can they go on to make a positive difference in the world? We aren’t just interested in creativity and culture for its own sake – we want to connect it to better futures (for all our sakes).
To tackle these issues, we have developed and run the Future Make programme for 7-11-year-olds, aimed at breaking down barriers and showing CYP what is possible. Future Make is delivered in and out of school and consists of a series of facilitated group challenges (technical, creative, research-based, and applied/real world). Participants solve real world thorny problems using tech, drive and imagination – for example, using drones to create new perspectives on old problems. We have underpinned these challenges with a framework of 21st century skills and competencies, but the twist is that children themselves own and work with this framework, and it is meaningful and concrete – not hard to grasp and abstract – so leads to grounded and real change as well as connections across the community and social enterprise/creative sector in the city.
Facilitators use our Real skills wheel to help participants to identify and develop their children’s ability to demonstrate 21st century skills. The programme then directly connects those skills and competencies to futures/roles within the wider creative economy. This process, when done right and shared with both parents and teachers, can fundamentally change how the young people see themselves and what they and their families think is possible for them.