The Shifting Gears Approach to Systems Change


Publication Date: December 2009

Publisher: Center for Law and Social Policy

Author(s): Brandon Roberts

Research Area: Economics; Education

Keywords: low-skilled workers ; changing economy; adult education

Type: Report

Coverage: Ohio Minnesota Michigan Illinois


The Joyce Foundation's Shifting Gears initiative began in 2007 as a state policy change effort in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. The goal is to strengthen state postsecondary, adult basic education, and skills-development systems so more low-skilled workers gain the education, skills, and credentials needed to succeed in our changing economy.

This paper addresses the Shifting Gears approach to systems change with a particular
focus on the logic model, and policy agenda and action plan – two tools used to guide
and support states’ efforts to pursue systemic change throughout the postsecondary, adult
basic education, and skills-development systems.

The report highlights several lessons that emerged after two and a half years of operation and study. It depicts both the challenges and opportunities states are likely to face when pursuing systems change efforts. In particular, it finds that close collaboration among stakeholders and focused attention on systems and institutional change provide a strong foundation for improving education and skills outcomes for adults.