FAQ: 21st Century skills initiative

is the purpose of this initiative?

does Benton mean by 21st century skills?


is Benton focused on underserved young people?

is Benton well suited to undertake this effort?


what does Benton propose to do?

Benton give out grants as part of this initiative?


will Benton evaluate the progress of the initiative?


whom are we looking to collaborate?


do I find out more?


is the purpose of this initiative?


Benton Foundation sees a profound opportunity

today: an opportunity to help approximately 13

million underserved young adults ages 16-28 develop

and apply the "21st century skills"

necessary to improve their lives. The foundation

and its partners are embarking on a multi-year

initiative to identify, develop and promote successful

community-based strategies in which media and

technology are key levers in the improvement of

learning. The initiative will unite community

leaders, decision-makers, the business sector,

researchers and practitioners nationally, and

in partnering localities, to tackle this challenge.


Benton Foundation's 22-year history of promoting

media and communications tools for social change

will be leveraged over the next three to five

years to strengthen community approaches in developing

the technology skills of young people. We believe

that media and technology can make a substantial

difference in the lives of young people who have

fallen through the cracks in the educational system,

creating new pathways to economic success and

social inclusion. back to


does Benton mean by 21st century skills?


21st century skills we are referring to a set

of cognitive, technical and communicative skills

that all Americans need to possess to make our

nation more productive, economically and socially.

The Washington, DC-based Partnership

for 21st Century Skills has developed a framework

to spur national discussion about the set of competencies

needed to succeed in the future, including:

  • 21st

    Century Learning:

    Sharpening the cognitive

    and communicative skills to succeed in the world,

    including critical thinking and the ability

    to keep learning.

  • 21st

    Century Skills:

    Developing technical

    skills, such as using networked computing devices

    to enhance learning.

  • 21st

    Century Context:

    Engaging in anytime-anywhere

    learning beyond the school day and to close

    the gap between the classroom and the real world.

  • 21st

    Century Subjects:

    Expanding content

    areas for study relevant to the new century,

    such as health and financial literacy as well

    as global awareness.



this initiative, the foundation is particularly

interested in how the use of media and technology

can engage youth, and the broader community in

which they are situated, to develop new approaches

to build on their strengths and assets. back

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is Benton focused on underserved young people?


2010 there will be 50 million Americans between

the age of 16 and 28, a historic high. Approximately

25% of them will be out of school, under-employed

and with limited skills. Young people in their

late teens and twenties who are of color, live

in urban centers or isolated rural communities,

are under court supervision and are single parents

are disproportionately underserved. Media and

communications tools, when embedded in comprehensive

approaches to youth development, can play an important

role in reconnecting them to a future of productive

work and civic involvement.


communities to expand pathways for youth development

using technology will provide incalculable social



  • Increasing

    economic competitiveness and earnings.

    Economic competitiveness in the global economy

    increasingly requires a highly skilled workforce.

    Transitioning out-of-school youth into higher

    education would tap over a trillion dollars

    in earning potential over the lifetime of this


  • Making

    America stronger.

    "Literacy and

    learning are the foundation of democracy and

    development," states the National Security

    Strategy published by the White House in September

    2002. Allowing millions of young adults to fall

    through the cracks will prevents America from

    realizing its true potential in the years ahead.

  • Strengthening

    young people and their families.


    half of young adults with the lowest level of

    skills are living in poverty. There is overwhelming

    evidence that as adults' literacy skills improve,

    so does their children's success in school,

    breaking the cycle of poverty and exclusion.

    Gaining new skills also makes adults more likely

    to volunteer, vote and engage in the larger


    back to top


is Benton well suited to undertake this effort?


in 1981, the Benton Foundation researches and

promotes the use of media and communications tools

to strengthen communities. A legacy of the late

William Benton, former U.S. Senator and publisher

of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the foundation

works with nonprofit organizations, community

leaders, the business community and philanthropy

to develop successful strategies for using the

Internet and broadcast media to advance the economic,

civic and educational well-being of underserved



Benton Foundation has a respected track record


  • Web-based

    public education


    Harnessing the Webâs power to build communities

    of interest, share ideas and catalyze real-time


  • Skilled

    brokering of diverse stakeholders


    Convening decision-makers across sectors to

    discuss and implement break-the-bold action


  • Policy

    advocacy on behalf of the public interest


    Mobilizing our networks to impact the policy


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what does Benton propose to do?


foundation will build on its historic strengths

and assets as a public educator, trusted broker

and policy advocate to ensure all young people

develop the skills to compete in the new century.

The following activities are already underway

and are the efforts on which we will continue

to build momentum and forge effective partnership.

  • Spark

    community reflection and engagement.

    The Benton

    Foundation staff will work in select localities

    to explore how digital literacy can be woven

    into formal curriculum and informal content

    delivery in school and non-school settings in

    low-income and minority communities. The foundation

    is collaborating with the Center for Civic Participation

    and the Greater Phoenix Leadership in the East

    Valley of Phoenix to convene stakeholders and

    to develop a community-wide strategy for building

    media and technology competency.

  • Inform

    the policymaking process.


    justify investment and sharpen effective use

    of community technology, it is vital that we

    document, digest and share research on what's

    working in the field and what's not. The Benton

    Foundation is partnering with EDC/Center for

    Children & Technology and the Quality in

    Education Centre in Glasgow, Scotland to inform

    and engage decision-makers through the Teens

    and Technology Roundtable.

  • Building

    communities of interest.

    The foundation

    is working with OneWorld International, the

    worldâs premier nonprofit gateway for locally

    relevant news and information on international

    development, on a Digital Literacy portal. The

    portal will build on the U.N. Literacy Decade

    mandate to close the education gap, using innovative

    techniques, such as information and communications

    technology-based solutions. 

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Benton give out grants as part of this initiative?


The Benton Foundation is an operating foundation

rather than a grantmaking foundation. In other

words, we reinvest our endowment into staff-driven

programmatic work rather than offering grants

to other institutions. Approximately 85 percent

of our annual budget must be fundraised by Benton

staff, not unlike many other nonprofit organizations.


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will Benton evaluate the progress of the initiative?


will assess the ability to influence change locally

and nationally through our community-driven engagement

and our global digital literacy portal. In selected

localities, are we successful as catalysts for

community action? Have we sparked the development

of new models for building digital literacy skills

among underserved youth? And nationally, are we

successful at equipping national stakeholders

with evidence from community-based practice? Have

we provided tools and information to push for

increased resources and better policies to address

the real needs of underserved young people?


framework for measuring results will build on

the foundation's long-standing capacity building

and policy advocacy goals: We will assess community

assets and needs, document what's working and

what's missing in the field, promote models that

match community needs and technology's potential,

and disseminate lessons learned on technology's

impact on community outcomes. Because our goal

is social change, our emphasis in evaluation will

be practical and process-oriented so that it provides

information to guide and improve programs in a

dynamic way. back to top



whom are we looking to collaborate?


foundation is conferring with leaders representing

underserved communities, business, the nonprofit

sector, philanthropy and academia and is in the

process of cultivating new partnerships. Benton's

approach depends on an alliance with strategic

partners to support the campaign's goals, particularly

in building trust with local communities and in

building momentum to develop and implement new

approaches to effective practice and new policy

formulations.   back

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