“You are engaged in noble work,” Julie Coates told executives at LERN’s executive leadership institutes last month. “You are the nation builders. You are creating the society of the 21st century for your country, she said.” Coates is a Vice President and the lead researcher for LERN.
Recent events, including the entry of the Multinational Corporation into the field of lifelong learning, now make it apparent that your lifelong learning program is essential to the economic prosperity and quality of life in society in the 21stcentury.
Your program is becoming central to your institution’s success. And your program has always been key to the quality of life in your community. But it now appears there is a new mandate emerging: for your nonprofit organization to contribute in the building of society for the 21st century.
One questionable player is the Multinational Corporation, such as Cengage and Pearson, which are not very good at providing education and lifelong learning. They also generate greater economic inequality in your community.
So your nonprofit institution may very well be the critical element in whether your community and society is economically prosperous with a large middle class, or there is greater economic inequality along with the consequent lower quality of life that comes with inequality.
Your nonprofit institution was actually created around 100 years to build the middle class, serve everyone in your community, and lessen inequality for the benefit of everyone in society. Those institutions include recreation departments, public schools, community education in public schools, colleges, universities and associations. So your mission is firmly rooted in the economic prosperity that comes with less inequality in your community.
Recent research, such as the new book The Spirit Level, document that when there is less inequality in a community, everyone is better off, including the wealthy. Even the wealthy have better mental health, less victimization of crime, and longer life in a community with less economic inequality than in a community with greater economic inequality.
LERN has always had 99% of its members and customers from the nonprofit sector. The Tucson meeting this spring had over 50 of the executives of some of the most successful lifelong learning programs from recreation, community education, colleges, universities and associations attending.
It became clear to the LERN leadership and senior management staff that you are indeed engaged in noble work that not only involves serving your community or audience. It now includes leading your community and society, building what kind of community and society we have in the 21stcentury.
Photo: Cathy Noonan, new Chair of the Board; with Dan Thorpe, new Board member