- Clarify Your School’s Shared Calling
- Identify your ‘Blind Spot”
- Prototype New Ideas for Encouraging All Voices
- Create a Culture of Critical Friendship
1. Clarify Your School’s Shared Calling
As organizational consultant Peter Block writes, “”No future is created by simply solving problems. You have to tap into people’s longing, imagination, and possibility, to organize around something larger.”
From Block’s perspective, most of the conversations we’re used to having in a corporate context center on the practical, definable, predictable aspects of life—all of which are important, but tend to emphasize short-term results. “Nothing new gets created by better problem solving or by focusing on low-hanging fruit,” he says. “No matter how sophisticated we are as a learning organization, if our conversations are limited to measurable outcomes, we are simply getting better at a system, not creating a new future.”
To read more of “Creating New Futures Through Community Conversation: An Interview with Peter Block”, click here.
In a community that takes voice seriously, people must do more than speak their minds — they must also listen, with deep attention and openness, to the voices of others.
In her presentation “Beyond Community Policing,” Sayra Pinto, director of the Twin Cities Latino Coalition, and Ed Cronin, chief of police in Fitchburg, MA (one of the “twin cities”) share the story of their unlikely collaboration. As Sayra says, “Ed stayed around [listening to the concerns of our community] TWO AND A HALF YEARS. People felt heard.”
In a subsequent interview, Sayra explains: “It’s one thing to say, ‘We need to increase Latino academic achievement’; that’s a nice, forward-thinking goal. But more often than not, it’s the police who end up dealing with the 40 percent of the young people who don’t graduate from high school.
“Ed discovered that arresting the problem away doesn’t work; even when the arrest rate goes up, the crime rate stays the same. So, the question was, if what you know is no longer helping you solve the problem, what do you do? I have watched Ed emerge as a leader who is invested in understanding the problem on a systemic level and engaging in a deep listening process to connect profoundly with the situation at hand. He has become one of the biggest champions of coming up with creative solutions to hard problems, particularly around issues of racial justice.”
To read more of “Weaving Relationships, Shifting Mental Models: An Interview with Sayra Pinto,” click here.
3. Identify your ‘Blind Spot”
In the introduction to his book Theory U, MIT professor C. Otto Scharmer describes “the ‘blind spot,’ that inner place from which we operate that we must come to understand in order to bring forth the profound systemic changes so needed in business and society today.”
Scharmer further defines the blind spot as “the place within or around us where our attention and intention originates. It’s the place from where we operate when we do something. The reason it’s blind, is that it is an invisible dimension of our social field, of our everyday experience in social interactions.”
To read more of Scharmer’s Introduction, click here.
To download “Uncovering the Blind Spot of Leadership, Leader to Leader,” click here.
4. Prototype New Ideas for Encouraging All Voices
The purpose of prototyping is to generate organizational feedback from all stakeholders about how new school improvement ideas, strategies, or structures look, feel, and connect with people’s intentions, interpretations, and identities. The focus is on exploring the future by doing rather than by analyzing.
To read more about prototyping, check out Presencing Institute’s Prototyping Resources.
5. Create a Culture of Critical Friendship
The Critical Friends Group (CFG) process, first developed by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, focuses on developing collegial relationships, encouraging reflective practice, and rethinking the role of school leadership. The process is designed to build a culture of equity and cooperative adult learning — an approach that runs contrary to most adult work environments.
“Critical friends take an interest in one another’s core beliefs and the commonly held beliefs of the learning community,” explains Daniel Baron, a 30-year veteran of the work. “They support one another in closing the gap between their beliefs and practices and hold one another accountable for continually adapting their practice to meet the needs of all learners, sharing resources and ideas, and supporting one another as they take risks to improve their practices. They commit themselves to:
- Be reflective
- Make their teaching practices public to one another
- Frame meaningful questions and ask for substantive feedback from one another
- Hold one another accountable for meeting the needs of students who struggle the most
- Ask the kinds of questions that provoke and challenge their assumptions and habits
- Believe that together they are more capable of knowing what they need to know and learning what they need to learn than they are alone.
To learn more about the CFG process, click here to visit the National School Reform Faculty’s Web site.