2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 11-1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM


KARSTEN, Jill, Directorate for Geosciences, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22230, jkarsten@nsf.gov

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has held broadening participation in the STEM disciplines as a high priority for many years, recognizing that diversity is not a "problem to be solved" but is a vital component of a healthy and productive STEM research, innovation, and education ecosystem. NSF's INCLUDES initiative - a new 6-year, NSF-wide effort for "Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners that have been Underrepresented for Diversity in Engineering and Science" - seeks to achieve collective impact by catalyzing implementation of networks that leverage existing programs, people, organizations, and alliances. Other investments will support greater engagement of middle grade youth in STEM. NSF's Directorate for Geosciences expects to invest ~$2.44 M in the pilot year of INCLUDES, building on lessons learned through the 10-year Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences (OEDG) program. Collective impact models require five conditions for success (Kania and others): 1) a common agenda; 2) shared measurement systems; 3) mutually reinforcing activities; 4) continuous communication; and 5) backbone support organizations. The geosciences community should embrace such collaborative approaches for making progress on diversity. However, the community is small and the many obstacles to achieving diversity we confront are complex, making diffusion and aggregation of locally impactful approaches an inefficient strategy for systemic progress. Instead, the community needs to deploy more advective approaches that catalyze rapid transformation and promote tipping points in the system. As per Gladwell, three change agents are needed to achieve a tipping point: 1) the "Law of the Few" or the out-sized role played by a small portion of the community; 2) the "Stickiness Factor" needed to make messages memorable and viral; and 3) the "Power of Context" or the environmental readiness for social change. The messages are clear and the timing is right. But, rather than rely on "the few," every geoscientist needs to play a role in this equation, whether as – in the vernacular of Gladwell – a "Connector," who serve as a network hub; a "Maven," who serves as a broker of new information; or as a "Salesmen," who persuades others to be part of the solution. Through which role will you contribute?