Project Summary

Micro-credentials (micro-creds or creds) can provide an innovative means to create and capture social, cultural and economic value for young people and their communities.

The Project

What are Micro-creds?

The program imagines that these micro-creds can deliver on the promise of developing scalable, place-based responses for young people’s health and well-being, and education, training and employment pathways for sustainable, regenerative and just futures.

Micro-credentials (micro-creds or creds) are a relatively recent, digitally enabled, approach to the accreditation of skills development and training outcomes, often in usually non-accredited, informal or non-traditional training contexts (see, BCA 2018Learning Vault 2020).

In Australia the most recent and high-profile policy engagement with the potential of micro-creds to capture skills development can be found in a section of the recent Australian Government’s Education Council review of senior secondary pathways into work, further education and training (Shergold 2020).

Chaired by Peter Shergold the review, titled  Looking into the Future, defines a micro-cred as a ‘certification of assessed skills and knowledge that learners have demonstrated or acquired through a short course of study or training’. These short courses ‘focus on smaller elements of learning and may stand alone or be additional, or complementary, to other certificated training. They may also be a component part of a formal qualification’.

The ‘potential of micro-credentials has come into particular focus as a result of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic’, according to the review, where the pandemic ‘has shown the value of being able to pivot an economy in unforeseen ways’.

In a pre COVID-19 world, these credentials were in increasing demand for a number of purposes, including: ‘as “stackable” credit towards aggregated awards’; employed to ‘recognise prior learning’; provide evidence of ‘graduate attributes’; and ‘warrant professional and continuing education for registration and licensing’.

Our response to the issues outlined by Shergold, and in other places – for example, Australia’s National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) recent report on An analysis of ‘micro-credentials’ in VET – is to suggest that micro-creds provide an important mechanism to deliver on the promise of innovation, flexibility, portability, co-design and place-based responses to the challenges for young people’s health and well-being, education, training and employment pathways, and sustainable, regenerative and just futures.

And to do this outside of existing national qualifications frameworks, or where there are no existing national qualifications frameworks. Especially when formal education systems are largely concerned with the individualised skills that ‘industry’ needs, and the testing and ranking of young people.

There are a number of models for how these promises might be met, including our own recent project – Micro-Credential for Neurodiverse Young People in Whittlesea – a number of others that we outlined in an earlier post on the UNEVOC@RMIT website, and current project (VitalArts) which is developing a different approach to micro-creds for 21st century skills in the creative industries.

The Challenge

‘…we are currently situated in a posthuman convergence between the Fourth Industrial Age and the Sixth Extinction, between an advanced knowledge economy, which perpetuates patterns of discrimination and exclusion, and the threat of climate change devastation for both human and non-human entities…’

Rosi Braidotti (2019)

Our Planet’s bio-sphere (the earth, atmosphere and oceans that enable and sustain life), and economic systems and models, are in a state of ‘permacrisis’. In this ‘Code Red‘ it is not the time for ‘business-as-usual’.

The Young People’s Sustainable Future Lab – drawing on the work of a number of recent projects – is developing a proposal for a program of applied research to co-design a series of micro-credentials (micro-creds) for sustainable, regenerative, and just futures in different places.

The program imagines that these micro-creds can deliver on the promise of developing scalable, place-based responses for young people’s health and well-being, and education, training and employment pathways for sustainable, regenerative and just futures.

The program model is framed by 4 key elements:

  • Capabilities – what skills, capabilities and forms of ‘value’ do communities want young people to develop (which currently go unrecognised and/or are not delivered in formal education systems)?
  • Activities – what existing or new activities will enable these capabilities to be developed?
  • Evidence – what forms of evidence – video, voice, creative, written – can be gathered to attest to the ‘value’ created?
  • Accreditation – how can this value be accredited to create trust in the micro-cred?


Micro-creds for Sustainable, Regenerative and Just Futures

Drawing on these and other models – including our work in developing a discussion paper on the concept of 21st century skills, and the work on COVID-19 recovery scenarios for young people that we have written about in many posts to this website – our project is framed by a number of key ideas, including:

  • Involving young people as stakeholders in their own future:
    • Young people aged between 12 and 24 (though this can be flexible).
  • Developing processes of co-design for ethical innovation (innovation that is Responsible, Inclusive, Disruptive and Engaged – Rickards and Steele 2019):
    • Partnering and collaborating with communities, agencies, governments, businesses, Third Sector Organisations, supra-national organisations to create and capture shared social, cultural and economic value for young people and communities.
  • Developing micro-creds for sustainable futures:
    • Co-designing ways of creating and capturing the shared social, cultural and economic value of young people’s learning and capabilities for acting as stakeholders in sustainable, regenerative and just futures.
  • Using the affordances of platform enabled by ‘digital badges’ to signal the value created through micro-creds:
    • Partnering with platforms such a Badgr, Credly and/or Learning Vault to develop local, scalable, portable, ‘trusted’ accreditation of young people’s capability development for sustainable, regenerative and just futures

Micro-creds for sustainable, regenerative and just futures are not only about an individual young person’s learning, and the accreditation of this learning.

While this is important, the development of micro-creds in this project is about the learning and capability development that is required for building shared, sustainable, regenerative and just futures in which young people are key stakeholders.

In this sense, we imagine these micro-creds emerging at the intersection of frameworks such as World Economic Forum’s understanding of “21st century skills”, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and ideas about ‘regeneration’ and ‘regenerative futures’, and ‘intergenerational justice’.

This project imagines that micro-creds for sustainable, regenerative and just futures can be developed to be:

  • Flexible – developed outside of, or where no qualifications frameworks exist.
  • Co-designed – with communities, partner organisations and young people.
  • Innovative – Ethical: Responsible, Inclusive, Disruptive, Engaged (Rickards and Steele 2019).
  • Place-based – creating and capturing shared social, cultural and economic value for young people and communities that is globally connected.
  • Portable – value that is generated in place, but which can be translated to other places and for other purposes.
  • Platform enabled – digital badges that are housed on a platform to be digitally available anywhere.