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Podcast: How Junior Achievement of South Central Pennsylvania Is Using Digital Credentials


Join Dr. Susan Manning, Chief Success Strategist, and Tom Russell, President & Executive Director of Junior Achievement of South Central Pennsylvania, discuss how JASCP implemented a digital credentialing program. JASCP issued over 1,600 badges in their first semester of implementation to encourage their volunteers to recognize their achievements and share them on social media.

To learn more about how JASCP is using Credly, listen to this brief interview below:

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This podcast is part of a Credly podcast series where we discuss issues of interest for digital credentialing issuers, earners, and partners. Have a topic you want to learn more about? Send us an email at

Susan Manning:                   Welcome to the Credly podcast where we touch base with our issuers, earners and partners and explore themes of interest in digital credentialing. I'm Susan Manning. We're talking with Tom Russel, the President and CEO of Junior Achievement of South Central Pennsylvania. Hello Tom!

Tom Russel:                            How are you doing?

Susan Manning:                   Good. I've been looking forward to talking to you and having you share your story because I think you have a unique application for digital credentials. Could you start first of all, tell us a little bit about Junior Achievement, the organization and the mission?

Tom Russel:                            So Junior Achievement is an international organization but really based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We currently have 104 area offices in the United States. JA of South central Pennsylvania based out of York Pennsylvania, has 14 counties in the south central part of the state which includes Harrisburg which is the capital. We have 95 school districts in our market so we are an economic education non-profit, so we basically bring the business community into classrooms to help empower students to understand the important of owning their own future. So we do that kindergarten to 12th grade, we have volunteers that go into the classrooms so in south central PA this year we're going to reach 100,000 students with about 8,000 volunteers.

Susan Manning:                   Wow. That's huge.

Tom Russel:                            It's a big number. And it kind of really leads to the story of how we ran into Credly and digital badges and I'll take just a second to kind of give you that. So, with 8,000 volunteers, most of those, probably half of them are coming out of the business community, the other are connected in some way to schools through PTOs, or the teachers reaching out to parents. But as we've grown and expanded our outreach, the challenge of recognizing and encouraging volunteers to share and collaborate with their friends and co-workers is incredibly important. Our staff spends most of their time recruiting volunteers and training volunteers, so we've always been kind of in search of a way to get volunteers more engaged and to really say thank you in as many different ways as we can. And we're actually kind of jumping about creating passports or some way to recognize volunteers for the different programs we run, again kindergarten to 12th grade, we probably have 16 different JA programs that a volunteer can be involved in and we were looking for a way to recognize the volunteer for the different programs they were running and also encourage them to kind of share that experience on social media and ran into digital badges as an offshoot of that and again the conversation with Credly that has led us to where we're at today.

Susan Manning:                   So what are the volunteers telling you, now that you've been issuing these?

Tom Russel:                            So we went live I'm going to say at the beginning of this 2018 in January. So we kind of made you to resend badges out to all of our fall volunteers which was probably 1600 and are still working in kind of getting our communications and making sure they understand kind of what's going on and who's Credly and kind of the marketing if you will internally in that program. But one of the things that we've already begun to see is an excitement/increased interest from volunteers who are actively involved in posting them on Facebook, and sharing them with their friends, and looking to find ways that they can diversify or actually get more volunteer badges as volunteer experiences. So I saw the early reactions are incredibly favorable. We still got a lot of work to do mechanically inside just to make sure that we're getting it done timely and sharing with them the links and all that, but overall really pleased with the progress we're making so far.

Susan Manning:                   Well, and you mentioned the importance of that internal marketing, that's a really important strategy.

Tom Russel:                            It really is, you know, and again I think what we're seeing and one of the other things that's really a benefit for us is the reports that are available so we're able to see kind of the level of engagement that a volunteer has had. So obviously the first step is are they accepting the badge? And then are they sharing that with social media, and what it's allowing us to see are what I'd call the power of volunteers, the volunteers that really have connected with the concept but probably already were those leading volunteers in terms of engagement and involvement with Junior Achievement. Our goal is to use those reports to make some, what I'm going to call super users, the volunteers who would be great spokespeople for Junior Achievement, who can kind of be champions internally both on social media but also maybe even in terms of other outreaches to companies and volunteers, so I think it's going to give us some metrics internally that we've never had, that really help us identify within the 8,000 volunteers, those volunteers that are just super charged in terms of what they're ...

Susan Manning:                   And very simply, when you uphold the kinds of engagement that you're looking for, you're going to get more.

Tom Russel:                            That's exactly right. And I think that word spreads, you know, as we get into kind of the ... So one of the things that true about our yearly flow, about 80% of our volunteer experiences take place in the spring, so we're just now really moving into that peak badge timeframe. We did 1600 badges for the fall, we'll do 6400 badges for the spring, so that would really enhance and increase just the velocity of what's going on, and I think that will create more than genuine excitement as well.

Susan Manning:                   Excellent. And you had talked a little bit about finding ways to feed this information back to the employers, right?

Tom Russel:                            Yep, and that's kind of a work in progress. We're creating some, what we're calling badge reports, so we've integrated the Credly system into our databases internally, so we're able to track internally the badges that our volunteers received and which we manage volunteers by company so we're able to create some digital badge reports that we can share with companies. Haven't got that live yet, because we really want to make sure we, everything that we were doing was accurate and we weren't misreporting it. And we're real close to having that ready to go live this spring. I think that's going to be another example of where companies can also use the badges themselves to take, to give credit to their employees internally within the company for community outreach, community service volunteerism if you will. And we think that's another real win for them, for the company as well because we encourage value ... We encourage companies to consider the volunteer experience, the development experience for this social, for their employee, but also a community outreach in terms of their marketing and visibility in the community. So companies that have that interest, that are interested in that kind of recognition, this program fits right into that really well.

Susan Manning:                   Excellent. I'll look forward to the developments as you get a little further down the road but thank you for sharing the story with us today.

Tom Russel:                            Well, I'm excited to be part of the Credly team, you all are amazing. And I would just close with that comment, we've really, we are absolutely neo fied fully from the digital badge world and had very limited exposure to it and had just fallen in love with the idea and your support team has been amazing to us. So thanks for all the help.

Susan Manning:                   You're very welcome. Thank you listeners for joining us. If you'd like to suggest upcoming topics, feel free to write us at