Compassionate Listening: Your Homework for Education Transformation

“When you listen, you become immersed in the loved experience of others. And if you listen with compassion, you get it. And THAT leads you to solution.” — Dr. Folami Prescott-Adams IF YOU’VE SPENT MORE THAN five minutes around schools, you’ve probably got a reflexive reaction to the term education reformer. The very phrase tends to spark either cheers or catcalls. You’ve seen the effusive profiles of heroic charter school leaders who are working wonders. And you’ve perused the bitter blogs attacking those same leaders as “deform- ers” bent on destroying public education. Education is brimming with passionate people who see schooling as a way to make a difference. Most of the time, passion is a wonderful thing. It lends us energy and gives our work meaning. In school reform, though, I sometimes think we suffer from a curious malady: too much passion. — Excerpt from the Preface of Letters to a Young Education Reformer  by Frederick M. Hess. The words from the excerpted Preface above spoke to me (and I hope they speak to you, too) as Hess tries to break down what it means to be an education reformer. He summarizes what I see as a daily struggle. If we are to move beyond a set of reforms to a true understanding of why our schools need transformation and what that can look like across charters, neighborhood schools and every other attempt made to get it right – then we will have to listen to each other. When a passionate parent speaks at a Board meeting, how compassionately are we listening to their concerns and frustrations? When a new teacher shares both the challenges and small wins they experience in the classroom, are we listening to their joy with compassion? If we can find the compassion and listen to their joy in their own…

Lessons Learned from Collaborative Consulting

While collaboration is essential and a practice that HTI encourages and enjoys, we’ve run into some challenges along the way. Good organizations are able to learn from both their successes and their mistakes so we’ve taken some of our challenges and are using them as powerful lessons to help us grow. Below are 4 collaborative lessons we’ve learned along the way. We’d love to hear what lessons others have learned as collaborators.     Lesson 1: Learn Each Other’s Best Practices – Consulting firms and individuals that have worked mostly alone have established their own set of processes and procedures that work well. However, teams working together may not consider the importance of sharing these best practices. At the beginning of the collaborative relationship, each organization should come together to not only discuss the project, but also some of their individual best practices and collectively decide which ones will be used in support of the work.     Lesson 2: Understand the Difference in Work Styles and Approaches – The “HTI Way” is not just a methodology, it’s actually the culture of how HTI works. While snacks may seem like a simple logistical item for most, for HTI it’s actually a tool we use to create a warm, friendly and comfortable environment. Understanding the culture of the organizations that are collaborating is a great way to build synergy among the teams.   Lesson 3: Make Collaboration True Collaboration –  It’s not enough to come together on paper for the sake of a project. It’s critical that organizations find ways to truly work collaboratively. This means consultation and coordination on all work documents, presentations, activities, and events.  While time zones, geography, and schedules may be a factor, it doesn’t outweigh the importance of the former. When collaboration is true collaboration the results can be amazing.…

Proposal Writing: Wisdom from the Field

We asked three esteemed leaders in their fields to share tips on what makes a winning proposal. Each offered great insights based on their perspective and experience. We’ll share the questions we asked and a summary of their answers to help you enhance your proposal writing skills. Our expert advisors included: Atiba Mbiwan, The Zeist Foundation, Inc. Associate Director Crystal Brown, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Director, Gender & Well-Being Ayana Gabriel, Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Program Officer, Fostering Opportunity   Question 1. What is the most important thing you need to take away from a proposal that makes it stand out from the rest? That it’s written well. That all the people who are listed as part of the team contributed to the proposal (I can usually tell.) I look for critical thinkers that are addressing the issues. That the budget is aligned with the work and the proposed program/initiative is aligned with the organization’s mission. I hope they actually answered the questions. — Atiba Mbiwan Proposals should really embody the philosophy for the program the contractor is writing for. For example, if writing a proposal for a teen program, there should be a strong emphasis on teen youth development and experiences that align for the specific age group. Also, most important is how the experience that the contractor can develop is different from what BGCA, another organization or contractor can provide. We are looking for cutting-edge and relevant experiences. — Crystal Brown It depends on the initiative. For example, our STEAM grant initiative was looking for innovation, best practices around STEAM, and impacting populations that typically don’t have access to high-quality STEAM education. For ed reform, it is completely different. I’ve noticed most grants will describe the spirit of what they care about, I look for…