Sustainable Progress and Equality Collective (SPEC) opened its virtual doors on November 9, 2020, its mission to empower individuals to become globally-minded change agents by helping them learn the essential skills required to build sustainable careers and make a positive impact in their communities. SPEC is working to achieve that mission by offering internships, mentoring, training, microcredentials and hosting events.
SPEC was founded in June 2020 by Dr. Rhianna Rogers and Joe Torreggiani in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest facing their communities. Dr. Rogers is Lead Principal Investigator of the Buffalo Project, a 10-year longitudinal participatory action research project utilizing data-driven diversity initiatives to inform solution-making efforts in college and community environments. Joe Torreggiani, a senior software engineer and philanthropist, joined forces with Dr. Rogers to advance the Buffalo Project’s efforts, and apply technological innovations focused on the areas of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM). As Dr. Rogers stated, "blending Buffalo Project's proven programs with SPEC's focus on sustainable skill-building is a viable way to provide diverse people with more access and opportunities. Given the social unrest in our society, we need to be doing more to help. We believe that SPEC is an organization that can step up and fill that need."
SPEC’s core contributors are from across the United States, brought together by a common belief in the core values of mutual reciprocity, transparency, sustainability and inclusivity. They aim to advocate for change, raise awareness of DEI, reduce social disparities and help promote long-term prosperity for all. SPEC raises funding and compensates its contributors and interns on Open Collective, an open source platform that ensures all donations and expenses are 100% transparent. According to SPEC co-founder Joe Torreggiani, “in order to adapt to this rapidly changing world, while adhering to our core values, SPEC operates as an open learning organization. We work transparently, openly sharing knowledge and continuously improving by integrating participant feedback, research and data analysis.”
The result of their efforts has been the development of two pilot programs; the Community, Innovation and Technology Internship for a Sustainable and Equitable Nation (CITISEN) program and the SPEC Learning platform. The goal of the CITISEN program is to provide personalized service-learning experiences to help individuals from underrepresented backgrounds achieve financial independence and become community leaders.
SPEC Learning is an online educational platform that offers microcredentials, stackable competency-based short microcredentials, focused on bridging skill gaps. The first FREE microcredential offered by SPEC Learning is Office Street Smarts, based on the 2013 survey data collected by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). This 3-week microcredential is designed to provide essential competency training, including organization, project management, and interpersonal skills, such as teamwork, diversity, communication, and persuasiveness (Sauder et al., 2016).
- Sauder, M.H., Sefton, R. & Evans, B. (2016, November 1). Embedding career management competency into curricula. National Association of Colleges and Employers. Available at: https://www.naceweb.org/career-readiness/best-practices/embedding-career-management-competency-into-curricula/