Giving Compass' Take:

• The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aims to increase the number of Black, Latino, and low-income students that can obtain credentials during K-12 education. The Networks for School Improvement initiative involves a Community of Practice component that engages intermediaries who will support student achievement. 

• The Community of Practice will include networks that provide virtual and interpersonal support groups, site visits, and technical assistance to grantees. In what other ways will grantee feedback on this program help strengthen it?

• Read more about the foundation's Networks for School Improvement initiative. 

The Networks for School Improvement (NSI) Community of Practice is a core component of the K-12 Place-Based Delivery Team’s overall strategy. To reach our north star goal of significantly increasing the number of Black, Latino, and low-income students who are on track in their first year to obtain a credential with labor-market value, we are investing in intermediaries who are building and supporting school-based networks that use data to engage in continuous improvement cycles to solve problems that affect student achievement.

We too believe in continuous improvement, so have invested in building the capacity of intermediary organizations to sustainably support improvement at the secondary school level with a commitment to equity.  To support this, we designed into the strategy a Community of Practice (CoP) for intermediaries. We see this CoP as a suite of supports that includes face-to-face convenings, virtual supports for small groups, site visits, and customized technical assistance based on areas of growth identified by grantees.

In October 2018, we launched the face-to-face component of the CoP with a convening in Seattle, which was designed to seek input from grantees on the design of the CoP to ensure it meets their diverse needs, create opportunities for NSIs to build relationships with each other as well as support partners and BMGF team members, and to facilitate NSIs learning about each other’s work.  In February 2019, we held the second CoP convening, which built on our learnings from the first convening.

It is great to hear this feedback. We continue to learn and work to improve to ensure we are meeting everyone’s needs. Some of the key takeaways already, include:

  • Involving grantees in up-front design pays dividends
  • The organizations in this work are willing to and energized by sharing their promising practices as well as their challenges – they see tremendous value in their colleagues’ experiences, resources, and counsel
    • Creating trust for these relationships to blossom and grow is essential
  • There’s an arc to this work, reflecting school year rhythms as well as the cyclical nature of continuous improvement practices

Our hope is to evolve from a “hub and spokes” type of network where the foundation is the central connector and convener to a more organic, interconnected network where connections are happening directly between NSIs.

Read the full article about developing a community of practice by Nicola Hyland at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation