Letter from the chairman:

We believe that we can help equip the rising generation with the skills needed to thrive in the 21st century. There is no question: our highly connected world offers powerful tools, real opportunities, and unprecedented challenges.

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” -Stephen Hawking

To our Colleagues and Friends,

Nearly two decades into the 21st century, technology has drastically changed how we view, interact with, and shape the world. The tools we use to connect and communicate with others have changed how we present our identities and pursue our aspirations in monumental ways.

The advent of a more connected world offers great possibility, while presenting an equal measure of challenge.  We are grappling with issues of protecting privacy, promoting public safety, and how to best use the powerful tools at our disposal, all while identifying and defining the skillsets that will be most highly valued. We are trying to figure out how to optimally connect and disconnect, and, above all, how to treat one another in a world where information comes at us from every direction through multiple channels. These, and dozens of other issues, will take on increasing import in the coming years.

SCE’s work is built around a single question: what is the best way to prepare the rising generation to thrive in a highly connected, fast-changing, complex world? In an effort to answer this question, we manage three strategic grantmaking programs, each intended to help prepare today’s youth to be competent, productive, and fulfilled members of society.

Digital Learning

While technology is shaping the way the world lives, works, and plays, there is increasing evidence that technology has increased the gap between low-income populations and everyone else. Obsolete tools, irregular internet access, and mindsets around innovation in education can hinder the development of learning skills crucial to success in today’s economy. What’s more, the vast majority of schools have not kept up with the pace of change due to increasing financial constraints and short-term decision making, which further exacerbates this divide. If we are unable to prepare youth, particularly low-income youth, with the right skills and support to address these changes, they will be left further and further behind. Our Digital Learning program attempts to connect and capitalize on some of these powerful tools to address the chronic flaws that exist today. Today’s technology—paired with  the right human support—offers an opportunity to channel high-quality learning material to kids, anywhere, anytime.

Our current Digital Learning Challenge is exploring the answers to these questions. This effort aspires to gain and share knowledge about how digital tools and practices can promote the development of essential skills, while addressing common barriers like lack of funding for training, tools, and support. We are working with a highly selective group of program partners and a research team to understand the answers. What we’ve learned so far is that the questions we are asking big, and the answers are more complex, and more provocative, than we anticipated. Stay tuned. We are excited about what we’ll learn.

Social and Emotional Learning

Our second program area speaks to the set of skills that are most highly correlated to life success and satisfaction.  Some of the attributes we focus on include: problem-solving, emotion management, teamwork, responsibility, initiative, and empathy. These social and emotional skills form the framework for all meaningful relationships. Without them, even the brightest individual can fail.

A significant body of research confirms that social and emotional skills can be learned. These attributes are usually modeled and taught by supportive adults. Unfortunately, many teens lack close, supportive relationships with adults, and there is a paucity of safe places to go between dismissal and dinnertime and on weekends.

Our first effort in this area was to create “The SEL Challenge,” a process designed to shed light on how some of the very best afterschool programs work to equip teens with lifelong social and emotional skills. Our evidence-informed view is that skills like emotion management and problem-solving are critical to success, but very little was known about the strategies and practices to build these capacities. We selected eight geographically and programmatically diverse organizations, whose common characteristics include superb track records, high-quality programming and staff, and an intentional effort to cultivate social and emotional skills in youth.

In addition to providing direct support to some of our nation’s best youth programs, we studied and codified those practices that cultivate social and emotional skills. The findings from the Challenge identified promising practices to build SEL skills in vulnerable adolescents.  These practices can be remixed and applied to any service setting, and offer a methodology for applying proven practices, at scale.

We have shared this work, along with our research, case studies, and measurement and assessment tools in a field guide “Preparing Youth to Thrive: Promising Practices in Social & Emotional Learning,” available for free at www.selpractices.org.

By sharing what we’ve learned, we hope to stimulate new conversations on the importance of SEL and Digital Learning.

Catalyst Grants

And finally, we have program for catalytic grants. Catalyst Grants span all areas of nonprofit practice, seeking to recognize innovative and promising approaches to chronic social problems. The list of grantees best describes this approach.

This work is a privilege and a joy. SCE could not operate without its knowledgeable, dedicated board, and its keenly intelligent, capable staff team. None of this work would be possible without the extraordinary legacy of Henry Crown, who believed, as I do, that actions always speak louder than words.

Susan Crown

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Our Mission:

SCE is invested in shaping an ecosystem of anytime, anywhere, 21st century learning to prepare youth to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing and highly connected world. Through three primary programs—digital learning, social and emotional learning, and our catalyst grants—SCE connects talent and innovation with forces for positive change.

We seek to broaden the definition of success to include mastery of skills like problem solving, complex systems thinking, and digital literacy, which extend beyond the acquisition of knowledge –to learning how to learn.

Watch a video about our work here.

Our History:

In 2009, after three decades in traditional philanthropy, Susan Crown decided to pursue a more finely tuned, strategic approach to social investment. She wanted to focus on a handful of programs, and to take bigger risks on innovative ways to drive positive change for the rising generation. So she built an entity that is different, and nimbler, than traditional foundations. Susan assembled a talented and unconventional staff, and a board of experienced leaders from the public, private, and social sectors. The result is SCE — the Susan Crown Exchange, a social investment organization with a fresh approach to catalyzing change through philanthropy.

Our Team: