Imagining the Future of Work: The Equity Systems Change Compass

Author: Clara McCurdy-Kirlis

What working might look like in the future—even just 10 years from now—stokes our imaginations. The world of work is changing at such an incredibly fast pace, and recent events like the pandemic and the murders of people of color have exposed and underscored inequities and health disparities that must be faced and dismantled in order to have a future of work that is both inclusive and just.

Who really benefits from work at the human-technology frontier, who is left out, and how can we bridge this growing gap? The report, Developing the Next Generation of Talent: Perspectives from the Field on Equity and the Future of Work, is the third in a series on the future of work and what it will take to prepare for it. It tells the story of the evolution of our work and our efforts to produce and fine-tune the resulting tool for educators, policy makers and other advocates for equity – the Equity Systems Change Compass.image of a compass

In developing this report and tool, we interviewed thought leaders—our “champions of equity”—on issues in education, justice, media, and employment, exploring difficult questions related to equity amid major moments in our history. Throughout the conversations, what began to emerge was the need to frame the issues being discussed in a way that allowed us to examine the key cultural, educational, and financial structures that held back the change our champions sought. That framework became the Equity Systems Change Compass, and it invites stakeholders to examine a question chosen by the group/organization/community and bridge the gaps of existing inequities by:

  • Dissecting and examining the existing structures and mental models in place that perpetuate the status quo
  • Defining the basic human needs at stake related to the question being explored
  • Collaboratively discovering pathways to building new structures and mental models that can achieve an ideal and equitable future that is inclusive and that creates a win-win scenario for all

This compelling tool can support change makers and system stakeholders through the complexities of thinking about both systems and their impacts on the real people involved, while also centering those same people purposefully in reconstructing systems of equity and opportunity in STEM fields. Through structured questions and activities, a community can use the tool to develop action plans to address identified challenges while supporting stakeholder wellbeing. The tool invites stakeholders to visualize an ideal way forward toward enacting substantive, lasting change through a lens of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

This report, published by EDC’s STEM Learning and Research Center (STELAR), builds on the first two reports in series. The first report, Building the Foundational Skills Needed for Success in Work at the Human–Technology Frontier, makes clear that dramatic and rapid developments at the human–technology frontier foster innovation at work, create new jobs, and change the very nature of how work is carried out. The second report, K–8 STEM Career Competencies: Developing Foundational Skills for the Future of Work, focuses on helping educators understand how they can begin preparing students in the early grades for an ever-changing world of technology by cultivating the art of “learning how to learn.”

Read the report