This is an excerpt from The Purpose Economy by Aaron Hurst.
Even with the same moral foundations defining success, we approach the process of getting there differently. How we work is also tied to our view of the world and how we both solve problems and engage in the creative process. We can perhaps gain the most purpose in our work in how we approach it. Insight into how we approach work emerged while doing research on promising solutions to strengthen K-12 education in the United States. As I dug in, I found incredibly diverse assessments and solutions.
The more I listened, what emerged was that people had fundamentally diverse thinking styles. This profoundly influenced how they engaged in addressing the opportunity to improve education.
Here are the four approaches that I identified:
If you look at the best schools in the country, you find one thing they all have in common: incredible parent participation and leadership. The parents are well-informed and invested in the school’s success, and they hold the school accountable for results. The parents also find ways to generate resources and advocate for the school within the community. To improve education in this country, we must learn why some schools have this kind of parent involvement and build that capacity. You can never know what challenges a school will face in the future, but with strong parent and community involvement, schools can face any challenge.
Have you been in a typical public school classroom lately, especially in a big city? How do we expect a child to be inspired and learn in that kind of environment? The school is more like a prison than a place to promote feelings of well-being that help students learn and focus. We need to build pupil-based schools that provide fresh air and light. They need enough space for students to work without banging into each other, and classrooms need to be arranged to create natural social settings that encourage communication. If we want kids focused, they also need healthy food. And why are we asking teenagers to come to school at the break of dawn, when all the research says this isn’t natural and makes learning nearly impossible?
We don’t provide the right training, support, or tools to teachers and principals. We need to design effective leadership practices, policies, and procedures for school systems. We need to redesign curriculum and pedagogy (i.e. educational approach) that works with the needs of today’s kids, and help teachers adopt the new design so they can be set up for success. With this kind of support, our principals and teachers can achieve anything.
Improving education requires that we look at the data and research and build upon it. We don’t know what successful education even means today; we are blindly continuing to use old models that simply don’t work anymore. We don’t know enough about education and what success looks like for today’s schools. We continue to take the test and fail, because we ourselves aren’t doing our homework.
In my experience, all of these mindsets are true, and yet not one of them would provide the level of change we need to see in our educational system. The point here isn’t about being right, but rather understanding each perspective about how the world works. There is a tremendous need for all these approaches. It’s my experience that people will find that their sense of purpose and engagement directly ties to their ability to work in alignment with their perspective about the best ways to further change.
These perspectives are not confined to education or even nonprofits. We see them in how people approach challenges and opportunities in just about any setting. Some people are always looking for ways to bring other people into an issue to help build ownership, community, and awareness. Some people see every situation as an opportunity to redesign it in order to better serve needs. Some people are laser focused on learning and understanding everything about an issue before they move forward. Others look for potential efficiency gains in every line they wait in, and know there is a better way to design processes to bring out the best in people and keep their time focused on the things that matter.
K-12 Education is a complex topic, and others found these selections from the Impact Giving archive from Giving Compass to be good resources.
Looking for a way to get involved?
Learning with others and benchmarking are key steps towards becoming an impact giver. If you are interested in giving with impact for K-12 Education, take a look at these events, galas, conferences and volunteering opportunities to connect with individuals like you.
Are you ready to give?
If you are looking for opportunities to take action and give money to K-12 Education, here are some Giving Funds, Charitable Organizations and Projects aggregated by Giving Compass where you can take immediate action.