SMARTlab has sent its latest Microsoft publication to press

‘Skilling Up: The Workforce Agenda & the Club Tech Contribution to Youth at Risk’ by Lizbeth Goodman, Esther MacCallum-Stewart and Vicki Munsell will soon to be available through The MIT Press.

This paper presents the major case study of a comprehensive IT package delivered over seven years to a large group of users from the ‘youth at risk’ sector of American society: the Microsoft CSR and Boys & Girls Clubs of America Club Tech program.

Club Tech was an early and significant workforce and entrepreneurship pilot, which evolved out of a community technology project. It pioneered the implementation of digital technology programs within large and diverse communities in its first five-year phase from 2000-5, and has now reached nearly five million of the most disadvantaged youth across the USA (and with some limited additional young people supported internationally).

Now in its eighth year, the project still provides benchmarks for today’s users and shows innovative ways forward for the ‘workforce’ agenda. The cohesive nature of the project is what makes it extraordinary, and provides a model for future use. Through the investment of over $100 million dollars in cash and software by Microsoft in the first five years, and through community engagement to a much larger scale, the project has provided software, curriculum, training and a new model of empowered learning. This attempt to address the digital divide, or rather to assess the impact of the ‘digital dividend’ of strategic investment in youth at risk, remains one of the only cohesive community technology provision packages in the world, with significant lessons to share globally.

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