What Does It Take to Build Innovative, Integrative Community?

Last summer, 2Rev was one of a handful of organizations invited by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to participate in their Integration Design Consortium (IDC). The purpose of the IDC was to crowd-source root causes of, and potentially innovative solutions to, the challenge of siloization/fragmentation that routinely thwarts faster progress in our communities. (Note to funders: Carnegie’s approach was creative, efficient, and prolific - a good one to emulate.) The graphic below summarizes both our root cause analysis and how we framed possible experiments. I’m happy to report that 2Rev was selected to test one of the ideas we proposed: to recruit, select and work deeply for two years with a partner to help “build innovative, integrative community.”

Strategies to Nurture an Integrative Frame


For 2Rev, this represents a rare and exciting chance to marry our core expertise — working with local partners to envision, define, and begin building toward their Future of Learning vision for students — together with our new insights about what needs to be true to help communities overcome this relentless pull toward entropy (aka, nature’s tendency to gravitate to its “least excited state”...in this case, where limited alignment/coordination makes it even harder to do right by kids). After identifying a partner by this fall, we’ll work with a broadly representative Community Advisory Committee to conduct a landscape analysis, lead community-based visioning sessions, and ultimately facilitate year-long short-cycle prototyping networks with community actors, to develop strategies to overcome persistent challenges and/or pursue new opportunities. Then we’ll work together to test some of these new ideas in practice, including incentives to overcome siloization/fragmentation.

But how will this actually work? Based on our experience — and this will not surprise anyone already familiar with 2Rev’s work across the country — success depends on people. And relationships. Sure, there are always a range of technical challenges that require technical solutions, but those are typically the more straightforward parts of the problem. The trickier work involves mindsets — i.e., how can we build greater trust and alignment across a community to enable faster progress toward a Future of Learning vision that better prepares today's young people to confidently confront tomorrow's challenges? As part of this effort, operating just below the surface, we’ll also be working to assess and measure growth in innovative and integrative mindsets of the various folks involved directly in the work.

Finally, success also depends on finding the right, willing partner.  No place is perfect, or perfectly in synch. Even if it was, it probably wouldn’t make for a realistic or replicable test case. We’re currently on the hunt for strong candidates. There is no cookie-cutter recipe, but we’re looking for a mid-sized district/community (i.e., ~20-40k student population); in the language of the Model Cities work of the 1970s, “Big enough to matter, but small enough to manage.” The right partner community can still be very early in this work, but some evidence of readiness/disposition, capacity or early progress will help us determine the best fit. Examples might include: district leadership showing interest in innovative approaches, strong engagement from school board or community organizations, presence of existing collective action efforts, etc. At the end of the day, we’re seeking a “right fit” partner equally willing to roll up their sleeves and dive into this complex work together. In partnership.

It’s truly exciting work with the potential to inform national efforts to remake our learning systems and communities to help ensure kids get what they need to be successful. If you think your community might be a potentially good fit, or you’d like to make a recommendation, please drop me a note directly at tvk@2revolutions.net. Either way, we’ll look forward to sharing what we learn along the way!