We’re in an exciting time, one in which a lot of leaders, educators, families, and students are engaged in advocating for a more equitable education system. Even still, young people are falling through the cracks.
It’s not their fault. We often hear about how students are failed by a broken education system, without fully acknowledging that we are the architects of the system. The onus is on us to change because getting to the outcomes we want for young people will mean transforming the way we operate. This isn’t easy and the answers aren’t straightforward. But now is the time for all of us—from educators to philanthropic foundations—to reclaim our imagination and creativity in service of our students.
In an attempt to do things differently, Carnegie Corporation of New York has partnered with the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) to design and run the Integration Design Consortium (IDC). The IDC is an experiment for the Corporation: rather than funding programmatic proof points, the IDC is giving leaders permission to test various integrative approaches to support students throughout their journey in the education system. It consists of five teams—2Revolutions, Bellwether, Education First, FSG, and The Teachers Guild—working from the classroom to the statehouse to explore the structures, mindsets, and processes that can create a more equitable education system. Instead of funding these teams in isolation, Carnegie Corporation of New York—with the help of BIF—is supporting the IDC as a collaborative learning network, allowing teams to share insights in real time.
WHERE WE’VE BEEN
Since June 2017, BIF has been leading the shared learning agenda for the IDC—collecting learnings and uncovering insights from across the teams to share with the field more broadly. The collaborative structure of the IDC has allowed us to observe both what is happening in the individual projects, as well as how the five teams are engaging with one another.
We’ve used the collective structure to experiment with different ways to engage the teams—including gathering project updates and sharing them with the teams, convening teams in person for collective sensemaking, and managing self-organized, cross-project exploration groups that focus on specific areas of overlap. Testing these various ways of engaging the teams will help us understand how we might spark collaboration, inspire reflection, and encourage pivots based on real-time learnings. Ultimately, these insights can be used to create field-facing learnings and tools that can reduce fragmentation in education.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED SO FAR
It’s been over a year and a half since we first embarked on this grand experiment, so we wanted to share some emerging questions, reflections, and curiosities we’ve had over the past eighteen months.
Patterns of Fragmentation and Integration
At our second convening that took place in January 2018, we wanted to identify the key levers to integration based on the teams’ project experiences. These real-world examples provided a breakdown of the aspects that are most vital to creating a poor or an excellent state of integration, potentially helping us see how complex systems are changing over time.
Changing Systems Requires Continuous (Un)learning
Monthly calls with teams have allowed us to peek under the hood of the individual projects and identify common themes that point to potential learnings for the field. One insight that we’ve recognized is that there is some amount of unlearning that needs to happen in order to rethink how the system can work.
These calls have served as a touchpoint for project updates but moreso, they have allowed us to ask other questions, such as: What has surprised teams? What challenges have arisen in their projects? What have they been learning that informs us about the nature of fragmentation? Having this kind of visibility into teams’ internal reflections as they are in the midst of planning and implementing their projects has fueled the collection of insights—like the significance of unlearning—in real time.
The Power of Relationships
At our very first convening, Todd Kern from 2Revolutions said that change happens at the speed of trust; and at our latest convening, David Garfunkel from FSG talked about the importance of building relational fields—or the strength, depth, and quality of how we relate to one another—to create lasting change for young people. In both cases, it was clear that the connection between people is key when doing system change work.
The IDC is by no means the first to say that relationships are important. However, what has been apparent to us as we’ve been doing this work is that relationships should be the goal, not just a means to an end.
WHAT WE’RE THINKING ABOUT NOW
Going Slow to Go Fast
True systems change takes time; we need to know when to move slow and when to move fast. But we’re incentivized, through both structures (like grant cycles and metrics of evaluation) and culture (such as a bias towards action), to act—and measure our impact—now. If we reframe our idea of short-term success to bias more towards learning as opposed to measurable outcomes, we can give ourselves the time we need to create the change we want to see.
Moving slowly might mean taking time to 1) build trust and relationships, 2) understand the underlying social forces at play, 3) develop new skills and practice new ways of thinking, and 4) craft a clear, compelling narrative that motivates people to act.
Taking time to build relationships and understand the underlying social dynamics at play might mean taking a look around to see who is in the room (from leaders, to students, to constituents) and valuing both their roles as well as their lived experiences. Doing this can help create a sense of ownership over the work and help people shift from self-advocacy to collective advocacy. While this increased trust isn’t always necessary for the work, it does usually strengthen it.
INTERESTED IN THE WORK OF THE IDC? LEARN MORE!
To learn more about the IDC and see the latest learnings from the teams, visit the website at www.integration-design-consortium.org.
You can also find more information about integrative approaches and how the learning agenda operates in Carnegie Corporation’s new report: From Fragmentation to Coherence: How more integrative ways of working could accelerate improvement and progress toward equity in education. This resource—meant for practitioners at all levels of the education system, including those in the public, nonprofit, and business sectors— offers practical insights into the causes, consequences, and potential remedies of fragmentation.
Read more about the five projects teams in their own words:
- Supporting Community-Driven Solutions to Achieve Equity and Improvement in Education | Rachel Lopkin | 2Revolutions
- Redefining Professional Development: Educators as Leaders and Learners | Larry Corio | The Teachers Guild
- To Improve the Lives of Students, Two Communities Learn to Relate Differently | David Garfunkel, Peter Senge and Jessica Pizarek | FSG, Systems Leadership Institute and PolicyLink
- Helping Education Leaders Build Coherence into Reform Strategies to Support Teachers and Student Learning | Jenn Vranek and Cristina Muñoz | Education First
- How Greater Continuity Can Help the Millions of Students Rotating Through Social Services | Hailly T.N. Korman | Bellwether Education Partners
By: Reid Henkel and Isabelle Yisak