Bendable, a lifelong learning platform, aims to provide all residents of South Bend, Indiana, with access to learning in order to create more resilient individuals, economies, and communities. FSG was commissioned by the Lumina Foundation to conduct a developmental evaluation of Bendable’s 2020 calendar year. This work built on a prior engagement when in 2019, FSG helped develop an assessment and learning framework for Bendable.
- Center the voice of the community. It is important to actively engage—with authenticity and humility—a diverse set of stakeholders, including communities of color and immigrant populations, to ensure the lifelong learning system reflects the needs, interests, and makeup of the community. These efforts should be rooted in understanding the historical, social, political, and economic context of each geography, and should allow substantial lead-time for building trusting relationships with city and community organizations, and residents.
- Build in time and opportunities to continuously reflect. Engaging in dialogue about what is being learned on an ongoing basis, and refining processes based on learnings, has been a critical part of the Bendable journey. The process should continue to build in places to pause and reflect, as well as to continuously seek and incorporate guidance from the community as part of ongoing learning and reflection and an anchor point to guide ongoing decision-making.
- Support community ownership. In addition to seeking and incorporating input from the community into decision-making, bring community members and local organizations into the decision-making process. Create explicit opportunities to give agency to the local community to drive processes and, ultimately, to own implementation of the lifelong learning system.