What’s Next at ECOSYS?


[Overview. Since August, the ECOSYS public collaboration team has been developing an approach to frame problems and solutions in social ecosystems like Education (#EDU) and Healthcare (#HCR). Prior posts in this thread introduced the ECOSYS framework describing the building blocks of our process model.]

On MON 11/2 we started framing our EDU Issues. Progress to date:

Areas we have touched on are in yellow. Most recent updates are in orange. Considerable work remains, but we’ve begun to attack the core challenge of rigorous framing.

On MON 11/16 we reviewed the ARRA Federal Stimulus model for Race to the Top to understand ECOSYS impacts. From our master list, we developed a cross reference showing problems that appear to have less RTTT priority:

  • P1 Learning Culture
  • P2 Incentives
  • P5 Workforce/Jobs
  • P6 IEP/Custom Curriculum

One line of thinking: we can add the most value by addressing these areas. To help further frame these issues and potential solutions, we think it’s critical to provide strong ecosystem definitions, so we’ll continue to maintain high priority for:

  • P7 EDU Ecosystem

What do you think? Do you have ideas on these topics, or our conclusions? We’d love to have you post them here as blog comments. You can also pose new ideas, questions and inputs on priorities to our #ECOSYS tweet stream. Just be sure to use the #ECOSYS hashtag, and we’ll see it.

We connect and engage via LIVE CHAT. This let’s us vet and brainstorm progress and develop solution language in real-time. You are more than welcome to join. Just bring your insights and an open mind. You can access the chat LIVE at the appointed time in a variety of ways, but we recommend TweetChat.

The next ECOSYS LIVE session will be MON 12/7. Time for future meetings is TBD, but meetings to date have been at 8pET. ECOSYS needs diverse stakeholder input, which means we are likely to need your engagement. Meet the team. As always, your ECOSYS contributions are appreciated.

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8 thoughts on “What’s Next at ECOSYS?

  1. Picking the right level of problem to focus on is tricky to be sure. We need to find a challenge that is not overly simple (there should not be “one right answer”), yet it should also not be impossibly complex. Ideally we’re looking for a set of problems that are challenging and that our EcoDNA approach will uncover new perspectives, options and insights.

    Some of the following challenges would be interesting for me to explore. Not sure if lots of people would share my interest.

    1) Quality Measures in Education – we’ve known for decades that we tend to measure what’s easiest to measure, and then we tend to focus the efforts of the system on achieving those measures. This often leaves few resources to focus on what REALLY matters (that is often difficult to measure). So, what would a Quality Improvement model look like for the public education system? What are the important things to measure, and how would that impact the performance and behaviors of the system?

    2) Innovative Funding Models for Public Education – Because we’ve established pretty standard budgets for all things related to public education, our public discourse tends to focus on how to split up the pie among the budget categories. What are several models for funding public education (from sources of funds, to allocations of funds, to compensation of all stakeholders) that would allow for new and groundbreaking approaches to emerge?

    I still need to noodle on the healthcare side of things. Although here’s one from an actual project we’ve been working on already:

    3) Design a system to develop, maintain and ensure the competence of physicians throughout their careers. It might frighten you to know that is NOT what the current system is designed to do — the focus historically is on “qualification”, not “competence”.

    4) Idealize Redesign – this is always a fun activity. Just because things are they way they are does NOT mean that there’s any particularly good reason that they’re that way. So what if the healthcare system didn’t exist – how would we design it from scratch? (The purpose of this activity is to challenge assumptions and allow for people to play with ideas that conflict with current paradigms and vested interests. This activity will probably not result in a real, workable solution, but might provide insights into novel ways to approach the current system.)

  2. Excellent feedback Jay, thanks for taking the time to articulate these points. The team decided 10/19 to start w/ framing EDU issues, so I’ll get these inputs onto the EDU issues list, but I’ll be sure to record your HCR inputs too.

    As we enter into the “discovery” phase of our research, we absolutely need to cast a wide net.

  3. Two random observations.

    1. Our initial focus has been on problem ID in public K-12 education. But it seems to me a huge and growing problem lies in the lack of an effective system for redeploying the vast amounts of labor capital idled in the transition to a post-industrial economy. Buy many accounts adult ed and job retraining programs aren’t working effectively. What will?

    2. One of the things eating me about the ecosys challenge is that we’re creating a product in search of a market. Are we national, regional, local or hyper-local in scope? Should we be approaching a school, school system, state board of ed or foundation offering to use our model to generate solutions for previously identified problems?

    • As always, great questions Bill, and not as random as you let on. Let me try to address each one in turn.

      1. You’ve done a good job introducing an issue often referred to as ‘workforce development’. I believe it is widely acknowledged that our public schools have not (until perhaps recently) placed focus on job creation. Innovative States are starting to blend high school programs with community college work, for just this reason. But I don’t believe these programs are universally accessible, nor are they starting soon enough in the K-12 cycle. There are many aspects to this issue, but I’d like to go ahead and add it to our EDU issues list to put it in the queue for further discussion.
      2. While state and local school districts have their own, sometimes unique challenges and budgets to contend with, I have a strong sense that the core, structural problems in public education are pervasive. That makes them extremely difficult for local jurisdictions to solve. Clayton Christensen has much to say about this in “Disrupting Class”. His premise is that the system is so completely broken, change can only come from the outside. On that point, I agree. But where I depart from Christensen is that ONLY viable local “disruptive innovation” will be effective to drive change. Local intervention is important element. That is where much of the innovation in the system is happening already .. and I can point to numerous examples here in NC that are starting to demonstrate potential. But many local initiatives will have trouble scaling, trapped by a system that is ‘locked in’ to the ‘factory model’ paradigms invented over 100 years ago. ECOSYS is starting to demonstrate that a focused group of social innovators with open minds can achieve new levels of clarity on those core, structural issues. To your concern, there is no clearcut “buyer” in this case, though we could argue that Arne Duncan and the DOE would have a stake in this. But I think the best course is to move forward with our ECOSYS agenda, framing the top EDU issues in public education, before moving onto to alternative solutions. I don’t think it’s been attempted. Knowing the caliber of thought leaders we’re starting to engage and the process we’ve fleshed out, I have a high degree of optimism. Sure, its different. Outside of the box. Nobody else is doing this. And that’s what makes this an innovation, of the sort Christensen describes. Let’s draw a macro level complexity boundary around U.S. Public Education system (my answer on your scope question is: “national”) and speak to the issues as they exist in most states. This will get us started. I think the value and learnings will begin to accrue quickly.

      I appreciate your candid feedback and engagement, but also your willingness to give this approach a chance. Let’s tee it up for discussion Mon 11/2 8pET at #ECOSYS.

      • Bill and Chris,
        To Bill’s point 1, actually Career Technical Education (CTE) has been working for many decades to help students become “college and career-ready”. (In fact I’m on my way to Nebraska to help that state’s CTE programs to define what that means and looks like.) CTE started as a tracking program for students who were not a good “fit” for the college prep track, but they’ve developed some revolutionary programs and tools that leverage experiential learning and learning-in-context. They cover many of the core academic areas, but in the context of real-world projects and working in teams. Beyond the academic curriculum, they also develop personal skills, life skills, etc that normally fall outside of the No Child Left Behind measurements.

        CTE is not a magic bullet. It is a community struggling to define itself within the world of public education. But they’ve also been wildly innovative while been discounted in many academic circles. There are tools and models and success stories out there that we can also leverage.

        Just a quick two cents. Sorry I haven’t been able to engage in these discussions in more detail!

      • 1. Jay, great followup. Let’s add to the issues list.

        2. Actually, I dispute the assertion that the system is “completely broken.” Quality is certainly not uniform. Nor is access. But there is actually a lot of cool stuff going on, often at the level of the individual district. My son is in a local charter school and thriving. We have fairly well conceived charter school options through high school, plus magnet programs. We even have an elementary school in our district experimenting with a hybrid Montessori method.

        I need to spend more time on DOE’s website to understand better if, and to what extent, local innovations are being captured at the federal or even state level, and the extent to which they are being used to inform dialogue.

      • Agreed, nothing is ever ‘completely broken’ .. there are many examples in many states where innovations are starting to take hold. And we certainly want to keep on radar the hard work being invested in such areas ..

        But there remains the need for innovation to be scalable, to ensure access and strive for equity ..

        We can’t settle for ‘innovating around the edges’ .. though perhaps that is where innovation needs to start, in pockets, where opportunities and pilot funding exist. I believe that is where Clayton Christensen is focused. But the system is still over 100 years old, and I think we could argue the mainstream public educational paradigm is pretty broken, or least, massively dysfunctional.

        It is only through diligence of innovative educators that positive results can overpower these barriers to produce results. And there aren’t enough of them in the system.

        So I still suggest that ECOSYS focus on these mainstream national challenges, framing the structural issues, that neither states nor local school districts have a clear path to address.

        Thanks again for the feedback. Let’s discuss tonight (11/2) at 8p.

    • Jay (and Bill),

      Thanks for the deep insight on CTE; agree that there has been significant innovation in that space, but that the work to establish a foothold in the overall ecosystem continues. I’m sure we’d find lots of variation by state, too.

      The ‘no silver bullets’ theme will be ever present.

      We are continuing to build up the EDU brainstorm team. Next 1-2 chats still to vet structure of our framing approach and to frame our pilot issues.

      Looking forward to having you back in our discussions.

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