Collaboration Across Geography & Context: IDEA’s Pilot LBS | IDEA

Collaboration Across Geography & Context: IDEA’s Pilot LBS

Posted by Dana Bennis on Jun 17, 2014 - 01:18 PM


IDEA's pilot Learning Breakthrough Series launched November 2013 in Jackson, Mississippi with eight teams of educators and change makers from across the United States and Puerto Rico. The goal? To come together over the course of 18 months in a deep-dive research process to generate knowledge on a specific question:

What connections and approaches to practice, policy, public narrative and strategy support the meaningful and sustained engagement of all young people and communities in education, while honoring the wisdom and differences of varying local contexts?

The structure of the LBS features three in-person Learning Sessions to identify innovations and solutions, alternating with Action Periods when teams return to their sites to put plans into action. The LBS concludes with a Learning Summit where the findings are presented, published, and shared with media and the broad public. 

The teams of educators, community leaders, and youth are from Vermont, New York City, New England, Puerto Rico, Oregon, Mississippi, Minnesota, and a national team of education actors. Organizations involved include The Young People's Project, Nuestra Escuela, Coalition for Education Justice, Urban Youth Collaboration, EdVisions Cooperative, Providence Student Union, Boston Youth Organizing Project, and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform

The LBS is an outgrowth of our learning over the past two years about collaborative change models pioneered in the health field by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). We had conversations with IHI co-founder Paul Batalden and current IHI Executive Director of Performance Improvement, Robert Lloyd, and realized that the needs IHI saw in the healthcare field are similar to what's needed now in education: many practitioners (in our case teachers and students) are dissatisfied with current policy and practice and want something different and more engaging; powerful models and new ideas are being explored in many places without effective ways to share their learning; and there is a wide disconnect between the knowledge of practitioners and that of researchers. 

So, we set out to adapt the IHI approach to continuous improvement and deep-dive collaborative change to education, beginning with our pilot LBS. 

LBS Session A in Jackson was filled with team work sessions, dialogues about evaluation and the four drivers of change (practice, policy, narrative, and strategy), and team provocation and presentation rounds, while placing care to ground our work in the place-based struggles and vibrancy of Jackson, Mississippi.


Teams then traveled back home to implement the plans they devised, beginning the first Action Period. In addition to ongoing support from IDEA through emails, phone calls, and a shared Google Group, a highlight of the Action Period was a collaborative video sharing activity which we just completed in May. The seed for this idea came out of discussions at Session A, as participants shared the desire to continue the cross-team supports and provocations that were so helpful in person. 

Knowing that sharing over email or text documents would be minimally effective, we decided to make use of what is now basic social technology. We had teams use their smartphones to create videos sharing their updates and questions, upload them to YouTube (a simple process from most phones), and offer feedback to other teams within a shared GoogleDoc. 

Along with updates, teams shared important challenges they were struggling with, for example:

How do we build a network with other coalitions without losing our identity and commitments in the process?

How do we ensure what we win gets implemented well?

How can we remain positive while staying in battles that need to be fought?

Participants from the other teams took the time to give thoughtful feedback, building on our experiences together in Jackson giving one another critical and supportive feedback.

You can see the full process in this LBS Video Sharing googledoc - including links to all videos, team's questions, and feedback from LBS participants.

Now teams are finishing up their first Action Period and getting ready for Session B, which will be held in September in Puerto Rico. We'll continue the cycle with a second Action Period, Session C in March 2015, a final Action Period and then a public Learning Summit in Summer 2015. 

Coming soon - intros to each team's work updates and a preview of Session B.