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How might we ready students for active civic engagement, real-world employment, and career success in a rapidly changing economy?


It has been argued that postsecondary education is one of the best investments a person can make, serving as a gateway to social mobility and economic opportunity. This year, U.S. public high schools recorded a graduation rate of 83.2 percent, the highest number ever in recorded history. As these students transition into the American workforce, they’re likely to have four job changes in less than 10 years. Of those jobs, two billion will disappear by 2030—that’s approximately 50 percent of employment opportunities today.

As these significant shifts in our academic and economic landscapes happen all at once, designing an adaptive postsecondary system that supports lifelong learning will be more critical for our American population than ever before.

The people and unmet needs behind these numbers inspire a huge opportunity for design. As innovation across the postsecondary system gathers steam, through colleges and universities, as well as emerging  providers of education, we see a pivotal moment for progress.  How might we prepare students – of all ages –  for active civic engagement, real-world employment, and career success in an ever transforming economic ecosystem?

With your help during our Future of Higher Education Challenge, we’ll work together to design new ways in which we might better support learners to evolve with the needs of tomorrow. We’ll explore ideas that cut across cultures, income levels, and sectors as we envision a system that supports innovative models and empowers a broad set of learners.

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During this Challenge, we’re excited to see ideas that:

  • Get creative in thinking about the various modes through which postsecondary learning could be  offered
  • Rethink the way education can remain relevant throughout a learner’s lifetime
  • Consider accessibility across a broad and diverse spectrum of learners
  • Use data to reimagine and inform the student reality

Like all of our Challenges, we start off with empathy. We’ll look to our community to provide stories and analogous examples of research. Together, we’ll gather perspectives from students, colleges and universities, educators, entrepreneurs, accreditors, policymakers, business and industry leaders,  and other diverse groups around the world. We encourage you to also share your own story about learning in our changing economy.

Throughout the Challenge, we’ll rely heavily on design research methods like interviewing, storytelling and empathy exercises that allow us to immerse into the experiences of others. Building on this research,  we’ll bring the Challenge Question to life and develop solutions that are centered around real, human experiences.

Though this Challenge has a focus on the U.S., we know there are opportunities to reimagine education across the globe. That’s why we are excited to learn from our global community about the unique ways higher education is structured around the world.


During our Research phase, we're calling a global community to action – to share your stories and reflections, emotions, perspectives, and other personal contributions related to education after high school and throughout one’s lifetime. Then – collaboratively during our Ideas phase – we’ll create solutions that reimagine the postsecondary experience.

With help from our challenge sponsors and Advisory Panel, we’ll create a shortlist of submitted ideas that will move into our Refinement phase. During the Refinement phase all ideas are encouraged to continue progressing, while the shortlist represents the lightbulb and moonshot moments that are most active and aligned with our Evaluation Criteria.

After an iterative Refinement phase we’ll announce the Top Ideas - a set of solutions that represent innovation in the topic area. Together, we’ll look forward to understand how to transform these collaborative concepts into tangible real world solutions.


In partnership with the The U.S. Department of Education,  OpenIDEO will be working with the following sponsors: Level Education from Northeastern University, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA Funds, and ASU GSV Summit, to reimagine the U.S. post-secondary education system. All of our partners are eager to see the radical conversations and unexpected collaborations that emerge on the topic.

The goal of this challenge is to create impact and yield tangible solutions that our sponsors and partners can support or integrate into their work long after the Challenge ends. To help catalyze this, Level Education from Northeastern will be providing $25,000 worth of post-Challenge support in the form of an "Idea to MVP" entrepreneurship bootcamp for one or more qualifying Top Ideas, and scholarships to other intensive bootcamps teaching high-demand tech skills. Additionally, one or more qualifying Top Ideas will be invited to join Georgia Tech's summit of industry leaders innovating on the future of higher education. Top ideas will have the opportunity to refine and workshop innovations with sector experts, and engage their voice in an industry-leading conversation.  

As the Challenge unfolds, we'll share more about our goals and sponsor incentives, so that you’re involved during every part of the process. As always, we encourage everyone to take your ideas forward and implement them in your own communities. On OpenIDEO, we strive to be a place where good ideas gain momentum.

For more information check out our Guiding Principles for tips on how our community collaborates.


We’re kicking off the Challenge with our initial Research phase, and we need your brainpower! Get involved, share insights, and help us start the conversation.

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Georgia Institute of Technology

The Georgia Institute of Technology seeks to define the technological research institute of the 21st century. Recognizing the accelerated pace of change in higher education, Georgia Tech’s Office of the Provost formed the Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE) and charged it with thinking boldly and broadly about the ways in which the Institute, poised to enter the second half of the 21st century, can be an even more effective innovator in education -- for lifelong learners of all ages.

ASU GSV Summit

Started in 2010 with a collaboration between Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley (GSV). The annual ASU GSV Summit is the industry catalyst for elevating dialogue and driving action around raising learning and career outcomes through scaled innovation. We are united by a passionate belief that ALL people have the right to participate equally in the future.

Level Education from Northeastern

Level Education from Northeastern University empowers students and other lifelong learners to achieve their personal and professional goals by providing hands-on experience, high-demand tech skills, and networking opportunities through a variety of intensive bootcamps in Boston, Charlotte, Seattle, Silicon Valley, and Toronto.

USA Funds

USA Funds is a nonprofit organization that supports Completion With a Purpose, building a more purposeful path for America’s students to and through college and on to rewarding careers and successful lives. USA Funds pursues its nonprofit mission through philanthropic activities and partnerships, policy research, and programs and services that enhance preparation for, access to and success in higher education.

This challenge is now over.
244 contributions
287 ideas
287 final ideas
28 final ideas
28 final ideas


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