In Finland, sixth graders can temporarily fast forward to the roles and responsibilities of working life through a unique program that gets them thinking like professionals. Under the Me & My City program, students select occupations and participate in a micro-society for one day, equipped with government, retail, and financial services where they must make decisions to further their businesses, professions, and the community. Seventy percent of Finland’s sixth graders will participate in this activity during the academic year, with the costs covered by the country’s Ministry of Education and Culture, municipalities, and other private and nonprofit partners. Since the program’s inception several years ago, it has won awards and garnered studies to understand how students are developing a larger experiential understanding of the challenges they will face as adults.
Locations around the world are finding novel ways to eliminate food waste — byproducts that hurt their economy, fill landfills, and decay into methane gas that contributes to climate change. Philadelphia mandates that all new homes have an in-sink shredder for food waste where the resulting slurry is used to create biogas to power the city’s water treatment plant. France has passed laws that require supermarkets to donate unsold items to charities or food banks. In Leeds, England, supermarkets provide food to a state school in a poor neighborhood. Other European cities have set up community refrigerators where anyone can drop off food they are not going to use for others to pick up. And, outside of the public sector, startups and nonprofits have popped up to find ways to reuse and repurpose leftover food and connect the food to places and people that need it.
Ramsey County, Minnesota, is part of a growing movement that is reevaluating how to measure success in welfare-to-work programs. Rather than client meetings best summed up as detached compliance checks and timesheet audits, employment counselors helping clients to critically self-assess their circumstances, draft long-term plans, and chart their own career paths. This holistic approach employs over 20 nuanced indicators of success in categories related to job retention, educational attainment, and engagement with workforce development resources — not just whether the clients are employed. Counselors are also working with their clients to learn about and address the particular background issues that may be preventing them from staying employed. Further, the state has created a “self-support index” that studies how people are doing three years after first receiving assistance. The county is still studying whether their approach is more effective than traditional welfare counseling, but initial results look promising.
To address rising rents, the mayor of London has announced a new initiative that will offer eligible residents newly built rental homes at an affordable, below-market rate. Under London Living Rent, low- to middle-income households that are not poor enough to qualify for public housing will pay rent pegged to their income rather than merely being offered housing at below-market rate when the costs may still be untenable. While the idea is intriguing, observers note that the success of the scheme will depend on increasing the availability of the new housing and more policy details on how the program will be implemented.
Some schools are finding that the key to boosting attendance rates for their poorest students is simply ensuring that they have access to clean clothes. Students that go to school wearing dirty clothes, because they do not have appliances at home, their family cannot afford detergent, or their electricity has been shut off, can feel insecure and skip class as a result. In response, these schools, partnering with businesses such as Whirlpool, have installed washers and dryers for children to use at school. Whirlpool is expanding its partnership to 20 schools this fall, and results from its current work have shown a dramatic increase in attendance rates when the students have access to clean clothes.
The California Department of Justice has launched a new database that houses a comprehensive statewide dataset of police use-of-force incidents, a first in the nation according to the department. New legislation requires police departments in California to report and help track every time an officer’s use of force causes serious injuries. With URSUS, the database’s nickname, law enforcement personnel will be able to input data fields such as time and place of the incident, citizens and officers involved, type of force, and age, race and gender of the participants. The platform is cloud-based and open-source, which allowed the department to save millions of dollars in development costs.