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How might we strengthen the capacity of rural community colleges to serve as critical economic growth engines for their learners and communities?


The Lab will lead a cohort of 5 rural community colleges in the BRIDGES Design Challenge, a multi-year initiative to create new pathways to postsecondary attainment and economic opportunity in rural communities. Throughout the design challenge, engagement of regional collaboratives and dissemination of learnings, models, tools, and practices will ensure that the impact of this work extends beyond the initial pilot programs. 

The BRIDGES Design Challenge will: 

  • produce outcomes-focused prototype models and pilot designs ready for implementation by rural community colleges
  • build the capacity of participating community colleges to better serve rural learners through human-centered design, change management and innovation strategies, consultation of subject matter experts, and exposure to promising models. 
  • publish and broadly disseminate new knowledge and thought leadership on rural learners’ goals, challenges, and experiences related to their careers and postsecondary education and training.
  • establish lasting infrastructure for effective regional collaboration between educators, employers, funders, government agencies, and other community organizations.

Primary Audience

Rural Community College Learners

Project Length

April 1, 2020 - June 1, 2023

Design Process

In Fall 2020, the Lab will select 5 rural community colleges to participate in BRIDGES through a national, invite-only RFP process. Over the course of the design challenge, these institutions will gain experience in human-centered design and innovation methods for problem-solving. The Lab team will lead the cohort through a design-and-build process to produce new models that improve outcomes for rural learners and their communities. Each pilot will be pressure tested against impact, learner and faculty buy-in, and potential for scale. A nationally recognized evaluator will assess the initiative.

The Lab will provide a guided, immersive cohort experience that includes the following: facilitation of a structured design process, workshops and convenings, bi-weekly coaching, leadership and expertise in developing education-to-workforce models, and access to industry and subject matter experts. We will regularly share the learnings and activities of the cohort with a broader audience of rural leaders and practitioners through social media channels, thought leadership pieces, media articles, and other outlets.

Our Partner

Through BRIDGES, the Lab will lead a cohort of 5 rural community colleges to build their capacity to respond to their regional labor markets and to enable greater economic agility for their learners and communities.

Through a structured design-and-build process, participating colleges will produce pilots to catalyze economic opportunity and improve outcomes for rural learners and their communities. Along the way, these institutions will gain experience in human-centered design and innovation strategies.

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To get in touch, contact our team at BRIDGESrural@eddesignlab.org

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