Engaging Allies and Building Bridges

Shifting to student-centered, personalized, competency-based education is not something you do to people. It is something you do with people. It’s a really key distinction! Making the shift is a process you do with people because the it requires leadership at all levels. Classrooms, schools, families, and community institutions all have key roles to play and without their active participation, the shift won’t happen. To design, implement, and sustain the shift to modern education you will need a diverse coalition of dedicated partners. So, what does this look like?

First, define your “who.” Who comprises your community? Think about students, educators, families, community leaders, institutions, and others. Think about individuals and groups who hold a lot of sway in your community. How will you enlist their support? Think about the groups that do not always come to the table, and the people who been historically marginalized? How can you engage them? The more diverse your coalition, the better.

Then, think about your “why.” Generally, think about three things. Which partners will you need to engage to shape your vision and communicate the compelling reason for change? Which partners will you need to implement the shift? This could be the people doing the work like teachers and students, people who will support the work like families, or institutions who will extend the work like education, higher education, or employment organizations. And finally, which partners will you need to sustain the work? If the going gets rough – if there is pushback or doubt – who will help you stay the course?

Finally, think about your “how.” How will you engage your coalition of partners? There are a few things to consider here. For example, how invested are they currently? Are they already on board? Are they aware? Skeptical? Where do you have natural allies, and where will you need to build new bridges? Also, think about purpose. How you engage any individual partner has a lot to do with the purpose of the partnership. Are you asking them to help advocate for change? To do their daily work differently? To invest in the work? And then finally, think about relevance. How will you communicate and engage with partners in ways that respect culture, identity, and values? How will you make the work inclusive, and strengthen the connection of your coalition?

Questions to Consider:

  • What work have you already done to build a coalition? What existing relationships can you build on?
  • What does your coalition need to look like to do this work? What new partners will you need to engage? Are there skeptics or adversaries you will need to manage?
  • For what purposes are you engaging which partners?
  • How will you manage engagement? Who will lead this work? Do you have time and resources dedicated to it?
  • How can you use the processes of engagement to share power? If there are groups that have traditionally lacked influence but need it, how can you increase their voice and representation?