New ACT Foundation Envisions a Future Where Performance Matters Most in a National Learning Economy

Posted: October 3rd, 2013

October 3, 2013 AUSTIN, Texas—Today, the new ACT Foundation launched as a national, operating foundation to catalyze and advance a National Learning Economy that will cultivate the success of working learners, businesses, and the nation as a whole.

The ACT Foundation announced at its inaugural meeting its vision of a National Learning Economy, in which every person is highly valued for his or her knowledge and skills, and an individual’s ability to perform is rewarded by life satisfaction and career success. In collaboration with thought leaders and stakeholders representing economic and community development, business and industry, education, technology, talent development, and philanthropy, the Foundation aims to raise the learning and economic trajectories of working learners, including young low-income working learners, by reimagining the learning ecology through an economic development lens.

“We are focusing on working learners—individuals who weave together learning opportunities from various environments, resources, and experiences while juggling the demands of family, life, and work,” said ACT Foundation Executive Director Parminder Jassal. “We need to reengineer education and talent development so individuals can access a portfolio of learning options anytime, anywhere to increase performance that is highly valued and will lead to success in careers and life.”

The ACT Foundation was endowed by ACT, the nonprofit public trust known for its multiple measures of individuals’ competencies and characteristics. The ACT Foundation announced that it will be an action organization that builds evidence, convenes cross-sector stakeholders in service of public-private collaboration, and focuses on three strategic impact areas to catalyze a National Learning Economy: develop and release transformative and actionable evidence, catalyze and advance innovative solutions, and optimize real-world solutions.

Four Inaugural Investments The Foundation will seek not only to incubate new research and evidence but also to shine a light on results-based solutions already in the market. Toward this end, the Foundation unveiled four inaugural investments during the launch event in Austin: a national council of working learners, a national applied research network, support for learning technology innovators, and a national network of business and industry associations.

The Foundation is launching a Working Learner Campaign to raise awareness about the challenges and opportunities working learners face and to help empower working learners to choose their own learning journey. The ACT Foundation will recruit outstanding working learners to lead the North American Working Learner Council. Those selected will receive $12,000 stipends to advise the Foundation on its investments and activities.

To shape its research agenda, the Foundation has enlisted nine experts called “Aces” representing diverse disciplines to focus on the National Learning Economy and working learners. The disciplines represented by the Aces range from work- and competency-based learning to skills-based hiring, technology infusion, and inclusive competitiveness. The Aces Research Network includes economic development consultant and columnist Amy Kaslow, a former senior fellow with the Council on Competitiveness, and scientist and education innovator Merrilea Mayo, founder of Mayo Enterprises, LLC.

The Foundation announced a network for learning performance technology innovators called Moving Mind to Market that will assist these entrepreneurs on their journey to market, from prototyping to partnerships and beyond. The Foundation also announced the launch of the Network of Business and Industry Associations, to help bridge the business-education divide and provide the necessary voice and influence of business in designing or supporting solutions that expand all types of learning opportunities to produce a highly competent and skilled workforce.

ACT CEO Jon Whitmore, whose organization pledged during its 50th anniversary celebration in 2009 to create the Foundation, said, “Businesses small and large recognize that learning doesn’t stop at the schoolhouse door or on the college campus. We face intense competition in the world that will continue to erode our standard of living unless we help more Americans reach their full potential.”

Jassal adds, “We are committed to telling the stories of working learners, to amplifying their voices, as we work together to build a National Learning Economy. We want to strengthen the connection between industry needs and learning experiences to create a culture that recognizes and rewards increased performance resulting from diverse learning experiences.

The Foundation launch event itself is a learning journey for the 140 leaders assembled from various sectors and perspectives. Together the launch participants will travel to different learning settings across Austin to hear from entrepreneurs, educators, business leaders, researchers, and learners themselves.

“Together with some outstanding thinkers, innovators, and practitioners, we are embarking upon a new journey with a thoughtful road map to impact the social and economic culture through change in our learning and working systems,” said Jassal. “But although we have an initial road map, we also know that we have to be constantly open to integrating changing ideas and practice so we can adapt to new realities and transition to a performance-driven economy.”

Before taking the Foundation’s helm, Jassal, who holds a doctorate in education leadership from the University of Louisville, was a key player in The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Success initiative for low-income young adults. She also worked in corporate America and was Louisville’s workforce development director.


About the ACT Foundation

The ACT Foundation is an Austin, TX-based national operating foundation that reaches across organizational boundaries, sectors, and the nation, to fund and develop strategic approaches to working and learning that supports working learners in their individual journeys to successful careers and lives. The ACT Foundation was endowed by ACT, a nonprofit public trust focused on helping people achieve educational and workplace success. As a private, independent foundation, the Foundation connects fifty years of data and insights to catalyze and build a National Learning Economy that will nurture the success of working learners and their families while fueling a stronger economy. Learn more at