ICYMI: What I Learned at the Gates Foundation


For several years now I’ve had a series of articles in my head. This last week I finished the last in the series. They summarize some of the big ideas and lessons that I’ve learned over the last five plus years at the Gates Foundation. They are not all in the same publication so ICYMI here they are: there is a method to my madness! The first article was about “disciplined design” and the role that design plays in the adoption of new policies and tools (in my case it was the Common Core). The second article talked about the role of narratives play in our work—as much as we want to just use data, we can’t forget the role values, beliefs and assumptions play in making large scale shifts in schools. The third article focused on the role that bottom-up strategies play in social change. For foundations, it’s not an easy or efficient way to scale change yet it’s our best shot at sustainability and scale over time and top-down/bottom-up shouldn’t be an either/or choice. This last article is about social media of all things and how we have made a “little bet” on its role in supporting teachers and spreading innovative ideas and practices among a group of professionals who are largely isolated and whose ideas are often undervalued over that of “experts.” The series is really a look at a set of unconventional ideas if you are looking for an alternative to traditional systems change strategies. Truth be told, there is a fifth article in my head right now about the role social movement theory plays in our work. Stay tuned.

C.