How to Find the Right Innovation Expert for Your District

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When confronted with an issue, sometimes all you need is to problem-solve with an expert in the field, someone who has traversed the challenges before you and come out the other side. But for schools and districts that are working to make learning more personalized, mastery-based, and supportive of whole child development, this is easier said than done — identifying the core challenges that your team is facing can be complex when you’re still new to the work, and it can be hard to connect with the right professional service provider. The Innovative Learning Expert Hub (ILEx) is a new service by Catalyst:Ed in partnership with The Learning Accelerator (TLA) that offers support for these very challenges.

The ILEx is focused on connecting, empowering, and growing education partnerships between school and district practitioners and a vetted and robust network of professional service providers. It is modeled on Catalyst:Ed’s DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) Expert Hub, as well as its core work informing and connecting education organizations and expert providers for their mission-critical projects. The DEI Expert Hub alone has provided services to over 100 organizations since its launch in 2018. Catalyst:Ed’s unique matching process (outlined in the graphic alongside) makes it easy for teams to tap into a variety of expert resources to address issues and make their visions a reality in cost-effective ways. The Catalyst:Ed provider network spans 40 different capacity areas and consists of over 600 professional service providers who are matched to schools and organizations based on capacity, expertise, and experience. “Schools and districts often establish consulting relationships with folks they know and let the consultants drive the scope of work. We flip that around and partner with the school to identify their true needs — which are often different than the symptoms they are reporting — and we connect them with folks who have expertise in that need area.” says Rachel Klein, Partner, Strategic Initiatives at Catalyst:Ed. “People often tell us, ‘I didn’t realize this was my problem’ or ‘I didn’t know anyone with that skill set’ and ‘I never would have found so-and-so without you!’”

The ILEx is currently focused on four implementation challenges that were extrapolated from TLA‘s Innovative Learning Implementation Framework, although Catalyst:Ed can support schools and systems across most areas given its broad expert network. When schools and systems reach out for support via the ILEx, Catalyst:Ed meets with the team to understand their vision, context, and challenges, and based on those writes a scope of work. According to Klein, “Leaders often appreciate the opportunity to reflect on the challenges they are facing. Sometimes our scoping process uncovers that the root challenge is something else. They may think they need more or different training, but as we dig deeper we may find that there is a lack of alignment on the leadership team which needs to be addressed first.” The finalized scope of work is sent to the right experts in Catalyst:Ed’s pool and, from there, schools are able to choose the expert that will best maximize impact.

Organizations can access ILEx’s services at no cost thanks to startup support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. They will need to pay for consulting work by the selected experts with cost ranges varying from as low as $5,000 to $100,000+ depending on the scope and scale of the work. Organizations can browse project templates for ideas and get the ball rolling on project listing here.

For providers who are part of the hub, in addition to finding mission-aligned clients to support, the ILEx includes the added benefit of getting access to Catalyst:Ed’s expert community-building activities like monthly calls and a robust slack workspace to find solutions to project challenges, source partners for work, and discuss the future of learning. They will also have access to numerous learning resources from TLA and will become a part of an exciting cohort of pioneering education innovators. Needless to say, we were excited to join the community! As a proud participant in the ILEx, Getting Smart sees this as a great opportunity and platform for creating a network of passionate education movers and shakers. It provides an opportunity for us to work alongside inspiring partners and organizations as we help to advocate for and amplify the future of learning through our suite of services and core capabilities.

Both we and Catalyst:Ed are beginning to talk with school and district partners about work to begin this spring and into next school year. We’d love to hear from you!

For more, see:


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