Pathways for change in the K12 Ecosystem


It’s easy to toss aside the notion of meaningful social change. For starters, you’d have lots of company. But let’s take a look at an area with mounting problems and the highest of stakes:

Un-packing the Challenges of K12 Education

By any measure, our western culture and economy – and within that universe, our education systems – have grown so large and intertwined that we quickly scoff at the notion of doing something to improve them. Countless well-intended efforts have failed. Or they succeed for a bit locally, but then can’t scale. Frustrations mount. Those inside the hardened silos of our aging institutions are just as trapped by their realities as those on the outside.

It’s not a lack of passion or desire. It’s just that, as a society, we’ve become overwhelmed by ‘the system’. It’s been going on for a long time – by most accounts, over 100 years. Quite simply, it feels like we’ve lost control, and in some important ways, we have.

What if we changed the rules?

The problem with social, cultural and economic forces – the complex result of human interaction – is that the outcomes don’t align with our intentions. Most of us were reared in a simple (linear, Newtonian) world of ’cause and effect’, and we expect a simple answer to every problem.

Why can’t we just fix schools? Or healthcare? Or the economy?

What we’re learning is that complex systems – especially the human variety – work and behave very differently. We must focus on actors, motivators, outcomes and patterns.

We must attack these problems in a different way.

EcoSys is a social innovation group that started in August 2009. The goal of the group has been to apply a new science – the study of complexity in social ecosystems – to the hardened problems we face as a society.

Intriguing? Ambitious? Yes, on both counts. But open your mind for a moment.

Can you imagine the potential of global thought leaders discovering a focused problem-solving dialog, adding to it, and ultimately building a shared knowledge base of solutions?

Can you imagine an objective exchange of ideas and concerns, shared publicly in the spirit of collaboration, subordinating agendas and special interests in favor of meaningful, scalable innovations?

Can you see social media – Twitter, in fact – as an engine for change, with the connections of each contributor serving as pathways to deeper insight and focused action?

That work is underway, and we’ve posted some K12 progress here.

We’ve still got some work to do on it, as we continue to refine our issue framing.

Are you ready to Engage?  Join us each MONDAY at 9pET using hashtag #ecosys. You can use TweetChat  (try this link), TweetDeck, TweetGrid or HootSuite to join us. Just be sure the #ecosys hashtag is in each tweet, and search on that tag.  Bring your insights and an open mind. It’s free, unaffiliated, and destined to make a difference.

How do we know?

Because 3 years in and some +40,000 tweets later, our topics are gaining traction and spontaneous conversations are starting to break out. We call that momentum. And we’re working to take a step to the next level.

Stay tuned. And welcome to the K12 ecosys.

Original framing blog
Full process
EcoDNA (our first emergent innovation)
EcoSYS founders

The DNA of Collaboration: Unlocking the Potential of 21st Century Teams (where Ecosys is a case study)

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6 thoughts on “Pathways for change in the K12 Ecosystem

  1. Chris,

    From what I think I see from just a couple of months in #ecosys is a movement from a model based way to approaching the problem towards using “a new science – the study of complexity in social ecosystems”

    My understanding is that “network science” is one of the fastest growing new academic disciplines. In wandering through twitter it keeps getting on my radar from sources as varied as Seth Godin to lots of scientific journals. Just based on the frequency of appearance I think it’s fair to say that it’s a meme on the upswing.

    I’ll put some links in the #ecosys stream to share what I think I’m seeing.

  2. Yes Michael, many angles to frame what is happening via social media. Though it sounds like science fiction, the comparison to connected people as “neurons, firing” is fascinating as well –

    I think we see the magic of a learning team – in the process of active learning – at #ecosys each and every week –

    The DNA metaphor (EcoDNA, EduDNA) is visual & powerful as well.

    The definition of ’emergence’ is creation of insights and outcomes that would not be possible by any one actor in isolation. That is in fact core to the EcoSYS collaboration premise, as covered in our historical framing.

    It’s pretty intense if you think about it.

    Sometimes, especially during the chat itself, I try not analyze it too much. The key is to first listen, and then engage. The emergence and adaptation happens from there.

    Truly appreciate your energy and ongoing insights, Michael. You are catalyst for change and a true thought leader.

    Thanks again.

  3. I’ve been doing a little more mulling on “EduDNA” This seems like a good place to share what I think I’m seeing.

    To follow the metaphor a bit:

    Let’s say the “backbone” is made up of Notice Focus Mull and Engage. NFME. So perhaps it’s helpful to imagine they are similar to the bases in physical dna.

    If you take a look at Ebdish the idea is that there are three factors in evolution: genes, memes and lumenes. The other neologism is “A/st” denoting “Activity Space Time”. Another notion is that genes, memes are lumenes are “points” that represent “collapsed PhysWaves, CogWaves, and EmoWaves.”

    So the way it might play out in an ecosys, is that a school is a “Bounded A/st.” Inside of that constraint, ECPwaves entangle and create “turbulence”. Turbulence indicates a less sustainable system.

    So the problem of a sustainable constantly improving system might be framed as finding the right rhythm for ECPwaves given the resources and constraints of the micro niche in which it finds itself.

  4. It takes a lot of energy – to start and maintain a conversation of this scale. I hope you, Chris, are getting what you need to support your oxygen etc. There have been two great influences on my life Benjamin Zander, conductor of Boston Philharmonic and David Whyte corporate poet. What I can give you from them is to ensure that your practice your role as a conductor–help people lead from every chair and ensure you are getting joy from the whole process. Also to ensure that inspiration is also included in the problem solving piece. I see much about informaiton processing–I hope to contribute more poetry and inspiration.
    Thanks for all that you do.

    • Thank you so much Jennifer for the kind words of encouragement. Orchestration is a great metaphor for social innovation. It is about guiding and fostering, tapping the talents and gifts of others, exploring and emphasizing the nuance that comes with many contributors, and weaving together a unique result.

      Emergence, at its best.

      Grateful for your insight, but again, I look forward to more of the same.

      Keep the poetry, inspiration .. and oxygen .. coming :)

  5. Could the conservation of energy theory (in thermal dynamics) be applied to public schools?

    My husband thought of education in these terms of input/ output. I don’t remember much of anything about physics, but his thinking is making sense to me. Here is his original drawing and a few notes I made clarifying.

    Basically, he’s saying if you fail to address a circumstance or influence, you won’t get something in the desired outcome.

    I invite your thoughts. (I can’t figure out how to link a picture so I’ll mention you on Google + with our very rough brainstorm we did on the topic.

    CIRCUMSTANCES/INFLUENCERS STUDENT DESIRED OUTCOME

    If we don’t address something here……………………………..> we won’t get here.

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