An independent private foundation, based in Indianapolis but acting nationally, Lumina Foundation is committed to extending opportunities for higher education to more Americans. Their goal? To increase the proportion of working-age Americans with higher-ed degrees (or certificates and other high-quality credentials) to 60 percent by the year 2025. They focus their work in several different areas, from encouraging educational innovation to getting students credit for what they already know and can do.

They also want to expand access for those who have been historically underserved—access that’s often been limited by students’ inability to pay for college.

Lights, Camera, Inspiration

Of course, governments and colleges have been trying to address these issues for decades—successfully, yes, but with some unintended consequences as well (such as the levels of outstanding student debt in recent years).

Lumina Foundation understands that the most effective and creative policy decisions of the future will start with understanding what we’ve tried so far. To bring clarity to this sometimes-complicated saga, Lumina Foundation and the Institute for Higher Education Policy produced a six-part film series, Looking Back to Move Forward: A History of Federal Student Aid. They enlisted our help getting the films in front of people who want and need to see them.

Drawing in the Audience

To start with, we dove into the films and the accompanying viewing guides and studied the Twitter histories of financial aid policy influencers. We found super-smart people: digitally savvy, highly networked, and sharing a seemingly insatiable appetite for research and data.

The Looking Back films are comprehensive, covering the history of student loans and loan repayment, federal grants, state and institutional partnerships, student aid forms and formulas, and tax benefits. They weave together perspectives from public policy experts across the political and educational spectrum who know that history well and, in many cases, helped to shape it.

We worked with Lumina to create a trailer video for the series that pulled all that history into a two-minute nutshell. And we used some of the films’ tastier statistics to create pre-roll video, as well as digital and social ads, that would tempt the appetites of the films’ ideal audience: people, we imagined, who were losing sleep at night over the future of Pell Grants, or the efficacy of 529 plans.

To be honest, we started to lose some sleep over these issues, too. Especially those of us with “small” kids who are suddenly in middle school. (How did that happen?)

Where Do We Go From Here?

Fortunately for anxious souls like us, all the promotion points to a bright and engaging Well Done-designed and -built microsite—where Looking Back to Move Forward can be explored alongside illuminating statistics, helpful timelines, and insights gleaned from the experts.

We think it may be the very best place to start—on the web, or anywhere—for those who are thinking about programs and policies to make higher education affordable for more Americans. It’s eye-opening, too, for families who envision college-bound kids in their version of the American dream.

Through this and other policy-awareness initiatives, Lumina Foundation is turning that famous warning—about history, and being condemned to repeat it—on its head. They’re suggesting that those who do remember the past will have the tools to create greater opportunity in the future.