Possibility thinking: Reimagining the future of further education and skills

Possibility Thinking is a new collection of essays published in collaboration with the RSA.

In setting up the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL), the resolve of the board was to establish not an organisation but what might be termed an “organ of possibility”. The idea was to support people already working in the sector, whether at colleges, independent training providers, third-sector learning providers or in industry, to think about the things they wanted to think about in pursuit of intelligent development. We invited people to reflect on whatever they were curious about in further education (FE) and skills, knowing that this would give us, and our colleagues and collaborators, critical insight into the state of the system.

The preoccupations of those working in the sector are not trivial. They matter and deserve to be taken seriously and explored. By stimulating, feeding and creating opportunities for thinking in and by the sector, and by exploring new dimensions and enabling fresh insight, sometimes from beyond the sector, our aim was to make it stronger, more self-assured and better prepared to tackle the challenges ahead. After three years of experimentation, FETL is on the cusp of change. While we continue to turn a listening ear to the preoccupations and curiosities of the sector – they are, after all, the things that fuel our work – FETL will look increasingly to harvest what we have learned from the sector, through our grants and Fellowships and our events, as well as by less formal means, to commission new creative and collaborative spaces for thinking.

These spaces, identified by FETL’s board, on the basis of reflection on what has gone before, as critical sites for further learning, are at the heart of our second phase of operation. We want to live the kind of leadership we would like to see across the sector – leadership characterised by creativity, trust, enterprise and agency – and encourage generative collaboration with relevant partners, some within the sector, some on the fringes of it, and others still some distance away from it. This publication, the result of FETL’s partnership with the RSA, represents the first substantial fruit of this approach.

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