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Good Point

Connect to the current musings, columns, and blogs posted by Five Point's team here. The latest on research, analysis, and commentary.


A Culture of Continuous Learning Impacts the Bottom Line

Teresa Barber

6 Key Facts for Business Owners and Managers

For many small businesses and bootstrapping startups, owners and managers wear many hats, often engaging at deeply tactical levels from one mission-critical issue to the next. When in such a tactical mode, it can become hard to see the forest for the trees: strategy can help an enterprise anticipate the challenges and opportunities on the horizon, but if we don’t have a chance to step back and look upward and outward, we may never have a chance to instill our daily operations and work with meaningful strategic intent. This is directly true for employee learning and development (L&D), and we can see strong evidence in the spending and investment behaviors of large enterprises and high-performing companies. 

We may intuitively know that there’s a reason why so many high-performing companies consistently prioritize L&D. As Forbes identifies in its recent annual Corporate Learning Factbook, US spending on corporate training jumped 15% from 2013 to 2014, reaching over $70 billion in the US alone. This jump followed at least two years of sequential 2-digit climbs in corporate L&D spending. 

As US companies steadily boost investment in L&D, many additional indicators point to the values of employee engagement that great L&D efforts can deliver.

The Institute for Employment Studies notes that increasing engagement by just 10%, such as through L&D programming, can increase profits by approximately $2,100 per employee, per year. 

The Corporate Leadership Council indicates that organizations can engage employees and team members through L&D and other efforts can reduce staff turnover by 87%.

For Coca-Cola Company’s bottle division, CCI, L&D investment is made to advance two main goals: build a highly-capable organization (proficiency and skills), and be the employer of choice for employees (talent recruitment and retention). 

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How to Rock (your social media strategy) in 5 Steps

Teresa Barber

Having worked with a range of clients across the public, private, and non-profits sectors, we've gained some helpful experience about specific tips and tricks for organizations.

Whether you're an established chamber of commerce in a large city with a lean, hardworking team, or a boot-strapping start-up wearing too many hats to mention, you should have a good handle on your online and social media platforms. They can provide significant value for your enterprise and team, and can also carry the potential for risk if not tended intelligently.

Here are 5 steps you can take now to bolster your strategy and strengthen your positioning.

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What Can We Learn from the Rising Generation of Leaders?

Teresa Barber

Today is one of those days where I'm floored with a mixture of gratitude and pride. My team at FivePoint, has been honored to help an incredible start-up called Prison Bars get ready for launch and prepare for an appearance today on the Steve Harvey show.

Learning about the story of former NBA basketball player and Prison Bars founder Seth Sundberg, and seeing the impassioned drive he and his remarkable team have to create pathways for formerly incarcerated individuals to find employment, regain dignity, and make good on second chances has been inspiring. When I hear them say that they want to make the business case for tackling recidivism with their "criminally delicious" snack bars, I have no doubt that they're heading for a slam dunk.

Having studied and worked in economic and workforce development for years, I've been able to look at recidivism and broader workforce and economic mobility issues in a number of communities.

Image credit: Tegan Kinane/NBC

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Solving the Puzzle in the Storm: A Look at the Community Schools Model

Teresa Barber

Growing up in Pensacola, I enjoyed the suspense of many hurricane days as a kid. My family would typically have to evacuate to a spot further inland from the coast, usually to my grandparents’ house. We would have books, radios, games, and puzzles splayed out to keep us all occupied while we waited out the storm.

Puzzles were my favorite pastime during those storms, especially those with lots of pieces. The best part of assembling a large puzzle was the moment when I shifted my focus from the detail of a small section to the full image that was forming: perspective.

It’s easy to get lost on details, to not see the forest for the trees.

While we humans are great at building systems or solutions that focus on highly specific problems or tasks, we sometimes struggle as communities or teams to connect those systems or pieces together in a holistic manner.

Some Florida communities are connecting the dots as they step up to promote community schools. A series of community schools have been established in Central Florida, and most recently Tallahassee has built tremendous momentum to launch a pilot at a site in South City.

Community schools aim to improve outcomes for kids and their communities by integrating partnerships and resources. They are built around a strategic concept: It isn’t just a facility or place, but a hub of partnerships that sees and treats the end-user as a whole. It’s a bold shift from the traditional binary focus of schools and programming to which we are accustomed, where multiple challenges or needs of one client are addressed with numerous distinct programs and interventions in separate silos, often without coordination.

I like to think of it this way: The phone I would have used as a kid during one of my hurricane stays had one main function: make and receive calls. Today, it will not only place and receive calls, but take and send photos, texts, and emails; crunch numbers; play videos and movies; and offer me challenging puzzles and games to play. All the many services I would have sought through separate means have now been brought into one channel: I’m treated as a whole. Since I’m not forced to hunt for a calculator, video camera, puzzle box, and DVD player… I have slack — extra time and flexibility — that can be used to be more productive and write this column.

In community schools, strategic alignment is key to designing operational infrastructure, establishing and integrating partnerships and resources, and serving the end-user. A community school coordinator may work alongside a supportive principal, and serve on the school’s leadership team. Internal partnerships among school staff are critical, as well as throughout partner organizations in the community. Considerations are often made in the community school that traditional models aren’t focusing on: college and career readiness, citizenship, health and wellness, social services support, work-based and experiential learning or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programming, early childhood development, and family engagement.

The decision to develop Tallahassee’s inaugural community school was made following a recent panel meeting of officials and experts across government, education, nonprofit and healthcare agencies, law enforcement, and community leadership. City Commissioner Gil Ziffer had toured Maynard Evans High School, a community school site in Orlando. Evans had jumped in ranking from a D to a B school, and Ziffer shared the model with the Tallahassee panel. When services are integrated in a strategic manner, the social and emotional needs are met and the focus for kids can stay on learning, exploring, and growing.

Along with consideration of the impact the community school model can have for residents and kids, an additional consideration is efficiency. Services that already exist in a splintered manner across various sites and locations are strategically integrated. Efficiency is created for the programs and providers, as well as for the kids and surrounding community. This means greater impact without greater cost.

The community schools model speaks to a form of intelligent program deployment and strategic alignment that can inform other areas of civic life. What are the possibilities for our communities and systems if we take a step back, look across the room at our partners who are working on different parts of the same puzzles, and think about how we can collaborate on shared goals?

Originally published in Context Florida, October 8, 2015.

Coding to catch up on the neglected literacy

Teresa Barber

It’s computer science education week.

We are anticipating the largest learning event in history through the Hour of Code this week. While I’m writing this column, 147,908,891 learners have received a cost-free introduction to coding and computer science around the globe and across 40 different languages.

Google, Facebook, SalesForce, Disney Infinity, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, College Board, PopCap, and other corporate partners are investing to help drive the movement. STEM and tech skills are recognized in the board room as vital to success, and to building and sustaining a reliable pipeline of talent.

Computer science can easily be pointed to as part of the “T” in STEM (an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math). But that’s not quite the full picture.

Companies across industries, from aviation and aerospace to healthcare and logistics, already get it. Programming, critical thinking, coding, and computer proficiency are needed among workers now, and will be needed increasingly in years ahead as technology continues to evolve. Problem-solving and creativity are outcomes that occur when we break down the silos between the letters of the acronym. They occur  when we work across individual disciplines, roll up our sleeves, and engage abstract concepts and creativity to build, understand, engineer, solve, and collaborate.

The way we interact with machines in daily consumer and work life has dramatically evolved. We once used a telephone, a fax machine, a courier, a television, a VCR, a white board, a magazine rack, a book shelf. We now have single devices providing multiple services. Industry has kept pace with these shifts. When I first learned to code in Basic as a kid in the ’80s, I worked on big, boxy Macs with green cursors that took minutes sometimes to process entries. All levels of professionals now use graphic-rich and user-friendly intermediary apps and programs to complete many tasks, from designing websites with a few simple clicks to monitoring health data.

Today, data plays a big role in operational and strategic decisions for industry. Ships and logistics systems use timing and information to track inventory and continuously improve shipment and inventory processes. On the manufacturing floor, computers guide production of life-saving equipment, and delicate machine components. The workers who can adapt to new tech skills have an advantage. Those who can create new apps, intermediary software and interfaces, and technologies even more so.

The boardroom gets it. The question of ensuring a workforce with computing skills isn’t just a question of checking the box for the “T” in STEM. It’s about providing the tools of today, and engaging with hands-on opportunities to learn, explore, and create across subjects and problems. It has taken us too long to understand that our kids often are left without the tools needed to speak in the language of modern industry. If coding and programming are so vital to innovation, creativity, industry, and job readiness why haven’t we prepared ourselves and our kids?

Computer science is still often in a silo. STEM programming in general is frequently cornered off from “regular” curricula.

The STEM Act of 2015 moves our definition forward to acknowledge that learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom. To that end, programming in science centers, museums, after-school programs, camps, and other spaces can receive allocations of existing federal funding for STEM programming. Further, the Act instructs the National Science Foundation to continue to fund extracurricular programs in STEM fields.

While an hour is great to introduce a child to the world of coding and programming, it’s the long-haul that counts. Up until this point, we have largely neglected the need for the tech skills that hold such significant relevance to our industries, workforce readiness, and our economic competitiveness. STEM, and computing specifically, has long been a literacy area we have all but ignored.

Graduates with STEM skills, especially in programming and computing, have a distinct advantage. 

Graduates with STEM skills, especially in programming and computing, have a distinct advantage. 

Computing is key to our ability to create, connect, make and build things, and work together. In Florida, kids graduating with strong STEM skills, especially in computing, have a distinct advantage. Those skills are in demand, and the supply is short. Analysis from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that from October 2014 through October 2015, STEM job postings increased by 10.9 percent in Florida, compared with 4.4 percent nationally.

According to Change the Equation, a typical computer programmer with only some college earns more than a typical non-STEM worker with a bachelor’s degree: $76,000 for the worker who can program but has no four-year degree; $73,000 for the one who can’t program but graduated from a four-year institution.
The critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills employed through STEM programming help students and learners (of all ages) adapt to new situations and processes – an important quality, considering the speed of technology’s evolution and its impact on workplace roles and demands, and especially considering that many of the jobs today’s kids will be applying for in 15 years don’t even yet exist. Youngsters engaged in STEM programming are also getting a taste of the “how” and the “why” and being encouraged to ask questions, and figure out answers. Isn’t this core to the American spirit of innovation?


With some of the recent shifts in federal policy, including the changes brought forward by the STEM Education Act of 2015, we have an opportunity in our communities to advance our own “how” and “why” for learning, job readiness, and innovation. As a nation, we’re catching up to what we as individual hot spots of educators, regional leaders, economic developers, and kids have known for a while now: STEM isn’t just an acronym, it’s a verb. We should be STEMming everywhere we go. As a nation, we’re realizing that the very language of innovation, connectivity, and industry has evolved and is continuing to do so.

For a nation that aspires to gain position as a a creative engine for ideas, products, services, and solutions, this is good news.

Teresa Barber is founder and principal at Five Point and chairman of the board for STEM Story, a national nonprofit sparking girls’ awareness of STEM careers through video and mentoring. She also supports STEMflorida Inc. as director of Strategy & Engagement. Column courtesy of Context Florida.