The NationSwell Council is made up of social impact-oriented leaders and changemakers who are committed to pioneering solutions in order to better their communities — and the world around them. In NationSwell’s latest series, “Five Minutes With…,” we sit down with members of our community whose exemplary leadership deserves a deeper dive. Here’s what Radha Ruparell, Head of Global Leadership Accelerator at Teach For All, had to share with us:
NationSwell: What does an equitable, human-centered future of work look like?
Radha Ruparell: The future of work is rapidly changing. There is growing uncertainty and complexity, technology is quickly evolving, and we are facing constant shifts in how we live, work, and learn. The challenge is that education systems around the world are failing to equip young people for this new reality. This is a global challenge, magnified even further for those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. An equitable, human-centered future of work is one where all young people have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.
NationSwell: How does the work you’re driving today help to build that future?
Radha Ruparell: To prepare for the future of work, we must invest intentionally in developing the leadership of young people to thrive, and lead, in a rapidly changing world. Across the Teach For All network, we have a growing force of locally-rooted, globally-informed leaders, including 13,000 teachers currently in classrooms, and 94,000 alumni reaching millions of students across 60 countries, who are united by a common purpose of growing students as leaders who can shape a better future for themselves and for all of us.
We recently engaged in a collective effort to explore this question of how we develop young people to be leaders of a better future, learning from 3,500 students, teachers, community members, CEOs, researchers, and policymakers from around the world. It brought to light the truth that our education systems today are too narrowly focused and are not preparing youth for the future of work, or for the array of other challenges they will inherit. The implication is that we need to rethink the purpose of education. Academic achievement is important, but this alone will not suffice. In our studies of transformational classrooms around the world, we see that the best teachers are oriented to growing their students’ leadership toward a more holistic set of outcomes, not just focusing on student mastery of skills & knowledge, but also on cultivating their wellbeing, connectedness, awareness & agency.
As one example, take the outcome of connectedness. So many of our education systems and workplaces are built on a foundation of individual achievement & competition. Yet, as we face new, complex challenges where no playbooks exist, we need workers who know how to collaborate effectively with one another to generate creative solutions. And we need to start now to cultivate these capacities, so that by the time they enter the workforce, our youth are practiced in how to seek out diverse perspectives, listen genuinely to those with different views, hold space for productive conflict, and work with others toward shared solutions.
NationSwell: What inspires or motivates you — personally and professionally — to do this work?
Radha Ruparell: What motivates me is that, if we can rethink the purpose of education, it’s not just about the future of work, it’s also about creating a humane, equitable world. It’s about fostering a generation of young people who are more conscious, who know how to work together to solve big problems, and who have the agency to lead this change. As I reflect on the big societal challenges we face, from rising polarization to climate change, it’s so clear to me that we won’t make progress unless we reimagine how we develop our young people.
NationSwell: What are some promising signs from the impact you’re driving?
Radha Ruparell: To prepare young people for the future of work, we need the collective leadership of many. We need to bring together students, educators, business leaders, and many other stakeholders to work jointly toward solutions. I’m excited to see more of these collective efforts emerging, whether it’s an intergenerational discussion bringing students and business leaders together to reflect on the future of work, or a global bank partnering with local communities in Cambodia to develop financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills among thousands of girls.
NationSwell: What are some of the challenges you’re facing? How can NationSwell’s social impact community of practice help you with those challenges?
Radha Ruparell: The challenges are particularly stark for those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. They often have less access to high-quality education and career development opportunities. As we continue these conversations about the future of work, we must include these voices at the table. Otherwise, we risk further perpetuating the inequities that already exist.
NationSwell: What’s your call to action to anyone who reads this Q+A?
Radha Ruparell: Whether you are a parent, student, educator, activist, or business leader, I would invite you to pause and ask deeper questions about WHY we educate and what skills and mindsets we need to equip young people with, not only to help them succeed at work, but also to unleash their full creativity, agency and leadership in shaping a better world.
Radha Ruparell is the Head of the Global Leadership Accelerator at Teach For All. Teach For All is bringing together educators, students, business leaders, and key stakeholders around a Future of Work Initiative. If you’re interested in learning more, please get in touch.