What would it take to achieve better and more equitable results for every child, cradle to career?

That overarching question is what guides all of our work at StriveTogether. Trying to improve educational outcomes at scale is an aim without end. Unlike learning how to bake a cake or how to build a rocket ship, figuring out how to shape and strengthen complex and adaptive systems across local communities is an unanswerable question. Communities are living ecosystems that require us to embrace emergence.

emergent-learning-blog-photo2

As individuals, we are generally pretty good at learning. Collaborative work requires a different level of intentionality to make the leap from insight and reflection to action and results. To strengthen the “S” in PDSAs (Plan-Do-Study Act cycles) and to create more purposeful reflexive loops from learning to action, the Emergent Learning Platform can be a helpful suite of tools and a way of thinking and working together that keeps results at the center.

Emergent Learning was created to focus on this big question:

“What would it take for groups of people working on important but challenging goals to learn as quickly and well together as we are each able to learn individually, so that they not only achieve their current goals more quickly, but also get better at achieving other important but challenging goals in the future?”

This is extremely relevant for community leaders and partners working in cradle-to-career partnerships to eliminate educational disparities. By unpacking what people know through a shared process, it’s possible to build people’s collective capacity to produce better results. The focus is on making thinking visible in a way that equalizes and values each individual experiences in service of shared results — bringing everyone’s best ideas to the table.

One of the easiest ways to get started is to use Before Action Reviews and After Action Reviews, a practice that helps groups learn in real-time from real work:

bar-aar-graphic framing-question-graphic

At StriveTogether, we’ve implemented these quick 30-minute prep and debrief conversations for everything from convenings and workshops to new initiatives. In doing so, we are more purposeful about what it takes to achieve our shared results.

In the context of local cradle-to-career partnerships, one of the most valuable Emergent Learning principles is the focus on testing ideas on the ground using real-time data. Instead of setting strategy in stone, the approach welcomes holding multiple hypotheses about what it might take to achieve the results you seek. As cradle-to-career partnerships work to improve outcomes and eliminate disparities, it is critical to concurrently test and work on multiple interconnected strategies. Alignment is the conscious commitment of many to a shared result — not everyone necessarily doing the same thing!

Marilyn Darling, the founder of the approach, shared one of her working hypotheses guiding this work: emergence rather than replicability likely leads to greater sustainability and scale. This is the sweet spot for cradle-to-career partnerships — helping cross-sector groups accelerate results by navigating ever-evolving conditions by testing and refining hypotheses and learning and taking action together.

As part of my personal and professional development toward being an advanced results-based leadership practitioner, I am a participant in the 2017 cohort of the Fourth Quadrant Partners’ Emergent Learning Certification Program. 

Share

{ 0 comments }

Earlier this month, Parv Santhosh-Kumar and I had an incredible opportunity to gather together with 35 social sector leaders and spend three days at the Skid Row School for Large-scale Change. The experience was transformative.

For one, it came at the end of what has been a year filled with high highs and low lows. I think that we can all probably relate to this. Just when you feel like you’re making progress, you turn on the news and realize there’s so much more work to be done. So needless to say it was quite therapeutic to be able to spend time with like-minded professionals, each seeking to make the world a better place, and commiserate about our successes and failures on our respective journeys.

Next, similar to the StriveTogether approach, the leaders of the Billions Institute and the Skid Row School faculty put together a curriculum that forces participants to address both the adaptive and technical aspects of leading social change. We heard Becky Margiotta (keynote speaker at the 2016 StriveTogether National Convening and co-founder of the Billions Institute) share lessons learned from her work to combat homelessness on the 100,000 Homes Campaign, Joe McCannon (co-founder of the Billions Institute and former vice president at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement) share his work to improve patient safety on the 100,000 Lives Campaign and Nana A.Y. Twum-Danso (founder and CEO of MAZA) discuss her work to reduce infant mortality in Ghana as part of the Project Fives Alive! Campaign.

Becky Margiotta was keynote speaker at the 2016 StriveTogether National Convening and is co-founder of the Billions Institute.

Dan Heath (2015 StriveTogether National Convening keynote speaker and co-author of Switch) provided individual coaching on getting super clear about our intervention to help mobilize others to care about the change we are trying to make and change their behavior as a result. And lastly, Christine Margiotta (executive director of Social Venture Partners Los Angeles) pushed us to uncover some of the “unspeakable invisibles” — such as fear of failure, scarcity mindset, indecision, overreliance on consensus and running on overwhelm — that exist in all of us and keep us from creating the change we want to see.

To try and distill my learning from the three-day school into some key takeaways was not an easy task, so I’m sharing a few key nuggets today and you can expect to see more from us as we incorporate our learnings into the everyday work we do with the Network:

1. If you want to spark change, feeling is the fuel. We have to generate interest in our mission to motivate behavior change. We cannot allow process to be the albatross. Most people are not motivated by static data charts. We have to match the rigor of our improvement approach to get results with an equal effort to motivate, mobilize and do a better job of telling the story about the impact on kids. That’s what humans care about. In Switch speak, this is what “motivates the elephant.”

2. Smart aims are like unicorns. Very rarely do organizations have quantifiable, time-bound objectives or aims like ours — five proof point communities (with measurable outcomes improving and evidence of systems changing) by June 2018. To set a smart aim, you have to first understand what complete success looks like for you, understand where you are in the expansion process and then set a specific time-bound goal for the next 18-36 months. As long as you are tight on aims, you can afford to be loose on everything else.

3. When you operate in fear, everything rustles. One of the primary reasons organizations and individuals do not set smart aims is because of fear. Fear often leads to blame, criticism and self-doubt. In order to do this work, according to the Billions Institute’s Model for Unleashing, you must be willing to “hug the bear,” or confront your fear head on, unpack what’s behind it and embrace failing forward.

StriveTogether's Jennifer Blatz and Parv Santhosh-Kumar had a transformative experience learning from the Billions Institute and the Skid Row School about addressing both the adaptive and technical aspects of leading social change.

4. Amateurs talk strategy, leaders talk logistics. Joe and Becky of the Billions Institute posit that achieving large-scale change requires organizations to operate Inside the Command Center. Teams who operate in this way put it all together — they get clear on their intervention and their aim, they embrace fear head on, they don’t get hung-up on business as usual, they do exactly what it takes to achieve results.

We look forward to continued partnership with organizations like the Billions Institute and other graduates of the Skid Row School for Large-scale Change. Changing systems to change the world is some pretty big work. We are fortunate to have great partners to learn from and grow with along the way.

Share

{ 0 comments }

Key Lessons for Applying Continuous Improvement Tools to Improve Educational Outcomes at Scale

November 18, 2016
Thumbnail image for Key Lessons for Applying Continuous Improvement Tools to Improve Educational Outcomes at Scale

Collective impact has been one of the biggest buzzwords in the social sector, and, unfortunately, the term gets used for a range of activities that deviate from the original intent: achieving results at scale. Our focus with the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network has been to establish standards for what this work really takes to […]

Share
Read the full article →

Ten Effective Strategies to Increase FAFSA Completion in Your Community

October 18, 2016
Thumbnail image for Ten Effective Strategies to Increase FAFSA Completion in Your Community

When working to increase FASFA rates, cradle to career partnerships are always looking for proven, easy to replicate strategies that lead to results. Through the work of the Postsecondary Enrollment Impact and Improvement Network, we know the effective strategies used to make sure that more students successfully completed the FAFSA. 1. Implement In-Class Interventions In […]

Share
Read the full article →

Increasing FAFSA Completion Rates Across the Country

October 11, 2016
Thumbnail image for Increasing FAFSA Completion Rates Across the Country

Over the past year, six communities across the country have been participating in StriveTogether’s Postsecondary Enrollment (PSE) Impact and Improvement Network. The goal is to increase FAFSA completion in their communities. FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). An increase in FAFSA completion means more students have access to financial aid for, and access to, […]

Share
Read the full article →

Rise Up: Three Insights from the 7th Annual Cradle to Career Network Convening

October 4, 2016
Thumbnail image for Rise Up: Three Insights from the 7th Annual Cradle to Career Network Convening

The 7th Annual Cradle to Career Network Convening was an outstanding success! This is due solely to the great work each and every person in the room does to achieve our ambitious vision – supporting the success of every child from cradle to career – and our short-term goal: Establishing five Proof Points by June […]

Share
Read the full article →

Ms. Price goes to Washington!

September 29, 2016
Thumbnail image for Ms. Price goes to Washington!

This week Juliette Price, director of The Albany Promise, a Sustaining member of the Cradle to Career Network, will travel to Washington, DC for a very special visit to the White House in which she will be recognized as one of eleven “White House Champions of Change for College Opportunity” for the work she is […]

Share
Read the full article →

New Data, New Opportunities

September 28, 2016
Thumbnail image for New Data, New Opportunities

Too often, policy can seem inaccessible to the people in charge of, or affected by, its implementation. That’s why, in part, the StriveTogether network has identified four different roles cradle-to-career partnerships can play in policy: Data expert Partner Convener Community Mobilizer Advocate Connecting each of these concepts is one major role: liaison. I’ve been thinking […]

Share
Read the full article →

Small Changes Can Make a Big Impact

September 27, 2016
Thumbnail image for Small Changes Can Make a Big Impact

At the final morning in Memphis, Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of the State University of New York, invited the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network convening attendees to stand for the gatherings they had attended as she cycled through the locations of the last seven years. Once everyone was on their feet, she announced, “Welcome to the […]

Share
Read the full article →

Learn to let go of the desire for credit. If you want recognition, get a puppy.

September 22, 2016
Thumbnail image for Learn to let go of the desire for credit. If you want recognition, get a puppy.

Do you find yourself just doing the work yourself because it will be faster, easier, and done the way you want it to? This was the question that framed Becky Kanis Margiotta, co-founder of The Billions Institute and lunchtime plenary session speaker at StriveTogether’s 2016 Cradle to Career Network Convening. While she was quick to […]

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Share
Read the full article →