woensdag 27 juli 2011

Social Safari 2011 - learning from teachers again?

Last week - July 17 to 22 - I was invited to participate in the Social Safari 2011 of Kennisland Amsterdam. The key mission of Kennisland is to make Nederland more smart, the Social Safari exemplifies this in a beautiful way.

Because complex societal issues are less likely to be solved from a single perspective and by a single person, Kennisland proposes to tackle such issues by introducing the dynamics and power of groups and networks. The Social Safari team assembles 30 persons (called Tigers) from a large number of countries and with a diversity of skills and knowledge. In a single week those Tigers have to work together and finally present viable and realistic solutions to the above societal issues. An essential part of the Safari is rapid prototyping - within 24 hours all proposals and ideas must be tested in the real world. This year's Tigers were asked to prototype their proposals from Tuesday 11 pm to Wednesday 11 pm! Not that much sleep, but great fun, as one can image.

There were five clients that had complex issues we could work on: the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the municipality of Amsterdam, Stichting Doen, ABC Eductional Advisors and the Network Democracy foundation. Each client stated a specific question to the Social Safari Tigers. For instance the municipality of Amsterdam attributed the issue about vandalism and safety of the squares Leidseplein and Rembrandplein, espacially at night. Based on the assumption that an excellent square always combines strong design, proper maintenance and inviting program, the Safari team put forward a program that stimulates visitors and users into a more positive relationship with the squares.

That's how the Talking Square comes in, which is a program and social media tool (@talkingsquare on Twitter, also on Facebook) to enhance more awareness of visitors and users on their behavior while they are on the Rembrandplein. The prototyping also included smart and relatively simple activities to re-focus their attention, such as Square-Twister, a real Sit-In, and Have a heart for the Square and show it. Some pictures of these nightly activities can be seen on the site of Betul Ellialtioğlu Seçkin

The Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam enters the competition with the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Musuem. Which is tough, given the fact that the Stedelijk has been closed for the last 7 years. An important issue here is how to attract more international visitors.

The Safari team proposed to turn the Stedelijk into a vibrant cultural hub, and tested with the youngsters of Blikopener the respons and reactions of international tourists on the splendid collection of Contemporary Art and Design. Also, the Brasilian Safari Tiger Laila Bergamasco conducted some research on the streets on the name, fame and reputation of the "Steddilik" (which makes a great video experience).

I joined the Safari Team on primary education, requested by ABC Onderwijsadviseurs. A former municipality organisation ABC was privatized 5 years ago and enters the market coming September 2011 without additional funding. Which seems to us something like a cold turkey from a business perspective. ABC supports teachers working on primary education schools and provides expertise and services for children that needs additional care. Some 150 persons work at ABC.

The issue ABC asked us to deal with has to do with the new law on primary education, called tailored education ("Passend Onderwijs"). Basically tailored education intends to achieve that every child, irrespective of his or her abilities, should be able to participate in regular primary education. We think that in the long run tailored education aims to minimize the number of children that will attend in specialized primary education. It does however demands additional requirements of the teachers. So ABC asked us: how may tailored education get into the heads and hearts of the teachers? Of course, competences, skills and even attitudes of teachers are involved, which is precisely a business opportunity for ABC and it's products and services.

We started with an extensive survey of the Amsterdam educational field. We interviewed the principal/director of the primary school Ru Pare in Slotervaart, spoke to several teachers both from regular and specialized primary education schools, and with people of ABC. We also did a quick scan on facts and figures with respect to primary education and tailored education. Because we didn't understand why tailored education wasn't already in the heads and hearts of teachers. As it turns out, the teachers we spoke either already worked in the spirit of tailored education or were open to such an approach. It also became quite clear that the position of ABC within the field of primary education has changed dramatically. Transforming the organization to operate within this changing educational market ABC will benefit from its resources and its networks. With respect to tailored education our three proposals may help ABC in their change.

1. Make Friends - At the moment ABC supports teachers (via the primary schools), but has not organised a network of teachers as customers. We found out that there is no network of teachers in Amsterdam at all, that functions as a platform for exchanges knowledge and experiences and voices the opinions of teachers to the outside world, beyond their own school. Our first proposal is for ABC to organize and host such network. Make friends with the teachers, which are also your customers. Use the new network of teachers also for marketing your products and services, which are by and large on the operational level. Learn from the feedback of teachers as educational professionals and improve your services and products. But most importantly, start discussing the issue of tailored education with the specialists in the field (= teachers) and search for a common perspective among and with your new friends.

We prototyped the need for and willingness of such a new network of teachers ("leerkrachtnetwerk") by means of a three hour conversation with teachers of both specialized and regular primary schools, and with educational experts. Our conclusion is that there is a need for networking of teachers and for a new role of hosting of ABC. ABC itself is already exploring the usage of networks and will participate in network sessions such as the Night of the Teacher.

2. Start Playing - At this moment in time ABC doesn't organize a group or cluster that develops new products and services. Product/service development does occur on an individual and incidental basis within ABC however. We propose for ABC to link and host network(s) of professional educational experts (teachers, but also others) with networks of parents and children. The main goal of these linked networks is to examine the future of tailored education and its consequences for schools, teachers, parents, children and ABC in the short and medium term. Exiting products and services may be improved upon and new services may be developed within these linked networks. ABC uses this educational playground from a more tactical and strategic level: where are we heading, what is needed in the short and medium term, and who will deliver what? Of course, although moderating and hosting the linked networks ABC doesn't "own" them, but may make extensive use of them from their business perspective. It's about co-creating and about starting to change.

3. Start Your Own School - for ABC the most convincing way to demonstrate the view and products/services on tailored education to the outside world and primary schools in Amsterdam! Something like practice what you preach. Our third and most daring proposal is to start the A-Z school, a regular Amsterdam primary school for children of all abilities and skills. However, the A-Z school also teaches the teachers of other primary schools in Amsterdam and further. Those teachers learn in a real-educational world how to improve on their competences and skills, supported by other people from ABC. Not in a separate training facility, but on a real primary school. With children that need good achievements and CITO-scores for their future! And with parents that want the best possible education for their children!

The A-Z school naturally embraces diversity and inclusion in education and society. It also shows how tailored education can be implemented and improved upon in the real world, with learning and growing of teachers, parents and children.

We believe ABC is perfectly capable of starting with proposals 1 & 2. We think the 3rd proposal of the A-Z school may well be placed a bit further in time. However, suppose within the next five years a the option of obtaining a primary school becomes reality, what would happen then?

PS. While writing this blog, why did I keep thinking about urban renewal, community builders ("wijkmanagers"), the national network organization LPB - Platform voor Wijkgericht Werken, the recent initiative Buurtleerplaats Eindhoven, a collaboration of Fontys Hogeschool, municipality of Eindhoven and housing association Woonbedrijf? About CITO-scores for children and its influence on classes and schools versus scores on Safety and Cohesion for neighborhoods and its influence on people and cities? About a "lifelong learning" (levenlang leren) versus "social uplifting" (sociale stijging)? Or about managing a class versus managing a neighborhood? Some things are more similar than we assume, I'm quite sure about that.

PPS. I do apologize for all mistake in words, phrases and style in the English text above. Please send any comments and suggestions that will improve this blog. 

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