When I was working in rural New Mexico over a decade ago, I first heard the term “educonomy,” meaning the blending, linkage and deeper integration between community economic development and education systems. Over the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to support an educonomy project called the Homegrown Talent Initiative, launched by the organization where I work, Colorado Education Initiative, and Colorado Succeeds. We are two different organizations with two different missions, but we share a vision for a dynamic educonomy grounded in community needs and experiences that lifts up all students and families across the state.

We deliberately chose rural communities to launch this project because the test of our success as a state and nation is to ensure that no matter where you live, you can have a community that supports your aspirations. And in a new report on our first two years of progress, the Center on Reinventing Public Education suggested that the project’s “early efforts to transform district policy and monitor quality moved communities in the direction of sustained, systemic change.”

Anchored in a Career-Connected Learning Continuum, the eight districts in the initiative have taken dramatic initiative to seize this moment to redesign for their students, and they have had an incredible journey. As they launched in the fall of 2019, representatives of participating districts visited two — Cañon City and St. Vrain — that have made real strides in linking their economic development and education systems. They then spent the year working with families, students, educators, and community members (higher education, business, civic leaders, etc.) to build a community graduate profile — a document representing a consensus as to what the district and community envision all learners should achieve by the time they finish high school. It becomes a north star to align all system efforts, naming the skills and traits that all can work toward attaining.

Spending 2019 and 2020 building these profiles meant the districts arrived in the pandemic with something special and powerful — a shared understanding with their communities about how to approach the future. These efforts persisted throughout the pandemic, continuing to implement emerging innovations even through the hardest year in modern education history.

Read the full article about educonomy by Landon Mascareñaz at The 74.