Being catalysts is hard work. Merita and I spent the latter half of 2023 writing five papers that will be published in 2024 as book chapters or commissioned reports. Two of these with David Osher our friend and colleague at AIR.  These papers competed at times with my commitment to short-form blogging and speaking and Merita’s commitment to partnership and alliance building. We think the long-form papers complement our short-form outreach formats. (Think of them as bundling a year’s worth of Youth Today columns into an organized frame).   

But I was continually reminded that long-form paper writing is a lot of work. Word count limits. Concept proposals. Feedback reviews. Citations. Chicago style formats. Design decisions.  Final copy edits. The result is impressive.  But is the juice worth the squeeze?  Especially if it’s not what you normally do.  Who reads long papers these days? 

We had two calls last week to get roll-out ideas for the “big ideas” paper that is the culmination of a six-month series of webinars, blogs, keynotes, and working group discussions will be released February 1st.  Nearly twenty of our partners already made the commitment to read the paper and they shared lots of affirmation and accolades. But also, lots of suggestions ranging from going deeper into some topics to making sound bite videos and anchoring every big idea in a concrete what’s working example. 

As I reflect more on their comments and on the work ahead to make this report a living discussion starter, I found myself going to one of the iconic graphics from the UChicago Consortium on School Research that is shared in the paper 

Developmental Experiences Require Action and Reflection 

Shifting from systems to ecosystems thinking requires the full range of Action and Reflection opportunitiesThis is especially true for adults who operate within systems paradigms without ever really thinking about it. 

Expecting people to integrate new ideas into their operating frames as a result of a simple encounter with a compelling report, an inspiring presentation, or a provocative blog isn’t just naive.  It’s insulting. One way communication is necessary but not sufficient. It’s not just about people reading these long form pieces, it’s about what we, collectively, can do with them.   

Giving people time to tinker, choose, and practice in a facilitated retreat gets us farther. But it is only when people have time to describe and evaluate what the ideas mean to them that they are motivated to contribute to the work and toconnect with others they work with to envision changes they can make and sustain together with confidence. 

We look forward to thinking about how to use this Action/Reflection wheel to hold ourselves accountable for helping to move ideas into action. 

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