Four Drivers | IDEA

Four Drivers

Drivers of Change

School and community change are driven by a number of different forces.  We’ve identified four that, while working in tandem and often interconnected, we’ve found vital to name: Policy, Practice, Public Narrative, and Strategy.

Rooted in values and relationships, the four drivers on the right side of this image seem to co-exist in any powerful organizing and change work.


Policy reflects social agreements that were shared amongst people with power and influence enough to create and shape legal and organizational agreements that are often referred to as “the system”,  “the law”, or just “it’s our policy”. This includes federal, state, district, and school policies, as well as other legal and organizational policies impacting young people, families, and communities. Policy is not just the legal structures that exist but how they are lived, interpreted, and created within different contexts.   Who makes policy? Who influences policy? Who resists or ignores policy? Who benefits from policy? And who is impacted by policy? Each of these questions point to questions of power, ownership, and the real life experiences of young people, educators and communities.


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Practice is what actually happens in real time among educators and learners. Practice is a wide net including K-12 classroom and school practice, teacher education, early childhood, university education, out-of-school learning, youth work, and community programs.  Practice is about the interactions among people on the ground in service to learning.  It includes the practice of leadership, mentoring, instruction, evaluation, internships, service-learning, and documentation of learning. Good practice is grounded in strong values and authentic relationships with young people.


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Public Narrative

Public Narrative is how we talk about education and frame what’s happening. Public narrative has great power in influencing what we think and the practices and policies we determine. Narrative is similar to story and is communicated across a number of platforms including traditional media, social media, as well as all formal and informal places where we converse with others to create our narratives about schools, young people, and learning. Marshall Ganz’s approach to public story is an important input.


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Strategy is how ideas are moved and navigated among different stakeholders. Distinct from narrative, this is about how stuff actually happens. Powerful change is possible when we not only have good ideas but also know how to move those ideas into action.  One part political, one part communications, one part relationships, one part execution - strong attention to this is the work that moves the needle from idea to real implementation and organizational and community movement.


Links, Articles, Resources:

  • Movement Strategy Center: transformative movement building, created a movement ecosystem of deeply connected groups.
  • Start Empathy: an initiative of Ashoka, showcasing powerful schools and individuals toworking to unleash demand for empathy as a core 21st century skill 
  • Stand for Children: an influential national org that’s problematic in execution, values, and relationship to on-the-ground communities.
  • ALEC: American Legislative Exchange Council, influences legislators by working for free-market solutions. Has had big influence in corporate reform of education.
  • Gates Foundation: with a huge fund, has an outsize influence from it’s prior support for small schools to current focus on teachers and teacher retention. 
  • Deeper Learning: a change agenda of the Hewlett Foundation, framing around the lens of deeper learning.
  • Bayard Rustin’s 1964 From Protest to Politics on the future of the civil rights movement.
  • Lessons on social change and activism from Grace Lee Boggs, in a June 2013 interview with Tavis Smiley.