WASHINGTON, DC (August 11, 2020) – In the face of major threats, most people have one of three responses: fight; flight; or freeze. As the United States navigates severe crises in 2020, a fourth option has emerged: collaborate. The Mobile Areas Education Foundation (MAEF) recently put that fourth option into action on behalf of the region’s most marginalized communities to ensure none were left behind in the rapid shift to online higher education. A guidebook released today by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) takes a deep dive into MAEF’s comprehensive, cooperative, and community-focused response.
Mobile is a city where more than one in five residents live in poverty. In Mobile County, more than one in three residents are Black. Across Alabama, 70 percent of the population of several counties lack access to broadband internet. Advocating for Change During Times of Crisis shares how MAEF immediately understood the digital divide and, drawing on community connections, actively advocated to ensure those communities were not more deeply disaffected. The guidebook is part of the Innovative Strategies to Close Postsecondary Attainment Gaps series, a component of IHEP’s work with communities that have shown the ability and commitment to significantly increase college-level learning among students of all backgrounds.
“In the face of the global pandemic and national reckoning with racial justice, some community leaders acted swiftly to ensure those most impacted by deep-rooted inequities could continue in higher education,” said Michelle Asha Cooper, IHEP’s President. “We applaud these leaders for prioritizing prompt and direct action with – not for – impacted communities. They acted immediately, while also keeping a long-term perspective, knowing that community voices must be centered, particularly when it comes to removing the insidious structural and systemic barriers that devastate communities of color and other historically underserved populations.”
“In an era when so many aspects of our lives depend on internet connectivity, the digital divide along racial and economic lines is simply unacceptable,” noted Julie Ajinkya, IHEP’s Vice President of Applied Research. “Talent Hubs are modeling the creative and practical responses we need nationwide to remove such barriers to education and essential services, including food, quality childcare, and medical care.”
Following an interview outlining the goals, partnerships, and implementation of MAEF’s approach, the guidebook provides an op-ed Storytelling Tool to help other communities harness the power of collective voice to advocate for change in their regions. Alongside MAEF’s efforts to stay on track to its goal of doubling the number of residents with postsecondary degrees by 2030, the guidebook highlights several creative and inspiring ways that leaders from Albuquerque and Boston to Tampa Bay and Tulsa are meeting the needs of community members disproportionately harmed by the current crises.
Designated by Lumina Foundation, with support from the Kresge Foundation, Talent Hub Communities work across business, education, and civic sectors to attract, cultivate, and retain skilled and knowledgeable workers.