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Crucible Approach: Austin Region

The Austin Metro is positioned to super-charge long-standing regional relationships to identify and quickly solve problems. We can boast experienced civic leaders who want to make good things happen: K12 superintendents, ACC's Richard Rhodes & TSTC, Mayors Adler & Morgan, Judges Eckhardt & Gravell, Workforce Solutions CEOs Tamara Atkinson & Paul Fletcher and all the amazing horsepower of UT's Bob Metcalfe, their Austin Technology Incubator CEO Mitch Jacobson, and dozens of research labs. The Austin Region has a density of experienced CEOs from start-up and innovation companies and several dozen incubator and accelerators who teach agile, design thinking, bootstrap and other entrepreneurial approaches.

If we start from the mindset that we are entering a new economy, with new rules (many to be created), local leadership should quickly surface a multitude of key public policy challenges just beyond the tyranny of the immediate. They should task key institutional leaders to coordinate The Crucible Approach for "sprints" or rapid and iterative resolution of each of these challenges. For each challenge, leaders quickly identify opportunities and barriers. We must create solutions appropriate for our Day.

Below are the beginnings of a list of "sprints" we should attempt to solve in next 60 days:

Industry/User Data Gathering:

  • Rapid industry-specific calls for sector-level expertise: We need appropriate organizations, industry-by-industry, to convene frequent calls on topics like who’s hiring and what skills/experience are they hiring for? Are sector employers having specific supply chain issues (can we connect them to local suppliers)? Are they interested in 're-shoring' operations back in Austin and Texas? What technical, confidential resources do they need to implement job sharing, rapid job training, access to funding, assistance with regulatory approval, expedited permitting. What legal barriers are preventing rapid job creation? Relevance and follow-up will drive attendance.

  • Rapid Broadband Deployment – Our K12 institutions are trying to piece together mobile hot spots to help students access on-line schooling. What rules (i.e. right of way, inspection, permitting, documentation) can be adjusted to rapidly deploy broadband, especially in underserved areas? SXSWedu, Education Services Centers, UT or Texas State Colleges of Ed or appropriate entities can convene key industry, ed technology purchasers and regulators in these Crucibles in April to identify and solve immediate problems.

Talent-Related Problems Sets:

  • Rapid PD for Teachers to Maximize Impact of On-Line Instruction Strategies - With up to 18,000 educators across 15 school districts and charter school systems rapidly transitioning their instruction onto the video conferencing and asynchronous blends of digital interaction, how can SXSWedu, the Region XIII Education Service Centers or UT and Texas State Colleges of Ed stand up additional, immediate PD sessions and research projects to understand and help instructors and administrators in real time how to transition to and deliver multi-media instruction content? After the immediate crisis abates, how can we look to these scaling and technology strategies to improve student access to quality instruction?

  • Rapid ESL courses. The Austin region has a large number of students who speak Spanish first. Technology now makes it much easier to group students across campuses (or even school districts) who share a common language and who are much closer in proficiency. This team can determine mechanisms to “re-schedule” students with teachers best equipped to help them.

  • Rapid Basic Education Courses. When Workforce Solutions, Texas Mutual and KVUE created a direct marketing strategy to encourage Austin-ites to enroll in rapid training programs to become a Certified Process Technician. More than 2,000 of our friends and neighbors raised their hand, but a large percentage had an insufficient academic background. We need to identify specific Austin-ites who need Adult Basic Education, we need to provide them specific access to the technology to log into ABE. Austin Community College should shift to remote access its path-breaking, proficiency-based basic education curriculum, where students can move as rapidly as they have urgency and interest. We need to link with Austin start-ups to connect students to real-time, on-line tutoring to help them complete ABE successfully.

  • Rapid Cleaning of Schools and Facilities. Several countries have pioneered approaches to reopen classrooms, to include temperature checks at the school house door. We need a group to focus on rapid certification of classroom and equipment cleaning and mechanisms to ensure those who re-enter the classroom are appropriately healthy. This also means a plan to secure large new equipment purchases at a time many will be seeking the same materials.

  • Creating a social distance transportation plan for students. Ultimately, school campuses may need to reopen while the need for social distancing is still necessary. As public transportation may have unused capacity, can we explore how to use one student per seat with new transportation routes and different A/B school days – some students in the AM, different set of students in the PM. We may need to explore algorithms on how to group students who might attend in-person classes based upon their location and their courses. We may need to explore 4-hour school days.

  • Position Central Texas for a potential 5th Stimulus? While we know the federal government will take care of broad-based income replacement support, how should we solicit federal investment to super-charge start-up company formation and help our incumbent companies pivot to the new economic realities? I talk more about this in Blog 8.

What are the problems you are running into in Central Texas? Email

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