Report from the Synthesis Team: An Emerging RoadmapPosted: June 22, 2012
This past March, we embarked on a process to “Map the Next 10 Years.” We focused our attention on two key ideas.
The first was about making a collective impact, the idea that we should think beyond our individual organizations to how a broader “we” could coordinate creative efforts to make broad and lasting change toward student success and healthy communities.
The second was the idea that having conversations with each other about what matters most and employing authentic listening was the first step in making a collective impact.
With these key ideas in mind, we embarked on a set of self-organized conversations throughout the Bay Area around the question:
How can we collectively transform public education through the arts to create a better future for everyone?
We had three goals:
- Build muscles around network engagement: authentic, meaningful conversations, both face-to-face and online
- Align around a shared vision for 2023 and a roadmap for how to get there
- Clearly communicate this vision and plan
Since then, there have been over a dozen self-organized conversations that we know about and many more that we don’t, representing well over 100 people in total. A number of participants shared what they discussed on this blog.
The Alliance for ALL Steering Committee involved volunteer community members in a Synthesis Team that met monthly since April to make sense of the conversations that were happening and to reflect this back to the larger community.
We see five key themes emerging. At its core is a dual vision that is deeply intertwined. It starts with a Better Future for Everyone.
The path toward creating that future includes Building on What’s Working, Mapping Our Assets, and going From “You” and “Me” to “We.”
If we do these things successfully, we can create A Resilient, Sustainable System.
All five of these themes are tightly interdependent ideas with lots of overlap. I’d like to describe each of them in more detail and connect them to things the Synthesis Team has been hearing, both through this blog and directly in conversation. More importantly, I’d like to hear from you. What resonates here? What’s missing? What does this make you think about? Please add your thoughts in the comments section of this post.
A Better Future for Everyone
A strong, emerging theme from the conversations is that all of this work is ultimately about assuring that every child receives a complete education to achieve his or her greatest potential, and that every child is able to make his or her full contribution to a better future for everyone. The arts are essential to a complete education, as they uniquely engage students in school and provide opportunities to develop skills that are necessary for success in learning across the curriculum and in life.
The emerging vision is that:
- It begins with us: you and me. Each of us must make our personal contribution toward assuring that…
- Every child has multiple and ongoing opportunities to grow, develop and learn in and through the arts, as an essential practice for meaning-making, idea generation and problem solving, so that…
- Every child is purposefully engaged in school and graduates with the skills, dispositions and enthusiasm to contribute to the common good and creating a better future for everyone
Building on What’s Working
It is clear from the conversations that there are many great examples of things that are already working well. As a result of the previous strategic planning work, a professional development system has been built that connects the amazing professional development opportunities in the community (through Teaching Artists Organized) to the Integrated Learning Specialist Program, which builds leadership capacity in schools in the Bay Area that are demonstrating the power of the arts to deepen and improve learning and that are disseminated through multiple summer institutes.
Through this professional system of learning and networking, pockets of excellence become communities of practice and are influencing and shaping larger systems. At a time when public education is undergoing a huge and necessary transition, we have a foundation for working together to shape the next set of instructional practices and the next generation of assessments.
As we build on what works, we need to build on the experience of educators, students and parents. These voices are critical as we make decisions about measuring our impact, being clear about our collective objectives, defining, identifying, and agreeing on what data to look at and how to interpret success.
Mapping Our Assets
We can’t build on what’s working unless we can all collectively see what those things are. By mapping our assets, we can build on what’s working, and we can also mind the gaps.
People are our greatest assets. If we are to achieve our shared vision of a better future for everyone, it will require shared and expanded leadership among all stakeholders. We need to identify all of the different kinds of leadership that are currently being practiced, and to expand the leadership so that it is diverse, inclusive and connected.
One way to accomplish all of these things is to create spaces — both physical as well as online — for communicating about what we are all doing and identifying mutually reinforcing activities, economies of scale, and ways that expertise and resources can be leveraged to address issues of equity and access.
From “You” and “Me” to “We”
This idea emerges from a recognition that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. We can never accomplish individually what we can accomplish together. While individually we are capable of great work, lasting and sustained social change requires our united efforts.
But not everyone comes to the work from the same starting place. Some of us are passionate about bringing new audiences to arts venues, while others are passionate about professionalizing the role of the teaching artist, or developing STEAM initiatives, or addressing the unacceptable drop out rate.
We must start by honoring everyone’s reality and humanity. That starts by having authentic, meaningful conversations and by listening deeply to each other. This roadmapping process was designed to kickstart that, and it needs to continue on an ongoing basis.
As many of you have engaged in these conversations with each other, many of you have reported that you’re realizing that we all have a lot more in common than we originally thought, and that we may be holding mistaken assumptions about other people.
We need to continue to be in conversation, and to listen deeply to each other and think about how we can work with others to accomplish shared goals. We need to think about ways that we can support each other and help each other see the bigger picture and broader opportunities.
A Resilient, Sustainable System
- Share a vision for a better future for everyone crafted by assuring that all children grow, develop, and learn to their fullest potential
- Build on what’s working
- Map our assets
- Shift our mindsets from “you” and “me” to “we”
We will be able to work together across institutions and areas of expertise to influence the system as a whole to become more resilient, sustainable, supportive, and responsive to the changing needs of our communities.
What do you think? Does this resonate with you? What’s missing? We’d love to hear your thoughts.