This post is the first in a series on The Catalyst exploring what we have learned in our first six years at 50CAN and ways we can improve our efforts to better meet the changing needs of students in the states we serve. These ideas are borne out of a series of gatherings we’ve held over the past three months with our network, advisory board members and partners to take stock of where we have been and chart where we should go next.
Over the next three months, we will share out the ideas generated in these discussions with a focus on the big questions:
- How can we ensure that we are choosing the policy goals that will make the greatest difference for kids?
- How do we open up the world of education advocacy to provide more opportunities for people of all backgrounds to lead?
- In a country increasingly divided across party lines, how can we ensure the continued vitality of a movement that aims to serve students living in deep red states, deep blue states and all the different communities in between?
As a foundation for that discussion, we put pen to paper to write down the four organizational beliefs that we will keep front and center as we tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead.
We believe that growing the ranks of citizen-advocates will change the trajectory of children’s lives.
Reimagining American K–12 education is more than a just cause, it’s the most important work we can do as a democracy. The only way we can reach the goal of a high-quality education for all children, regardless of address, is by democratizing advocacy itself: casting aside one-size-fits-all, top-down mandates and growing a larger, more diverse, more dynamic leadership corps. Equipped with nonpartisan research and proven tools, citizen-advocates can drive the creation of stronger, more equitable schools in every state and community—and usher in an era where every child has the opportunity to achieve the American dream.
We believe in the power of evidence-based policy and the power of open advocacy.
All of our campaigns must start with proven theories of change—what we have seen add up to a real difference in students’ lives. That means researching the best policies for kids and learning from the results on the ground in communities across the country. It also means a commitment to open advocacy by making our tools and training methods easily accessible. This openness strengthens accountability, accelerates learning and promotes trust. We aim to constantly ask, “How can we do this better? What can we learn from other movements? What technologies and policies can we develop and use?” Like the students we work so hard to serve, advocacy thrives on a constant flow of new ideas and sound knowledge.
We believe that nationwide change depends on a network of local advocates.
Education advocacy campaigns should be led by advocates who are part of the communities that they’re working to improve. We aim to recruit these smart, passionate people from every walk of life because no place or profession has a monopoly on producing them—they can be seasoned advocates or entirely new to the movement. No one should have to work in isolation: by embracing a sense of community, advocates become part of an inspiring national network of talent and ideas.
We believe that to improve education for all students, we need an unwavering commitment and a clear-eyed approach.
Education advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint: it demands equal parts resilience and accountability. We strive to have the tenacity to stay the course regardless of the obstacles, and the dexterity to incorporate emerging developments. This is a mindset that will ensure that we gain momentum across the nation. We see every win—and every setback—as an opportunity to learn what’s working today, and envision what might be possible tomorrow.
These are the beliefs we will build upon as we chart a path forward in our work. We would love to hear from you on the core beliefs that you think should drive education advocacy in 2017 and beyond. Please join us in the conversation on Twitter and Facebook and check in at The Catalyst in the coming weeks as we dig deeper into the work ahead. We’re looking forward to growing and learning together.