A few weeks ago, feeling a bit self-indulgent, I pondered on the value of one-way communications (PowerPoints, Blogs, Papers? What Next?). I’m pleased to report that the universe has answered. We’ve gotten wonderfully affirming notes on the value of attempting a comprehensive evidence review in “Too Big to Fail:  Why Our Public Education System Needs a Bold National Response” as well as surprisingly powerful responses to the January Youth Today column comparing school systems to large dams.

My favorite responses came from seasoned field leaders who are demonstrating the power of community learning ecosystems.

Jim Bailey is Co-Founder and Executive Director at Rock Tree Sky, an inclusive, self-directed K-12 learning community, in Ojai California. Rock Tree Sky started as a support for homeschooling parents and now serves about 200 learners per week. I got to know Jim through our participation in an Education Reimagined retreat. Jim wrote three times: 

First to tell me that he read the paper and “printed three spiralbound copies.

One for our local youth foundation, one for our local district superintendent, and one for me!  I appreciate the researched inspiration and will us it to help more kids thrive in my Ojai community.”

Second to tell me that he met with Jamie Fleming, the Director of the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation, which is an operating foundation that provides rich, free programs and activities that help young people explore their interests in their community in the out-of-school hours. The paper helped Jim have a breakthrough:

 “I came to an epiphany that the positive youth development organizations, at least here in our community, are probably the best places to grow the ecosystem model from. I had been trying to wrap my head around how to do it from the standpoint of Rock Tree Sky, but realized OVYF already has a robust ecosystem. The current limitation is that it’s only available during the afterschool hours…”

Third to tell me that the curated evidence and ideas in the paper inspired him to “tinker’ (the second action step in the UCCSR Action and Reflection visual):

“I really think a 20-minute presentation outlining the key ideas with a slide deck presented to some of our local OST and PYD partners… could have a profound impact on community awareness and support for system change… I’m going to start to outline what I think is essential to share… “

This week, I had an amazing conversation with Josh Schachter, Founder and Executive Director of CommunityShare, an absolutely amazing organization committed to “igniting civic engagement and a passion for learning by activating the wisdom and lived experiences of educators, students, and community members.”

I had never met Josh. But he remembered me from virtual Education Reimagined gatherings. He’s now read the “Too Essential to Fail” report and is typing up four pages of notes. I’m combing back through the transcript from our discussion. I’ll share more next week.

These two interactions reinforced the value of the UCCSR Action and Reflection graphic shared in the last Roundup piece. When working with powerful field leaders like Jim and Josh, it is important to get their full action stories. But scalable, sustainable change requires giving them robust tools to reflect in ways that scaffold their stories into strategies.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the paper and contributions to the topic. Please reach out to talkwithus@kpcatalysts.com if you’d like to join to the discussion or leave a comment for us below. 

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